Labour aims to bring back full-time fire crew to town

Sudbury Fire Station retained their second fire engine following a campaign. Pictured: Firefighters Peter Bromley and Steven Bulmer
Sudbury Fire Station retained their second fire engine following a campaign. Pictured: Firefighters Peter Bromley and Steven Bulmer

The Labour Group at Suffolk County Council has proposed a £16 million budget amendment including having a full-time fire crew in Sudbury.

The county council cabinet last week agreed to cuts amounting to £31.33 million for financial year 2017/18.

In a bid to reverse some of these cuts, Labour Party members say they will look to invest in key services in order to lower costs and improve care, initially using council reserves to fill the funding gap.

In its amendment, the group proposes to increase spending on children’s services, saying this will lower costs by millions of pounds and improve care by avoiding the need for children to be placed in care or sent to out of county services.

Other aims include improving standards in care homes, roads and infrastructure.

For Sudbury, one of the major changes would be investment in a new full-time, day fire crew at the station.

Labour Group leader Sandy Martin said: “The people of Sudbury led a fantastic campaign against the cuts to their fire service last year. It was so impressive that even this administration couldn’t ignore it.

“A repeat of the fire that devastated much of Sudbury town centre must be avoided. That’s why our amendment will invest funds necessary for Sudbury to have a full-time, day crew.”

A Labour spokesman added: “The initial payments will come from the council’s substantial reserves. This is, of course, not a long-term option, but we have pitched the £16 million extra revenue as the amount we could spend each year for the next four years without losing the back-stop of a general reserve.

“It is predicted that finances should improve over the next four years and spending now to save on statutory costs will begin to pay off by 2020.”

The spokesman added that the revenue cost of improving the fire service in Sudbury would come to £300,000 a year, describing it as a necessary improvement for the area.

Labour spokesperson for finance, Len Jacklin, said: “The Conservative plans for the continued cutting of already struggling services is financially unsound and has only stored up problems for the future - problems we are now beginning to feel.”

Last week, the council’s Conservative cabinet agreed to freeze council tax, while also increasing the Adult Social 
Care Precept.

While freezing council tax for the seventh year, the county proposes £31.3 million cuts across services, on top of the £34 million already saved.

There is a budget gap of £39.8m in the next financial year, and on top of the proposed savings, the council plans to use about £8.5 million from its £49million reserves.

Before the cabinet meeting last Tuesday, Richard Smith, cabinet member for finance and heritage, said: “We are using money from our reserves to cover this increase in costs. This situation demonstrates exactly why we have maintained our reserves at a prudent level.

“Despite ever-increasing financial pressures, we remain absolutely committed to providing services to the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

He said a £6 million overspend this year was mainly due to the increasing cost of supporting vulnerable young people.