Suffolk’s new leader claims council cuts will not hit services
The new leader of Suffolk County Council is promising the authority will not walk away from delivering services despite the financial challenges it is facing.
Mark Bee, the Waveney councillor who took up his new role as leader of Suffolk on Thursday, has admitted the authority's previous policy – the New Strategic Direction – is dead but has stressed that the financial pressures the council is facing have not gone away.
Instead, Mr Bee told the annual meeting of the county council that his administration would be looking to cut bureaucracy and work more closely with other authorities. Speaking after, he spelled out how he hoped that would work.
He said: 'I was quite clear the New Strategic Direction is gone but the budget pressures haven't gone and we are still mindful of that.
'What it means is that we continue to look at working with communities, at looking with other agencies and our partners to try to find ways in which current services can be provided or managed by other sources – and we are going to work with them on that.
'We will also want to look at our own structures, our procurement, our estate and property portfolio to see how we can make savings.
'There is still some work to do there, obviously, but I am confident there are real savings we can make in those areas and protect the valuable frontline services at the same time.' He was reluctant to dip into reserves because they could only be spent once – but he felt if the county was 'clever' with the way it spent its money, there could be benefits for the county.
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The former Waveney District Council leader, who now represents the Worlingham ward at district level, said this could involve helping other bodies to run services – but there was no way the county was going to walk away from services.
He insisted this policy was very different to the New Strategic Direction.
He said: 'The NSD was just about saying 'we are going to stop doing things' and not necessarily having a clear idea going forward on how they would be run. And it also had a uniform approach across Suffolk.
'This is going to be very different from that. Solutions are going to be different in different parts of the county and I think we've got to recognise that.
'But it is also about working more closely with our partners. One of the things that was wrong with the New Strategic Direction was that we didn't actually include our district and borough councils in the consultation process.
'Many of them are facing exactly the same pressures and working in partnership with them, we can help resolve each others problems – for instance, with our property portfolio.'
He said it could take longer, but added: 'The days of the council being a 'light' council, being an 'easy' council approach which I think underpins the New Strategic Direction, are over. It is now about working with Suffolk to come up with Suffolk solutions.'