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Northern bypass, children's centres - what local decisions are being delayed by General Election 2019?

PUBLISHED: 05:30 06 November 2019

Nicola Beach, chief executive, Suffolk County Council  Picture: Cherry Beesley/Simply C Photography

Nicola Beach, chief executive, Suffolk County Council Picture: Cherry Beesley/Simply C Photography

© 2017 Simply C Photography

Big decisions anticipated for the end of this year are facing a delay as a result of the General Election announcement.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Penny Otton  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLiberal Democrat Cllr Penny Otton Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Parliament officially dissolves at one minute past midnight on November 6, signalling the start of the General Election period ahead of polling day on December 12.

It means that local authorities across the country are unable to carry out some areas of work which are more political in nature as they go into 'purdah' - a period where council resources are not used to announce policies in a bid not to affect any voters.

At Suffolk County Council, chief executive Nicola Beach confirmed that the budget scrutiny meeting planned for December 9 has now been pushed back until January 7, meaning any potential cuts or investments to services from April 2020 will not be known until the end of December or early January.

The authority is also unable to launch the consultation on a revamped children's centre model until after December 12, as well as the first draft of a northern bypass business case, although it has not been made clear whether they would have been ready before then in any case.

Labour Councillor Sarah Adams  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLabour Councillor Sarah Adams Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Ms Beach also confirmed that three policy development panels - cross party task groups thrashing out ideas on specific issues - will also have to pause work until after December 12.

Those groups were discussing alternative education such as pupil referral units; climate change measures; and cycling provision.

Ipswich, Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils confirmed they were planning to cancel full council and cabinet meetings, but functions like licensing and planning would remain.

In East Suffolk and West Suffolk there were no meetings currently planned for cancellation, but said meetings could be delayed or deferred if necessary.

Penny Otton, leader of the SCC Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group said: "It's obviously frustrating that we are being left in limbo at the moment, particularly with regards to the children's centre consultation - which was due to start back in September. It seems really unfair to leave families and staff without any certainty about the future of their centres."

Sarah Adams, Labour group leader, added: "In postponing the presentation of the first draft of next year's budget, councillors are being denied sufficient time to scrutinise and debate the next round of Tory cuts. This is intolerable at a time when public services are straining under the weight of a decade of austerity."

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