Council resists calls to dip into reserves

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A leading councillor has resisted calls to dip into Suffolk County Council’s reserves in the wake of cuts to services - arguing there are greater financial ‘storms’ on the horizon.

Cllr Jane Storey, deputy leader of the authority, says they are trying to hold onto the reserves, which are estimated to be £148.6 million next year, for as long as possible.

She pointed to a potential £64 million budget gap from 2014-16 as support from the government falls.

It follows calls from Cllr Sandy Martin, leader of the Labour Group, as the council outlined nearly £25 million in cuts for next year.

He said: “The reserves are now bigger than they need to be. There’s no point in putting money away for a rainy day - the rainy day is here.

“They need to be looking at those vital things which they are cutting and say ‘we can afford to do this because we have that money.”

When asked about the reserves, Cllr Storey, cabinet member for finance, said: “So often I hear the argument this is a rainy day at the moment but we know we’ve got storms ahead.”

This week, the council’s scrutiny committee examined next year’s budget cuts, which include:

n £9.7 million by improving efficiency with a 1.5 per cent saving on all department budgets and removing ‘unnecessary processes’.

n£7 million through the adult care in depth review.

n £2.5 million by targeting resources in children’s services to reduce demand.

In terms of adult care, the council is focusing on different approaches to encourage people to live more independently and reduce expensive long term care solutions.

Cllr Colin Noble, cabinet member for adult care, said: “We can have less demand for the really expensive services. The longer someone is inependentthey don’t need to go into residential care.”

When asked how they are ensuring the cuts don’t hit the most vulnerable, he said: “We’re making sure the services are targeted at those who need them and making sure for other people they have things like personal budgets so they can make arrangements for themselves. We’re trying our level best to ensure the way in which we do things protects frontline services.”