SCC budget and Scrutiny
We have looked at the budget proposals. The dominant theme was coping with current and predicted government cuts and the autumn statement will not have made the problem any easier. The budget gap is £42 million in 2015-16 and £50 million in 2016-17 around half of which is “cost pressures” and half cuts. Government grants at £135m are reduced dramatically but Council Tax at £263m, Business Rates at £93m and Charges at £90m stay the same.
The administration’s main “savings” are intended to come from Health and Social Care Integration (£4.1m), Care for the elderly (£6.0m), Children and Young People’s services (£5.1m),travel (£1.2m) highways, (0.7m), fire (0.5m), waste (£2m), support services (£5m), borrowing related (£4m) and other (£1.6M) a complex picture. Add £8m of excess savings from last year and the total is £38.2million. The rest up to the “gap” of £42m, if it is that big, will come from reserves.
There is a great reliance on preventative work to reduce demand in both care areas. The re-enablement programme for the elderly and the “Team around the Family” and “Making Every Intervention Count” dealing with child protection and support to those with learning difficulties are important elements of this.
These programmes are clearly the correct approach in many ways, but it is impossible to be certain that savings are being achieved through prevention without damaging cuts to services to vulnerable people.
The impact of the Care Act is causing concern. The decision to cap people’s contribution to their care at £70k requires detailed records to be kept. The cost of record keeping and financing spend above the cap is difficult to determine. The Government is to finance its estimate of the total at £7m but the County fears the sums could be much higher, perhaps £25m.
There is also a new fair but costly annual need to assess people who are in care to check that depriving them of liberty is the correct option.
Energy from waste
The incinerator has passed all its commissioning tests, is now supplying the national grid and saving Suffolk tax payers some £8 million a year. At our last liaison meeting, the Environmental Agency explained they are happy with the pollution monitoring data they receive and that it will shortly be available on line for all to see.
We agreed that they would try to get their quarterly analysis, which is public information, on line to help you all judge what you see.
Mid Suffolk and Babergh, are considering a Community Infrastructure levy: a fixed charge of £115 per square meter of each new dwelling or extension built. This CIL would allow no discussions about “viability”, the ability of the developer to pay for land, design, all construction costs, and the 106 agreement and still make a good profit. All new housing would contribute to the infrastructure needed in the area, not just major sites.
The level of the charge will probably mean school extensions receive less than at present. New schools, affordable housing, and roads will still be financed by sums negotiated with developers and defined in a legal agreement: a section106 agreement or section 278 agreements for roads.
Some strategic sites will not pay the CIL but still fund infrastructure by agreement as they do now.
If this is agreed, the districts will build up a large fund and we must set up a fair and effective system to distribute it to build infrastructure. Parishes will get 15% of the money or 25% if they have a neighbourhood plan
The drop in session on 26th November showed the Council’s response to residents’ concerns. It did not meet all residents’ wishes but I hope showed some willingness to listen and present clear information. Residents’ arguments will need to be made again when the planning application is made to ensure they are heard.
I attended this year’s meeting on Corporate Parenting: councillors’ responsibility for looked after children in the County. Suffolk needs more foster carers to be part of the County Service and to help take children from a challenging start to a promising future. To get involved visit dreams.suffolk.gov.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you will have noticed that Henley Primary has been declared “Outstanding” in all categories by Ofsted. The report is very complementary and shows what good leadership and dedicated staff, pupils, parents, and governors can achieve.
That makes all schools in Gipping Valley at least “good” and bodes well for our children’s futures. If only the administration can achieve the same across the County.