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Calls for ‘major rethink’ of Ipswich council services amid budget pressures

PUBLISHED: 17:35 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:35 28 January 2020

Ipswich Borough Council has produced a first draft of the 2021 budget. Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Borough Council has produced a first draft of the 2021 budget. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Conservatives in Ipswich have called for a “major rethink” of services, claiming that the Labour-run council has “buried its head in the sand” by not making savings sooner.

Ipswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher said plans should have been made earlier for shrinking budgets. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCILIpswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher said plans should have been made earlier for shrinking budgets. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

Ipswich Borough Council's Labour leader David Ellesmere confirmed the authority was planning to up council tax by 2% - equating to 11p a week for the majority of homes in Ipswich - from 2021, and issued a stark warning that cutbacks could loom.

But Ian Fisher, leader of the council's Conservative group said that the administration should have planned better for a cut to the budget.

He said: "Labour has run IBC for nine years and throughout that time have been well aware of the plans from the government for future funding cuts.

"There are cost savings and efficiencies that should have been enacted years ago but this administration has buried its head in the sand.

"Despite the current economic position this council has committed to capital spending in the hundreds of millions of pounds since it came to power.

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"Interest rates have been at a record low for a few years but it is no surprise that rates are now rising as the economy picks up.

"Nearly all the proposed future spending is due to be funded by borrowing because this Labour administration has gambled that cheap money will be around for years to come.

"This is awful financial planning and could have a disastrous effect on future developments for our town."

Mr Fisher questioned whether income streams from parking and sports and leisure services had been strong enough in recent years, and added: "We need a major re-think into how and what services Ipswich residents want to see the council providing and we need to ensure those services are delivered efficiently.

"There is no magic money tree and we would need to work hard but there is no reason we can't see prosperity return to Ipswich."

On Monday Mr Ellesmere said that frontline services were currently safe from cutbacks, but if budgets continued to shrink in future years it would need to consider some cuts to those services.

The council is predicting a £6m shortfall in funding over four years, prompting measures such as voluntary redundancy, and one fewer grass cut next year to reduce costs.

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