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Warning that more cuts are on the way in Waveney

PUBLISHED: 14:19 27 September 2013 | UPDATED: 14:19 27 September 2013

An impression of the shared council offices block that is proposed in Lowestoft.

An impression of the shared council offices block that is proposed in Lowestoft.

Archant

A dire warning was issued to people in Waveney this week telling them to brace themselves for potentially large cuts in public services across the district.

Council chiefs have warned that Waveney District Council could see the amount it gets in government grants between 2014 and 2016 slashed by nearly 50pc.

Local politicians have branded the cuts as punishing the people of Waveney and a threat to the fabric of the community.

Tod Sullivan, leader of the Labour opposition group at Waveney District Council, said: “This will inevitably hit the worst off hardest, those people already struggling with rent rises, council tax changes and the ‘bedroom tax’ will now receive even less for their money.

“Like all local politicians I will work to save services, I will make every effort to identify any savings which could save services.

“Living standards in this country are falling at the fastest rate since the 1930s, people are turning to food banks, legal loan sharks and charitable organisations simply to survive and the response of the government is to further punish those people by placing at risk basic services which they rely on.”

Waveney faces a loss of 49pc, or £2.5m, in its grant over the next two years as part of a government consultation on local council funding.

It means a cut of about 5pc in the council’s overall income for that period.

It was also revealed this week that Suffolk County Council could see its government grant cut by 37pc – a loss of £50m in real money terms between 2014 and 2016.

The suggested cuts also come as Waveney District and Suffolk County councils have set aside nearly £14m for a shared council office at Lowestoft’s Riverside Road and Waveney has bought the former Sanyo factory site so homes can be built there.

And as part of a transport project, £5m is to be spent on a pedestrian and cycle footbridge in Lowestoft – a move which has been labelled a waste of money.

Bob Blizzard, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, said: “Already the pavements are covered in weeds, street lights are turned off at night and care of the elderly has been reduced to a skeleton service, so it’s hard to see how further massive cuts can be made without destroying the fabric of our community.

“They should now scrap the £14m new council offices and the pointless £5m footbridge.”

Colin Law, leader of Waveney, said: “It is no secret that councils face further cuts to the funding they receive and Waveney is no different. The government’s economic programme is set on a particular course and the cuts from the Department of Communities and Local Government have been particular deep.

“Therefore, we must seek ways to address the pressures that our services face, particularly given the range of competing demands for our resources.

“Already, we have made great savings through our innovative partnership with Suffolk Coastal District Council and our new shared accommodation project, as well as providing a one-stop town centre hub for all council enquiries, will also reduce building maintenance costs and encourage further collaborative working with the county council.

“We can also be grateful that changes to the law mean we can respond to the demand for much needed affordable housing.

“This is a clear priority for all political parties and our purchase of land at the old Sanyo site, using money set aside for housing, is a vitally important step in the right direction for the district.

“However, these actions alone, however different or innovative, will not provide all the answers and there is no doubt whatsoever that, as the cuts deepen, further action and more difficult choices will be required.”

As well as warning residents they face tough financial choices ahead and possible cuts in services, councils are pledging to work together to reduce costs, such as the controversial shared office block in Lowestoft.

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “It’s important we do not underestimate the scale of the financial challenge facing local government in the next two years.

“But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that we can do together to help manage the challenge.

“Local government needs to lead by example and find ways of working together to make the savings that are needed.”

Across Suffolk the county council and the county’s seven district or borough councils face a total of £62m in cuts, with the average per authority being 39pc.

All the councils have now called on MPs across Suffolk to take their concerns over the consultation involving funding cuts to grants to Whitehall and communities secretary Eric Pickles.

Peter Aldous Waveney MP, said: “I can understand the concerns that they have raised and it is important that they set these out clearly in the response they make to the government consultation.

“Where Suffolk County Council and Waveney District Council have specific concerns I shall take these up with government.”

Dr Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “It is a key part of reducing the deficit to make sure our children and grandchildren aren’t burdened by debt. I am pleased to see our council’s working together to improve efficiency and boost services.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “To help tackle the inherited deficit, in the recent spending round the coalition government set out a saving of 2.3pc for 2015-16 in overall local government spending, including funding from central government, business rates and council tax income.

“This government’s carefully considered reforms are helping councils achieve greater financial independence and deliver sensible savings while protecting frontline services.”

The spokesman added councils in Suffolk can now retain locally collected business rates to be used to support new firms and jobs following reforms.

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