Just four people turn up for budget consultation

JUST four people attended a consultation meeting in Bury St Edmunds which was held to help shape Suffolk County Council’s budget.

The meeting, in The Athenaeum, on Tuesday night was organised to inform the public of the authority’s upcoming budget cuts and to give them a chance to comment.

The council has to cut £26.2 million in 2012/13 and £26.9 million in 2013/14 to make up for a 28 per cent reduction in its Government grant.

After just four people – including the Bury Free Press reporter – attended the meeting, Cllr Colin Noble, who led the event, said the challenge for the authority was getting more people engaged in such issues.

Asked about the turn out for other budget consultation meetings which were held in the county, he said: “It varies a little but there has been quite low attendance. I did Haverhill on Monday and there were 13 people there.

“It’s a learning curve. People have been very used to councils just providing a service. It’s about getting more and more people involved. Next year I want the room full of people.”

On what he had learnt from comments made in the Bury meeting, Cllr Noble added: “What I got is the sense the community has to do more. Local government has got to work more intelligently with them.”

Last month the authority revealed the first details of its savings policies with £15 million to be cut by ‘improving efficiency’.

A further £15 million is to be saved in changes to adult social care with plans to intervene in people’s lives earlier before they urgently need care. Other savings include reducing the amount of senior management and office accommodation as well as cutting the costs of waste services.