D-day for council services in Suffolk

TODAY is the day of decision when proposals for cuts across Suffolk are set to become council policy.

Technically none of the �43m cuts have yet been agreed by the county – but the inbuilt Conservative majority should ensure the budget is passed without difficulty.

With a massive Conservative majority – the party holds 54 of the 74 seats on the county council – there is no doubt that the administration will get its budget approved.

A few backbenchers have grumbled privately about some of the proposals – but a group meeting this morning is expected to bring everyone into line.

The administration is confident there will be no dissent in the ranks once the open council meeting starts.

The proposals will not be debated in detail – that happened in scrutiny committee before Christmas.

Today councillors will be asked to 'think strategically' and allow the cuts to be implemented.

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A central plank of the budget is that the county element of council tax bills will be frozen at last year's levels.

On the spending side, the council is set to approve a raft of controversial cuts.

It is expected to remove direct funding of school crossing patrols and cease funding the eXplore card which gives youngsters half-price bus and train tickets.

Subsidies for rural bus services will be slashed – although as revealed in the EADT earlier this week a deal with operators should enable many routes to remain.

Threats remain to council-run care homes in Suffolk and there will be other changes to care of older people. The county council subsidy to meals on wheels is due to be withdrawn.

There are cuts to the fire service with changes to many stations across the county from Felixstowe to Haverhill.

The proposed 'divestment' of libraries is not part of this year's budget – that will feature in next year's settlement – but there are administrative savings of �350,000 to be made.

The county plans to withdraw from most funding of its country parks in April – it is trying to hand them over to other organisations like parish councils, The National Trust, or the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

From 2pm detials of the budget meeting can be viewed at www.EDP24.co.uk and www.lowestoftjournal.co.uk