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Suffolk Bitesize: Your weekly council round-up of decisions including affecting SEND provision, a Stowmarket sports project and the all important Suffolk County Council budget debate





Here’s some of what your representatives across the county have been up to since Monday, February 12.

The county council’s new SEND leader, Cllr Andrew Reid, has pledged to address ‘systematic failures’ in the service

Cllr Reid took on the job following the resignations of three top councillors.

Andrew Reid
Andrew Reid

A week into the new job, he said he was committed to fix the problems surrounding the service, including speeding up and ensuring the quality of the Education, Health, and Care Plans (ECHP) process.

Currently, many families find themselves waiting weeks and even months over the 20-week statutory timescale for completing new EHC needs assessments.

He said: “It’s important we get this right — because this is so personal for families, we have been reinforcing around that particular issue.

“I firmly believe my ambitions for this time next year will be met.”

A major £2.4m sports project in Stowmarket has been given the green light

The Stowmarket, Health, Education and Leisure Facilities (SHELF) project’s first and second packages were given full planning permission and will see a new sports pavilion, a sports hall, a new 3G pitch, and more sports provision.

Sports Pavilion. Credit: Saunders Boston Architects.
Sports Pavilion. Credit: Saunders Boston Architects.

The project’s third package, which includes a wellbeing hub, was also given outline permission.

Tony Bush, head of operations at Suffolk Sport, said: “There is a real need for organisations to work collaboratively and address health and wellbeing needs in the communities and tackle stubborn inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic.

“There is no doubt to me that the facilities will contribute to that collaboration.”

Suffolk County Council’s budget for the next financial year has been approved after being debated for several hours

The budget was approved on Thursday night, and included a 4.99 per cent council tax increase, the maximum allowed, meaning a Band D homeowner will be paying £74.61 more this year — two per cent of which, or just under £30, is ringfenced money for social care.

Cllr Richard Rout, who is responsible for budgets, said: “We never do this lightly but doing so this year is a key part we ensure we support those who need it most in our county — this is the most difficult budget we have had to set for many years.”

As part of the debate, two amendments submitted by opposition groups were rejected by the Conservative administration.

Councillors discuss the issues
Councillors discuss the issues

To balance the books, the council had to put forward a £64.7m savings package to be made over the next two years which included several controversial measures.

These included, for instance, cuts to Housing Related Support (HRS) amounting to £1m in the next financial year and £2m in 2025/26.

Despite warnings from charities that this could mean 700 people across the county could become homeless, councillors promised residents would still get excellent care.

Cllr Beccy Hopfensperger, cabinet member for adult care, said: “While I hear the protests, I feel the fear and anger across the county, I return to that point, faced with the financial challenges of today, we have no choice.”

Another controversial move was the closing of both East and West Suffolk archives branches with the documents moving into the Hold, in Ipswich.

Opposition councillors said the closures were akin to stripping districts of their heritage.

The council has, however, promised to create a working party to better discuss the options in order to possibly keep non-statutory documents within districts, while statutory documentation, such as marriage certificates, are moved.