Report to Bramford February 2012

County News

Warm Homes, Healthy People

The County Council has received £265,000 from the Government to help those who may struggle with fuel payments in the remaining winter months. This money will fund actions that will help those in need cope with the colder weather:

  • Borough and district councils will offer advice to anyone struggling to keep warm this winter
  • Independent energy advisors will visit households struggling to pay their energy bills to offer advice and install measures to save money and energy
  • Suffolk Acre will run road shows to promote their good neighbour and community oil buying schemes
  • Match funding for Suffolk Foundation’s ‘Surviving Winter’ Appeal to allow other groups to benefit, including children and young people with learning disabilities
  • Installation of FREE extreme temperature sensors in vulnerable people’s homes
  • A befriending service
  • A central telephone number (Winter Wellbeing Helpline) people can call for information, advice and support. Tel: 08456 037 686

For information see http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/PolicingAndPublicSafety/warmhomes.htm

Cabinet Update

The next Cabinet meeting will take place on the 21st of February at the Babergh District Council offices in Hadleigh.

Developers guide to infrastructure contributions (106 agreements) in Suffolk

This lays down the approach all Suffolk councils will take, providing certainty for developers. The hope is that this will not increase house prices, but will be used by developers to extract the substantial cost of investment in infrastructure from the value of land to be developed.

Adult and Community Services New operating model

This proposes investment in preventative measures to avoid the cost of crisis response in the care of the elderly and disabled and re-design of services to meet people’s needs in a better way at lower cost. It is an exciting move but there is substantial risk that the ideas will not be deliverable. Our difficulty will be to measure performance so we can be sure if performance and efficiency are being improved or the quantity and quality of care reduced.

Fire and Rescue National Framework for England

This is the county response to consultation on a new framework that is less prescriptive and hands responsibility and decisions to local management and people.

As usual you are welcome to attend and ask questions that you have submitted in advance.

Full Council

Last week the Council decided to accept the administration budget for the next financial year. At the meeting, we submitted an amendment in an attempt to get the Administration to change their budget plans to incorporate the following;

  • · Re-opening the Bury Road Park and Ride
  • · Returning those bus services cut at last year’s budget including evening and weekend services.
  • · Bringing the eXplore card back – with a £25 admin fee
  • · Funding apprenticeships for 50 NEET’s at the County Council
  • · Providing £1m to the Looked after Children budget, to try and reduce the number of children currently looked after outside the County
  • · Unlimited travel to Concessionary Bus Pass holders eligible due to disability.
  • · Improving support to Schools to increase the levels of attainment

This would have been have been paid for through a series of cost reductions in;

  • · Business miles
  • · External Room Hire
  • · The CSD contract
  • · Reduction of 1 Cabinet post
  • · Reduction of the Road management and maintenance budget

Although there appeared to be a backbench view that such changes would support the local economy, were not particularly costly, could be funded easily and addressed issues important to tax payers, we did not succeed. One item where there was unanimous agreement was Councillors allowances. These will be frozen for the financial year and not increased in line with inflation

Suffolk Broadband Residents Survey

The campaign Better Broadband for Suffolk continues with the launch of a survey for residents, aiming to gather support, information about the current level of internet provision and the desired speed.

If you wish to complete the survey, and you have access to the internet, head to http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/broadband. For those without internet access, surveys are being distributed to parishes and libraries. In addition to the residential survey, the business survey is still up and running at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SuffolkBusinessBroadbandSurvey

I would encourage you to respond to the survey to ensure that areas that have poor broadband connections are identified and we can all benefit from faster internet speeds in the future.

District News

Mid Suffolk Budget

The budget will be finally agreed on Thursday. There are of course major changes underway so it is difficult to compare service funding on a line by line basis but reductions in management and staff are yielding substantial savings. The effect on services is much less easy to determine.

A major decision taken at the last executive meeting was to accept the Governments council tax freeze grant of some £135k instead of raising council tax by some 3.5%. This is money you have paid in tax to the government and will not be returned if we don’t take it up. If we do accept the this year only grant, there will be a gap next year that we can’t fill by increasing tax by this year’s rise plus that for next year. The council will probably need to use part of the new homes bonus.

Housing

Rents

Council house rents will rise by about 6% this year as we continue to reduce the gap between council and social landlord rents. It also helps fund maintenance and improvements.

Housing Debt

The Government is transferring the national housing debt to districts. Mid Suffolk will have to add some £57 million of this debt to their existing housing debt of £24million, borrowing from the Government at a low interest rate around 3.6%. The benefit is that they will cease to pay the Government £4.6 million per year of the £13.2 million rent we take. That will cover the £2 million interest and capital repayments and allow additional money to be invested in the stock.

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