On 14 November, Suffolk County Council published key papers which mark the beginning of a three-month process to agree Suffolk County Council’s budget for 2019/20.
The papers detail how Suffolk County Council proposes to increase its overall budget by nearly £15 million (3%) to £514.8 million in 2019/20, with specific increases in the council’s children and young people and adult care budgets which support Suffolk’s most vulnerable people. This includes accounting for an expected significant increase in the cost of providing services and inflation.
The council is also looking to maximise the financial contribution from ten long-term programmes which focus on transforming how the council delivers its services and works with other authorities and public service partners.
The papers also summarise an initial list of potential savings totalling £11.2 million, which are required to help balance the overall budget. These include proposals to maximise income, as well as cost, grant, service and staffing reductions.
To balance its budget for the next financial year, the council needs to save around £25m.
Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets, Councillor Richard Smith, said:
“We have some really tough calls to make if we are to balance the budget in the next financial year and in years beyond. There are no easy options left. What can be in no doubt is that this council remains absolutely committed to supporting the most vulnerable young people and older residents across Suffolk. In fact, we are actually planning to spend more in these crucial services next year as demand for these services increases year-on-year.”
On 22 November, the council’s Scrutiny Committee met to discuss the budget papers. The purpose of the Scrutiny Committee is to review how the budget process is carried out, provide challenge, and monitor the progress being made towards setting a balanced budget for next year. Not all county councils adopt this level of overview.
The views of Scrutiny form part of the considerations given to making the final budget proposal alongside the views of council officers, businesses, public sector partners and the feedback from the annual budget consultation that ended on Friday 16 November. This year nearly 1200 residents gave their views on the service areas that they feel are important to them.
Based on the discussions held at the Scrutiny Committee, Suffolk County Council has revised one of its initial budget proposals for 2019/2020.
On Wednesday 28 November, it was announced that, after careful consideration, the nine Citizens Advice Bureaus in Suffolk will not face a complete withdrawal of their funding from council in 2019/20. Instead, the proposal sees a phased reduction in funding over a longer time period. The proposed adjustment gives them an additional 12 months to plan ahead and develop ideas for alternative funding sources. Suffolk County Council’s external funding team will also conduct a training session for the nine CABs to help them explore new funding opportunities.
Suffolk County Council will not know the full extent of its grant from central government until 6 December at the earliest. After that, the budget proposals will be finalised and then agreed in public at the Cabinet meeting in January 2019 and the Council meeting in February 2019.