Suffolk County Council backs £42.5m cuts plan

Image caption,
Protesters had gathered outside the county council offices in the morning

A package of £42.5m of cuts over the next 12 months was backed by Suffolk County Council in a meeting on Thursday evening lasting six hours.

More than 1,400 posts will be lost over two years, representing a 14% drop in staff numbers.

The Conservative-controlled council also voted to scrap school crossing patrols - to save £174,000.

But councillors agreed there would be no increase in council tax in 2011/2012.

The budget meeting opened with speeches supporting school crossing patrols and a petition of 1,200 signatures.

'Big mistake'

The Labour group put forward an amendment to protect the school crossing patrol money with the saving coming from other parts of the budget.

It got some Conservative support, but failed.

Sandy Martin, leader of the Labour group, said: "I was deeply disappointed the Conservatives did not vote for our amendment ...I think they have made a big mistake there."

There was a promise from Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads and transport, that any groups or town and parish councils who had a plan to fund patrols might be helped to keep going for another two terms.

Other proposals voted through will see cuts to the fire service, the scrapping of half-price bus and train travel for young people and the closure of seven waste recycling centres.

Management of most of Suffolk's country parks will be handed over to other organisations and the library administration budget will be cut by £350,000.

However, some investments in new services were confirmed, including £1m to improve rail links between Lowestoft and Ipswich.

A system to dim street lights in the early hours to save energy and reduce light pollution will receive £1m.

Alternative budget

And a transition fund of £1.7m has also been set aside to give organisations and community groups time to come forward with proposals for running some council services.

Jeremy Pembroke, leader of the council, said: "I didn't enter politics to cut public services.

"The situation is not of our making, but we are the ones that have to face up to it and steer Suffolk through challenging times ahead."

The Liberal Democrats put forward an alternative budget which would protect frontline services but that was defeated.

"We have been representing the views of many, many Suffolk people and it is disappointing that our calls to preserve these services have fallen upon deaf ears."

Less money from the government means the council has to save £125m over the next four years.

The council said it had prioritised savings by reducing running costs in order to protect frontline services as far as possible, with 82% of the savings being made cutting management and overhead costs.

Suffolk County Council employees face a recruitment and pay freeze.

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