Labour warns �26m budget cuts will hit the vulnerable

SUFFOLK: County attempts to save money could end up with the most vulnerable members of society suffering – and cost far more in the long term.

That was the warning from Labour group leader Sandy Martin as the Conservative cabinet agreed to press ahead with budget cuts of �26million and a council tax freeze again next year.

Mr Martin warned that the cuts fell disproportionately on the adult and community services (ACS) and children and young people’s (CYP) budget.

He said that, in cutting the budget for services to the most vulnerable members of society, the council could end up costing taxpayers much more in the future.

“If you have more elderly people needing hospital treatment or more young people being put into custody because they get into trouble and there were no crime prevention schemes to help them then that will end up costing a lot more.

“I am really very concerned about what is happening. It’s a bit like watching a slow-motion car crash,” he said. However, Mr Martin’s gloom was dismissed by cabinet member for ACS Colin Noble.

He said: “I think the Labour leader is fundamentally misunderstanding what we are doing here.

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“We are switching money to help support people before they need more expensive help.”

The ACS budget is facing the largest cuts – more than �8m this year – but Mr Noble said that, by switching to helping more people spend longer in their own homes, it would often be able to prevent more expensive services being needed.

The 2012/13 budget proposals are the first stage of a two-year plan to save �50m from the �1billion annual budget the county council is responsible for.

In September last year, the county council began a public consultation to get a better idea of the priorities of Suffolk residents.

The information received from almost 2,500 people helped to shape the proposals.

The budget will be formally set at the county council meeting on February 9.

n Is it right to cut the budget to freeze council tax bills? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail star letters@archant.co.uk