Suffolk County Council's budget set for cutbacks of £25 million next year
Cutbacks of £25 million are set to be made in the county council’s budget next year, finance chiefs have warned.
A cabinet document published earlier this month at Suffolk County Council reported that it was looking at an £8.6 million overspend by the end of the year, based on finance figures for the first three months of this year.
At a council scrutiny meeting held on Thursday probing the figures, cabinet member for finance and assets Richard Smith confirmed more belt-tightening cutbacks were on the way.
He said: “We will have to find a further £25 million in savings for 2019/2020.
“That is proving by far to be the most difficult time I have had since I took on this responsibility.
“The savings that are set forward that can be implemented without our public in Suffolk noticing, we have done all of those.
“We are doing all we can to cope with the budget pressures.”
He added: “I have some confidence we will be managing down the deficit that is indicated at the end of the year from the quarter one figures of £8.6 million.
“I cannot promise we will get to zero; in an ideal world we would like to.”
It is not yet clear how far the council will be able to reduce that overspend to, but any spend over budget will have to come from the council’s reserves, which currently stand at £51.1 million.
Mr Smith confirmed that no area would be immune to cutbacks, with all areas understood to be overbudget, however, no clear plans have been laid out for where the savings will come from.
“Suffolk is not going to be the next Northamptonshire,” he added.
“Other county councils are in a far worse state than we are, but, if we don’t keep a firm grip on finances, our savings will diminish, and it is possible that, within four to six years, we could be in a Northamptonshire situation. I am confident we won’t be there.”
Suffolk County Council’s Labour group leader Sarah Adams said: “Those of us who understand local government have been warning Cllr Smith for many years about the long-term implications of the Conservative fixation with austerity and ever-shrinking government.
“The Tories are now finally realising that the cuts this council have imposed on the county, and the services they have withdrawn, have had a devastating effect on Suffolk.
“The economically illiterate decisions made by this council in the last five years are coming home to roost.
“It is noticeable that, of the 10 councils most at risk from bankruptcy, nine of them are Conservative-run.
“Labour councils invest money to create income in order to protect services, whereas Conservatives ensure service reduction by salami slicing until there is nothing left.
“Given that Cllr Smith acknowledges that ministers do not want to hear the harsh realities of local government delivery, it is time he stopped his cosy back room chats with central government ministers – this approach has failed – and join us in publicly calling for the end of austerity.”