Proposals to balance Suffolk County Council's budget in 2018/19 have been published, including an option to increase the basic rate of council tax for the first time in seven years and a range of savings plans.
The proposals will be discussed at the forthcoming Scrutiny Committee meeting on Thursday 23 November as part of its annual budget setting process.
The proposed budget changes include the following savings from each service:
Adult and Community Services - £12m
Working with care providers to look at how best to manage future pricing structures and working with partners including health to reduce demand.
Moving towards using digital technology, maximising income and working with Suffolk Libraries to agree a fixed price contract for next four years.
Savings from 'blue-light' collaboration including sharing facilities with the police and ambulance services. Further efficiencies within Trading Standards and Health & Safety. Reduction in Citizens Advice grants.
Use evidence-based approach to reduce highways maintenance requirements where possible. Continue to make best use of property, saving money by sharing buildings with public sector partners. Review contracts for IT services.
Reprofiling debt repayment in line with recent guidance, maximising efficiencies in contract management and increasing the returns from Wholly Owned Companies.
Health, Wellbeing and Children's Services - £0.25m
Fire and Public Safety - £0.24m
Resource Management – £1.71m
Corporate Services – £9.7m
At this point the council is proposing to take the option to continue into a second year, as permitted by government, the Adult Social Care Precept at three per cent of Council Tax during 2018/19. This money is ringfenced to support adult care – an area of the council's services where demand continues to grow.
Suffolk County Council's Cabinet Member for Finance and Transformation, Cllr Richard Smith, said: "This is the first step of our budget setting process and I believe we are putting forward proposals that offer the best approach possible, given the clear and present challenges we face. Over the last seven years we have fully honoured the council tax freeze but as we continue to face significant financial pressures, we have taken the prudent decision to propose a rise in basic council tax as we seek to address the expected budget gap in the next financial year. This is the first rise in basic council tax from Suffolk County Council since 2011.
"As part of our budget plans, it is expected that we will use around £3 million from our reserves. We are also making use of the Government's Adult Social Care Precept to support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities as Suffolk's population continues grow older. We will continue to look for new ways to make even better use of the resources we have available to ensure we continue delivering frontline services. There are still tough challenges ahead, but I believe we have the focus and capability to deliver services successfully across Suffolk."
All local authorities across the country continue to face significant challenges to meet frontline service requirements in a climate where there is less money and resources available. Since 2011, Suffolk County Council has saved in excess of £236 million. Once again, the council has carefully considered financial forecasts and projected demand to ensure the most vulnerable people in society continue to receive the highest level of support possible in the future.
The council also continues to develop new and innovative ways to deliver services and make further savings. This includes using digital technology to improve efficiency and ensuring health and social care services working better together to improve access for the people that need help. These programmes will support the authority as it seeks to make savings of £56 million by 2021.
These budget proposals have been produced based on figures from the council's current grant from the Government. It is important to note however that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will present his Autumn budget on 22 November which may have a bearing on the county council's budget discussions at the Scrutiny meeting, the following day.
The paper can be seen here: https://committeeminutes.suffolk.gov.uk/HomePage.aspx