Huge drive to save money

COUNCILS in Suffolk are on course to make more than £24million worth of efficiency savings in 2006-7, according to the latest Whitehall figures.The news has sparked fears from community leaders the public will end up with a raw deal if cuts are made because local authorities want to tighten the purse strings.

COUNCILS in Suffolk are on course to make more than £24million worth of efficiency savings in 2006-7, according to the latest Whitehall figures.

The news has sparked fears from community leaders the public will end up with a raw deal if cuts are made because local authorities want to tighten the purse strings.

However council bosses have pledged no frontline services will suffer as a result and savings have been made through better management.

The concentrated squeeze came to light after all local authorities were asked to submit efficiency review plans to the department for communities and local government for the upcoming financial year.

According to the figures local authorities in Suffolk will make a total saving of £24.25m in 2006-7.

The Government is asking all 388 councils nationwide to make £3bn worth of efficiency gains by 2007-8 under the Gershon Review - including more than £120m in the East of England.

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Suffolk County Council is looking to make savings of £17.15m - including £7.57m reductions in adult social care and £1.59m in children's services.

It already had to make £24m savings this year following a shortfall in funding from central government - in addition to those savings required under the Gershon Review.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said: “It is a huge problem and I am more worried now than I have ever been.”

Richard Spring, Tory MP for West Suffolk, said the Government had dramatically shortchanged Suffolk over a long period of time and he could not welcome the savings because he feared they would lead to cuts in services.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said in the two biggest areas of efficiency - adult and community services and children and young people's services - savings were mostly based around buying services at a better rate or through staff efficiencies such as checking posts were still needed when they became vacant.

John Carnall, deputy leader of Ipswich Borough Council, which is expected to save £1.4m said: “There will definitely not be any cuts to services but genuine efficiency savings in a number of areas.”

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