No more whingeing, please

I SINCERELY hope we won't hear too much whingeing from Endeavour House chiefs about their lack of money over the next year.

I SINCERELY hope we won't hear too much whingeing from Endeavour House chiefs about their lack of money over the next year.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not unhappy about the 3.7 per cent rise in council tax bills. It might be more than the current rate of inflation, but it is less than in previous years.

What does concern me, however, is that the powers that be at the county council were so determined to bring in what they see as a low council tax increase that services will suffer.

Education - especially the schools's budget - is effectively taken out of the hands of councillors these days but all other county functions are decided at Endeavour House.

And what worries me is that the comparatively low council tax rise will leave the authority short when it comes to delivering services.

No one wants to pay more than they have to, but it would be a tragedy if there was no one to repair potholes, if home-helps had to cut their hours, or libraries had couldn't get as many new books simply to save us a few pence a week.

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Everyone wants the best possible value for money and no one wants to pay more than they have to.

But while keeping the council tax rises down to a low increase, I do worry a bit about who will benefit from this.

Council tax is something of a blunt instrument. It is progressive to some extent in that those with bigger homes (who it is assumed would be the more wealthy members of society) pay more than those with smaller homes.

But there are council tax benefits available for those who are not able to afford the full amount - and the fact is that many of those entitled to these benefits don't claim them for one reason or another.

So while a higher increase in council tax might hit those on average or above average salaries, it probably would not affect those on very low incomes as it would be covered by their benefits.

However, it is those on very low incomes who are likely to be most affected by any cutback - it is pensioners without substantial savings who suffer when cash for carers is cut back.

It is people on incapacity benefit who lose out when the day centre down the road closes.

So while the majority of those in Suffolk will be relieved at a 3.7pc rise in council taxes, I do worry that in six months time we may be reporting anger as valued services face closure.

COUNTY council leader Jeremy Pembroke is one of those rare characters in politics - a genuinely likeable chap who isn't worried about having the mickey taken every now and then.

Within hours of publishing a picture of him with dancers last week, and describing him as “Twinkle Toes” he was on the phone in roars of laughter.

He loved it almost as much as when we published a mock-up picture of him as a prize fighter a year ago.

Frankly his spin doctors who are worried about the media doing anything “disrespectful” about their politicians should have heard the laugh - maybe then they would have realised that their political masters are human beings too!

SCHOOLS across Ipswich and south Suffolk have been sending pupils home with information about the new “Swiss” centre which will provide sixth form education for students across the area.

The acronym is clever - although I do wonder how many parents from South West Ipswich and South Suffolk think that skiing will be on the curriculum!

A sixth form centre providing a wide variety of courses for students is very welcome. Individual sixth forms at schools often cannot provide the range of courses students need and this will be large enough to cater for everyone's needs.

And its location looks good - Copdock Mill is easily accessible and it will only be a short walk away from the retail centre and park and ride.

My only real concern is that the transport of students to and from the centre is given top priority in its planning.

Those who have just completed GCSEs may consider themselves to be sophisticated, but there are many 16-year-olds who are put off moving school by the prospect of having to make a complex bus journey every morning.

The authorities need to ensure there are easy bus links to the centre from all parts of Ipswich, as well as Claydon, Blakenham, Hadleigh, Capel, Bergholt, and the Shotley peninsula.

Many teenagers need encouragement to stay at school beyond their 16th birthday - and while it is all very well for politicians to say they should be motivated to improve their education, the fact is that many do need something of a push in the right direction.

If things are made easy enough for the students, the Swiss centre could be as important for the education of Ipswich as UCS.

The challenge for the authorities now is to ensure it is an exciting place to study - and that it is easily accessible to all.