County council approves budget

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SUFFOLK County Council has approved its controversial budget which will introduce £42.5 million worth of cuts, a slew of job losses and a freeze in council tax.

The Conservative-led authority agreed the plans following an emotionally charged six hour meeting, where protesters and opposition members battled in vain to save services.

The budget was approved by 43 votes to 18 with no abstentions.

More than 1,400 posts are to be lost in the next two years and services axed include the school crossing patrols, the Explore discount travel card for young people and seven household waste recycling centres.

During the debate about the budget, Cllr Jane Storey, who is responsible for finance, said it was ‘regrettable’ that savings will lead to reductions in staff numbers.

She added: “Very few alternative suggestions have been forthcoming about how we might find the same level of savings.

“It hasn’t been an easy process for any of us. We have tried to protect services for vulnerable people.”

Liberal Democrat leader Kathy Pollard launched a scathing attack on the proposals and criticised the quality of consultations with the public.

She said: “All around the county, people are worried, confused and angry. They’re angry because they are being ignored.

“I see in this budget a mad dash to make a statement and inflict as much pain and suffering as possible.

“It isn’t the New Strategic Direction. It’s the New Sadistic Direction.”

Attempts by the Liberal Democrats to change the budget and save services including the Explore card, lollipop attendants, recycling centres and stop the divestment of libraries were also knocked back.