On 14 February, Suffolk County Council concluded its budget setting process for this coming financial year (2019/2020).
From 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, Suffolk County Council will spend almost £10 million a week across all its services following approval of this budget of £519.3 million.
Over the period 2011-12 to 2018-19 the Council has made over £260 million of savings in response to reductions in funding from Central Government and increasing demand for services. For 2019/20 the Council has proposed a range of savings totalling around £13 million. These savings are required to help balance the budget - something that the Council must do by law.
Recognising the unrelenting rise in demand and the complexity of support required by vulnerable children and adults in Suffolk, the Council are significantly increasing spending in these two top priority areas.
The net budget for Adult and Community Services (ACS) will rise to £243m and the net budget for Health, Wellbeing and Children’s Services (HWCS) will rise to £147m. This is an increase of just over £14 million for ACS and HWCS. ACS and HWCS will account for 75% of the total spend in 2019/2020 – three in every four pounds the Council spends.
General council tax will rise by 2.99% this year. The Council are also applying the final 1% of the six per cent Social Care precept allowed over the years 2017/18 to 2019/20. The overall increase in council tax is one per cent less than for 2018/19.
The four-year investment in surface-dressing our roads continues into its third year and the Council will treat 1,000 miles of Suffolk’s roads by the end of 2020 as promised. The Council has also maintained Suffolk Fire and Rescue’s budget and protected Suffolk’s Library services.
The Council is looking to maximise the financial contribution from its medium-term programmes, which focus on transforming how the Council delivers its services and works with other authorities and public sector partners. The Council’s transformation programmes have saved over £12 million in 2018/19 and £12-£13 million of savings are planned for 2019/20.
Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets, Cllr Richard Smith, said:
“There are no easy choices at this point. Every call we have to make on where to find savings is tough at this point, but we must balance the budget by law and it is right to focus our efforts on our highest priority areas to protect and support our most vulnerable residents.
“I accept that in order to protect these services that represent such a large part of our overall spend each year, we must find savings across the remaining service areas. This does mean that we are proposing a number of savings from the Council’s highways budget and further staff reductions. This is the stark reality as we continue to experience significant financial challenges in the public sector.”
Cllr Smith added:
“We are doing our best to set a fair budget for everybody in Suffolk. I think we have done that, and I am proud of what we have achieved.
“We will work hard over the next 12 months to bring that budget into reality and we will work hard with our many partners across Suffolk to deliver our pledges.”