Suffolk cuts meeting tomorrow
For the last few weeks they have become the very public face of the protest against swingeing cuts planned by Suffolk County Council.
Library staff and lollipop men and women across Suffolk have received overwhelming public support after their posts were put in jepoardy by controversial plans to slash �43m from the authority's budget over the next 12 months.
But tomorrow's budget setting meeting will have far wider ramifications for communities – and for council staff on a personal level.
As well as planned cull of all 60 school crossing patrols and a proposal that could see 29 libraries close unless volunteers step forward to run them, the axe is poised to fall on a range of council-run services.
Firefighters, bus subsidies, youth clubs, home-to-school transport and household waste sites are all included in the budget hit list.
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As departments tighten their belts in an effort to save �43m there is also the human cost of nearly 1,100 council staff who are set to lose their jobs by 2012.
And there is bound to be further frustration across the county as in the next three years at least �67m must be shaved off the council's budget leading to calls for communities to take over or help run services.
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Suffolk's eyes will be focused tomorrow on the council's headquarters at Endeavour House in Ipswich as the 2011/12 budget is discussed – and most likely approved – by the Conservative-run authority.
Like Monday's budget-setting meeting at Norfolk County Hall, feelings are bound to run high as funding for key services is axed or slashed.
However, campaigners in Suffolk point out that people in Norfolk were at least given a larger say in the budget setting process through the 'Big Conservation' consultation process whereas they could only comment on individual departmental cuts.
And unlike Norfolk, libraries and crossing patrol staff in Suffolk are still in the firing line.
Suffolk County Council's budget for 2011/12 includes savings of �174,000 by getting rid of 62 crossing patrol staff, plans to close 29 out of the county' 44 libraries to save about �350,000, cutting �660,000 to youth clubs and reducing bus subsidies.
It is also hoped �12m can be saved from the adult care budget by closing or selling 16 care homes.
Post-16 school transport and Roman Catholic school transport funding are also in the mix.
The budget is also proposing to shut seven out of the county's 18 household waste centres saving the cash strapped authority nearly �1.5m.
Tomorrows cuts are part of four year drive to slash the council's budget by 28pc after a reduction in government central funding.
While tomorrow will be a difficult day for the county it is just the first stage of a four-year process to radically re-haul and cut services to help save at least �110m overall.
From 2012 the council's New Strategic Direction policy will kick in.
The new direction document was adopted in September after the council found out how much government funding had been cut.
From next year the council wants to work more closely with communities to see which services can be run through local groups, social enterprises, charities and the private sector.
As an example of the process 30 council-run youth clubs could be farmed out to volunteers or groups to take over and some of the 29 threatened libraries could be manned by volunteers.
The council also hopes to outsource most of its other services in the next four years.
But as tomorrow's immediate cuts are announced it will be hard for the thousands of people affected to see beyond the next year.
See www.edp24.co.uk website and Friday's EDP for full reports from the meeting.