Fund to give more time for services take-over

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A £1.7 million fund has been set up to give people extra time to take on Suffolk County Council’s threatened services.

The one-off six month contingency fund will allow some services, which could be axed due to budget cuts, to continue while organisations draft plans to run them.

As part of the proposals, school crossing patrols will continue to be funded until the end of the summer term.

The move was discussed at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, which approved proposals to cut £42.5 million from this year’s budget and freeze Council Tax.

The raft of cutbacks include an estimated 1,472 job losses.

School crossing patrols are earmarked for the chop to save £174,000, the number of household waste recycling centres will be cut from 18 to 11 and funding will be withdrawn from the discount travel Explore card.

During the meeting Cllr Jane Storey, portfolio holder for resource management, said: “This has implications for everyone and is spread across all services and directorates.

“We’ve not seen the like of these sort of savings for some time.”

She added that the contingency fund would give the authority ‘a bit of breathing space’ while it looked at alternatives.

As a result of the Council Tax freeze, the level for Band D for county services remains at £1,126.53.

Cllr Colin Noble, who is responsible for adult and community services, said: “I’m delighted we will be proposing no Council Tax rise this year. In these difficult times, I can think of no greater contribution to those on low and fixed incomes than this.”

The moves to axe school crossing patrols would affect lollipop attendants in Oliver Road, which serves Westley Middle, St Andrew’s Street for St Louis Catholic Middle, Westgate Street for St Edmunds Catholic Primary as well as Westley Road for Sexton’s Manor Primary and Westley Middle.

Meanwhile, senior staff at Horringer Court Middle School have been on patrol duties in Glastonbury Road since their lollipop man retired last autumn.

Cllr Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads, transport and planning, said: “There’s no doubt that the work of the school crossing patrols is valued but the world has moved on in many ways.

“There’s got to be better ways of supporting school crossing patrols by way of sponsorship, local parish and town councils and parent teacher associations etc.”

After the cabinet meeting, the Bury Free Press spoke to Cllr McGregor about the extension for the patrols and the contingency fund.

He said: “Essentially local politics runs a budget from April to March and the school term runs until July.

“It doesn’t make a great deal of sense to end it with one term to go. We need an extension to get other alternatives in place.

“The cabinet has agreed that some money should be used to smooth a transition giving people time to accommodate these changes. Part of that accommodation will be the recognition that the patrols will be funded until the end of the summer term.”

The plans will be discussed by full council on February 17.