County Council approves budget to spend more on services for vulnerable residents

On 13 February 2020, Suffolk County Council approved its annual budget. The Council will increase its spending power again this coming financial year, particularly in Children’s and Adults services, where demand continues to rise year on year.

In 2020/2021, the Council’s budget will rise to £556million which represents an increase of £37m (7.1%) from 2019/20. Children’s and Adults Services represent around 70% of the Council’s overall spend.

This year’s budget is based on a 12-month financial settlement from government, rather than the three or four-year agreement which is usually offered.

As well as addressing the need to maintain funding for key services, the Council will invest an additional £3.5m into two one-year programmes, the Suffolk 2020 fund (£3m) and a highways investment fund (£500k).

The Suffolk 2020 fund will be used for projects that can deliver a real difference for local communities. The intention is to adopt good ideas covering more than one area of Suffolk, rather than having a number of small-scale projects. To qualify for the fund, projects must link to one of the following themes: carbon reduction; carbon offset, road safety, natural environment; built environment; innovation; and use of technology.

Each project must offer a clear return on investment through positive economic, social, or environmental impact. County Councillors can put ideas forward on behalf of their community and must seek the sponsorship of a Cabinet Member for consideration. Further details of the fund will be made available in due course.

The £500k highways investment fund will focus on improving the safety of pupils and parents travelling to and from school, by refreshing lines and cleaning and repairing signs in and around school zones.

The funding is allocated for use within the 2020/21 financial year and looks set to benefit areas around many Suffolk schools, complementing the road marking renewal programme, which is taking place as part of the move of civil parking powers. Suffolk Highways officers are developing a plan of how these extra works will be identified and delivered. Further information will be announced in due course.

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, Councillor Gordon Jones said:

“The setting of a balanced budget is never easy. Especially given the continuing financial challenges we have seen during the last few years in a number of our services.

“It is right that we continue to focus our budget and resources where they will have the biggest impact. I am pleased to say this year our calls have been answered, at least in part. The provisional local government settlement for this year enables the Council to set a budget for 2020/2021 that will see no change to current service levels over and above those planned through our ongoing transformation programmes.

“Unfortunately, however, as we are only getting a 12-month settlement, we lack the longer-term certainty needed to deal with the large departmental budgets that we manage including Children’s and Adults Services. We are therefore taking the measured decision to raise council tax by 1.98 per cent and implement a 2 per cent rise in the Adult Social Care Precept, which is ring-fenced for use within our highest demand service.”