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County gearing up for ‘difficult decisions’ after £5m hit, Suffolk County Council leader warns

Suffolk County Council is gearing up for ‘difficult decisions’ after a £5m hit resulting from the Autumn Statement, the leader has warned.

Last month, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, announced a slew of measures during his Autumn Statement, including an increase in the maximum living wage to £11.44, up from £10.42.

This, the council revealed, has resulted in a bill amounting to £5.4m bill being put to the council nearly two months after it announced reserves could be £37.9m worse off in the next financial year.

Picture: Suffolk County Council
Picture: Suffolk County Council

With the budget-setting process well underway, the county council is now having to find savings in order to balance the books in the new year.

Council leader, Matthew Hicks, said: “Suffolk County Council is a well-run and financially prudent council, but we are not immune to the impact of inflation and rising demand for council services.

“These are putting significant pressure on our budget, particularly around home-to-school transport for children with special educational needs, children in care, and adult social care.”

The announcement comes as research from the County Councils Network (CCN), of which Suffolk and its neighbours are a part, revealed many local authorities in England have been left in a ‘significantly worse financial position’, with many not sure whether they can deliver balanced budgets.

The CCN also revealed spiralling costs in children’s social care and home-to-school transport, where Suffolk County Council has seen the worst overspends, could contribute to a £4bn funding deficit over the next three years across the country.

In response, Cllr Hicks, alongside leaders from some of England’s biggest councils, issued a joint letter warning Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, that a failure to fix these issues could result in ‘painful reductions to frontline services’ and increased taxation.

Addressing the upcoming budget-setting period, Cllr Hicks said: “Like many councils, we are having look at all available options to balance our budget.

“We have to consider all options and it seems highly likely that difficult decisions will be needed in the new year.”