Waveney people asked for their views on public service cuts

THE people of Lowestoft and Waveney are today being urged to make their voices heard as the district braces itself for a round of deep public spending cuts.

THE people of Lowestoft and Waveney are being urged to make their voices heard as the district braces itself for a round of deep public spending cuts.

With key decisions looming on the future of a range of services, Waveney District Council is asking local people to get involved in the debate and have their say.

All councils and public bodies will find out in a matter of days how severely they will be affected by national spending cuts, but Waveney is gearing up already for an expected reduction of up to 30pc in its budget.

This means that all of its services, from dealing with noise nuisance to supporting tenants in social housing, even collecting and sorting waste for recycling, could be affected to some extent.

Under the logo pictured above, the council has launched a campaign called What Would You Do? to encourage people to think about different ways in which things might be achieved in the future. Waveney's leader Mark Bee and chief executive Stephen Baker say that making decisions about the future should be a 'two-way street' with input from the public as well the council.

They said: 'Deep cuts to your own and public service budgets are inevitable, and all decisions we take regarding the services we deliver must be taken with great care and consideration.

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'The decisions we take will not just be about 'less', but 'different', thinking differently and doing differently.

'We want to ensure that before any budget setting takes place, we are able to understand what our communities want from their council.

'Where should we concentrate our efforts?

'What services could be delivered differently, or by different organisations or people? Services in the future may well look very different.

'There has never been a more important time to take part.'

The council's campaign comes as the Government prepares to announce its public spending review on October 20.

It will dictate how much funding Waveney and other local authorities receive next year – leaving them with crucial decisions on the services they provide, and the level of council tax they set.

Suffolk County Council has already signalled its plans to outsource all but a handful of its services to cut its �1.1bn spending by 30pc.

But its radical proposals have run into fierce criticism from the public sector workers' union Unison, and from a number of charities and voluntary organisations.

Waveney's Labour group leader John Shanahan told the Journal that although he welcomed the idea of a public consultation, he did not feel that enough planning had gone into where potential savings might be made without reductions in service.

'Any kind of consultation is good and helps you know that people want, which is really important, but I don't know how much control the public really have,' he said.

'The council should be much more open about exactly what the cuts might be.

'If not it can seem like decisions will be made and then the outcome of the consultation will be used to justify those.

'It's a shame because I think it's really important that local people understand how the decisions which affect their lives are made.'

To have your say in the What Would You Do? campaign, visit www.waveney.gov.uk for more information, a link to a new Facebook page, a survey and an interactive budget simulator.

To speak to a councillor and complete a survey, visit one of the community events. Councillors will be at Bungay Town Council chambers on Thursday, October 14, from 4pm to 7pm; at Lowestoft Library on Tuesday 19, from 3pm to 7pm; at Southwold Town Hall on Wednesday 20, from 4pm to 7pm; at the Friends Meeting House in Beccles on Thursday 28 from 4pm to 7pm; and at St Mary's Church in Steeple Road, Halesworth, on Thursday 28, from 4pm to 7pm.

Tenants living in local authority housing can visit special events, which all run from 9am to 12.30pm, at the Whitton Estate on Friday, November 5; at Gunton Hall on Tuesday 9, St Edmund's Crescent in Kessingland on Wednesday 10; Jubilee Court in Halesworth on Tuesday 30; and at Steadman Terrace in Reydon on Friday, December 3.