Ipswich Tories question need for plan in middle of fast-moving pandemic
PUBLISHED: 16:30 27 October 2020
The opposition leader at Ipswich council has urged the authority to accept it is impossible to make long-term plans because of Covid-19 and to concentrate on immediate financial issues.
Conservative group leader Ian Fisher said it was pointless for the Labour administration at the borough to worry about a £5m deficit over four years because they had found it impossible to foresee what was going to happen in three months’ time.
Mr Fisher said: “We had an emergency budget in July that was talking about £10m of cuts over four years. Now we’re told there will have to be another £5m – but the council has got more money than it expected from the government.
“The cuts they’ve actually announced now don’t come to anywhere near that figure. I suspect cutting the Regent Box Office and changing the way flower beds are planted were always on the cards from when the budget was first announced before the pandemic – but this is a convenient excuse for them to get away with the cuts.”
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He said other councils in Suffolk were not making financial plans for four years ahead because they knew the situation could change dramatically – they were just trying to ensure they remained solvent at present.
The borough’s executive is to consider a number of service cuts when it meets next week. The council has seen its reserves fall from £6.8m to just £50,000 during the pandemic and says it needs to look at making £4.7m of cuts over the next four years.
Apart from the closure of the Regent box office and reducing the amount of planting in the town’s parks it is also looking a shutting the Town Hall customer service centre by March 2022, restructuring some areas of the council’s administration and not filling many of the empty posts that current remain within the council’s workforce.
Borough leader David Ellesmere, when discussing the budget cuts, said he and his colleagues had been frustrated at the lack of prompt information from the government: “We’ve been told there will be no more money from the government – but then we’re lead to believe there could be another grant later. That makes it very difficult to plan.”
After it is discussed at next week’s executive meeting, the proposed changes will be debated during the next full meeting of the borough council later in November.
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