Suffolk: Cuts hit all ages

suffolk: Age is no barrier when it comes to feeling the full impact of the county council spending cuts – which will see nearly 1,500 jobs go over the next 18 months.

In an attempt to cut �400,000 from its budget, the county is planning to end the subsidy for “community meals”.

This means that people who enjoy a subsidised meal at their day centre face having to pay the full cost – and there are already fears that could lead to isolation as they are unable to afford the cost of eating out.

Meanwhile, children across the county will face major impacts as the cuts bite next year.

The county will no longer fund the Xplore Card, which gives young people under 19 the opportunity to travel at concessionary rates across Suffolk and into neighbouring counties.

The county is looking at producing a card which could be used as a proof of age for a fee and hopes that transport companies will take continue to offer concessionary fees to young travellers.

School transport routes are to be rationalised and some packages for children with special educational needs or who go to specialist schools, like Roman Catholic schools, will not longer be provided.

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Dennis McGarry, head of St Albans Catholic High School in Ipswich, said: “We are having a meeting on Thursday evening to discuss the situation.

“The meeting will be between the diocese, school heads and members of the local authority.”

Almost all aspects of the council’s work will be affected as the county’s Conservative administration tries to make cuts of �43 million to next year’s budget.

And this is all before the council launches its New Strategic Direction which it sees as a way of cutting costs without axing services too deeply.

Of the 1,472 jobs being cut, nearly half will come from Adult and Community Services, and nearly 350 from Children and Young People’s services.

A spokesman for the county council said the majority of the 773 jobs being lost in Adult and Community Services would be “back office” staff.

The job losses are being spread over two financial years – 421 posts are going in the current financial year and 1,051 in 2011/12. Household waste sites will be hit – some will be closed, the remainder will have their hours reduced and they will charge for commercial waste.

It was also confirmed that that the withdrawal of the park and ride from Bury Road in Ipswich would go ahead, while the budget for subsidised bus services would be cut by more than half.

Launching the proposed cuts, council deputy leader Jane Storey said: “Over the next four years, we have to find savings of between �110 and �125 million – with a large proportion of that in the first year.

“It has been a very difficult process to come up with these proposals and many people will be very concerned – but I have to say we have looked at very many proposals that we have rejected because they are totally unacceptable to us.”

Labour deputy leader Bryony Rudkin was dismayed at the scope of the cuts. She said: “The Xplore card is considered very valuable by young people who use it to take their first steps of freedom.

“And abandoning the subsidy for community meals is very sad. For many older people going to the day centre for a meal with friends is the highlight of their week – if that is made too expensive for them it will just increase their isolation.”

n Will you be affected by the cuts? Call The Evening Star news desk on 01473 324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk

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