Funding cuts will hit old and new

SCHOOLCHILDREN, the elderly and the disabled all look set to be the victims of sweeping cuts by Suffolk County Council.On a black day for many of the most vulnerable people in our society, charities and unions have warned that the consequences of yet more cuts could yield dire consequences.

SCHOOLCHILDREN, the elderly and the disabled all look set to be the victims of sweeping cuts by Suffolk County Council.

On a black day for many of the most vulnerable people in our society, charities and unions have warned that the consequences of yet more cuts could yield dire consequences.

As reported yesterday in The Evening Star, Suffolk County Council has announced it needs to cut essential services to meet a £22million shortfall in their budget which will also see the axe fall on a further 135 jobs.

Cut could include yet more vital day services for the elderly and infirm, along with performing arts services for youngsters and respite services for people with learning disabilities.


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The human cost of the cuts could be huge but council taxes continue to rise year after year.

A £12.2m saving is expected to be taken from adult and community services budget-including £2m from the care management budget and £120,000 from older people's residential services, unions have warned.

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Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk said that she and her colleagues are more worried than they have ever been before about the situation in the county.

She said: “In Age Concern Suffolk, we are very concerned about the effect on elderly people and their family carers, who are most often an equally elderly partner.

“Older people had thought that with the re-assessing of all their care in this current year that their services had been already 'cut to the bone' and they will find it difficult to see where there is any more 'meat' to cut off that bone, as I do.

“Older people are already anxious and desperately missing some of the services that have already been reduced, like visits to day care centres, and will be very worried about what else is going to be taken away from them.”

Mrs Savage added that elderly partners and relatives acting as carers are going to find the burden on them heavier as they get less respite and the likelihood of people ending up in a crisis situation will be increased.

She said: “I am also very sad to see the reduction in the funding for prevention services because it is these support services that assist older people to remain independent, living at home and in control of their lives.

“This also means that they are not needing more intensive and more expensive services in care homes and the like, so investing in prevention should be increasing, not decreasing.

“The effect on Age Concern Suffolk may well be significant on top of the ten of thousands of pounds of extra funds that we are already trying to raise this year to maintain services and support for frail and vulnerable elderly people.”

Also under threat is the performing arts and the county music service with a £330,000 reduction in the budget.

Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said possible cuts to the county's music service will have a “devastating” effect on the cultural education of the county's youngsters.

He said: “We are very concerned. The county music service prides itself on being a centre of excellence. This can only be achieved by providing high quality tuition made available to students that want to learn to play a musical instrument.”

Mr Goold said he expected parents would protest at the proposed cuts from the music service and did not rule out future industrial action.

He added: “We want to see exactly where the authority (Suffolk County Council) is going to make these savings. At the moment there are no plans for industrial action. We are trying to find ways with the council to minimize the effects of the cuts.”

A £12.2m saving is expected to be taken from adult and community services budget-including £2m from the care management budget and £120,000 from older people's residential services, unions have warned.

What do you think? Are you worried about your job? Will you be affected by the proposed cuts? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Weblinks www.suffolk.gov.uk

www.suffolknut.org.uk

www.ageconcernsuffolk.org.uk

MARTIN Goold, Suffolk secretary for the national union of teachers, emailed the unions 3,000 members yesterday to inform them of the situation.

The statement spelt out the union's concerns stating that the children and young person's directorate share of the cuts is £4.4m, all over and above cuts already made this year. Redundancies are due to take place in February 2007.

It added: “The schools budget cannot be touched, so the axe is falling on the controllable budget where £4.4m represents a 6pc cut.

“The proposals seek to make further savings from efficiency but of major concern is the proposal to save £330,000 by removing all central local authority budget support for the Performing Arts.

“This will inevitably affect the two remaining Performing Arts centres and the County Music Service. The proposals state “The performing arts service will be reviewed so that it is supported by government grants and fees and charges alone, and not by the county council's main budgets.”

“Performing arts education will continue to be part of the school curriculum.

“However, additional services will be reduced so there will be fewer children able to learn to play musical instruments.”

On February 6 2007, the council's cabinet will make its final budget recommendations to full Council. Before then, Scrutiny Committees will be debating proposed savings throughout November.

The level of Council Tax and the budget are set at a meeting of the full Council on 22 February.

According to preliminary estimates by the council the total amount of savings breaks down as:

£3.7million through workforce efficiencies

£9.5million from efficiencies in buying goods & services

£2.5million from income efficiencies

£6.2million from other savings

Proposed savings are listed in the scrutiny papers. You can access the papers on the Suffolk County Council website: http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi

WHAT THE COUNCIL SAYS

THE finger of blame has been pointed firmly at the government for not giving it enough money and the leader of the council, Jeremy Pembroke, was vocal in his commendation of central government's failure to pay for the rising costs of the services it demands.

He said: “We are committed to our duty to protect the most vulnerable people in Suffolk. Each year more and more people are coming into our care but government funding is failing to keep pace and failing the people of Suffolk.

“We are already making major strides to modernise our services to meet future demands. Government must play its part too.

“The Government's lack of recognition of this issue will seriously disadvantage the most vulnerable in Suffolk.”

Though most of the money, £.9.5million is expected to come from efficiencies in buying goods and services, the announcement has caused anxiety among organisations representing those who are expected to be hit hardest by the cuts.

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