Suffolk

Suffolk County Council cuts create 'inconsistencies'

Andrea Hill, Suffolk County Council chief executive
Image caption Andrea Hill was one of six people on the panel at Any Suffolk Questions

Council bosses have admitted there would be inconsistent levels of some services across Suffolk if cuts are made.

The Conservative-led Suffolk County Council is proposing that community groups should take over facilities such as some libraries and country parks.

Andrea Hill, council chief executive, said it would lead to variations in provision in different areas.

She said: "That's one of the bits of new thinking we all need to embrace."

Ms Hill was on the panel at BBC Suffolk's Any Suffolk Questions event which took place in front of an invited audience in Ipswich.

The council is planning to make savings of £42.5m for 2011/12 - a cut of 8.4% in the local budget, which does not include schools.

'Different solutions'

The Conservatives' New Strategic Direction aims to have more council services provided by private firms, community interest companies and voluntary groups.

Ms Hill said: "Needs are different in different communities and therefore we should have different solutions in different communities.

"What we're not trying to do is to write a blueprint that's got all the answers in it and then say to people 'this is what we're doing to you'."

One of the council's proposals is to find other groups to run 29 of its 44 libraries, which otherwise face closure.

Councillor Kathy Pollard, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "I think the areas where libraries and youth services may survive are the better-off areas."

The leader of the Labour Party group, Councillor Sandy Martin, said: "My real fear is the New Strategic Direction will actually enable people in places like Debenham, Clare and Halesworth to deliver very good community services and all strength to their elbow.

Image caption Nearly 100 people attended Any Suffolk Questions at the St Nicholas Centre

"But what it will not do is help the people in Mildenhall Road in Bury St Edmunds, Harbour ward in Lowestoft or in Gainsborough in Ipswich.

"Those are the people that desperately need better council services."

Ms Hill said: "Once we develop the strategy we will be looking at questions such as how do you assure quality, but we'll be more interested in assuring quality of services to the most vulnerable rather than the most able."

The Conservative leader of the council, Jeremy Pembroke, said: "For too long local government has assumed it knows best and I don't think local government does know best.

"The people of Suffolk have the answers. They know the services they want."

Suffolk County Council is due to vote on the new budget on Thursday.

BBC Suffolk's Any Suffolk Questions will be broadcast on Wednesday, 16 February from 1800 until 1900 GMT and it will be available on the BBC iPlayer.

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