Labour anger over lack of spending

COUNTY leaders have been accused of squirreling another �5million into reserves instead of spending it on services to help people in Suffolk hit by the economic crisis.

COUNTY leaders have been accused of squirreling another �5million into reserves instead of spending it on services to help people in Suffolk hit by the economic crisis.

The money has become available because of underspending on the current year's budgets for adult care services, transport support, and waste disposal.

Labour has attacked the decision to stockpile Suffolk's reserves, which already amount to �74million. It said �1m had been saved on adult care but the council was determined to push up charges for home care by 4%

Another �2.2 m had been underspent on environment and transport, despite a lack of maintenance on roads, especially in Ipswich and Lowestoft, and �430,000 had been saved on transport subsidies despite bus services being cut for lack of finance. The waste disposal budget was in surplus due to the high level of recycling in Suffolk

Sandy Martin, the Labour's spokesman on the environment, said: “At a time of recession it makes no sense for the county council to make cuts to services. The money is there, and so many things desperately need doing - but the Tories would rather just squirrel it away in reserves. “

Jane Storey, deputy leader of the council who is in charge of the resources portfolio, said Labour was “completely misguided - it seems to have no understanding of financial management.

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“This Conservative administration saw there were difficult times ahead, and so fixed the roof while the sun was shining, saving �60m in three years. We are on track to save a further �12.5 this year - turning Suffolk into the most cost-efficient county council in England.”

Mrs Storey added: “The public rightly expect us to deliver ever-more efficient, value for money services, and this underspend is another demonstration of this in action. The majority of the reserves, about �50million, is specially allocated to projects for the next few years. Far from keeping it, this is to be invested back into the community.

“The remainder is simply prudent management, ensuring there is money aside to deliver our services during the difficult years ahead, while protecting the most vulnerable and keeping council tax down for everyone.”

Do you think it is wise to save in a recession? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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