Suffolk County Council set to freeze council tax amid £24.9m of savings
Leading councillors look set to push for Suffolk County Council to freeze its share of council tax for a third consecutive year.
The council’s cabinet will next week confirm details of the 2013/14 budget it will recommend to all 75 of Suffolk’s county councillors - who will make the final decision on 14 February.
While delivering a third council tax freeze in as many years, the council says the proposed budget sees frontline services protected while savings of £24.9m are made, including
Council-wide efficiency savings and cutting bureaucracy - £9.7m.
Intervening earlier in adult care to save on care at a later stage (which is more expensive) - £7 m.
Targeting resources in children’s services to reduce demand - £2.5 million.
Re-letting the county’s highways maintenance contract - £2 million.
Reducing office accommodation by co-locating staff - £1.3 million.
Working with district and borough councils to reduce the cost of waste services - £0.8m.
Cutting management costs - £0.5m.
Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “The savings that are being proposed are significant and will require continued firm management in 2013/14 and future years.
“Last year we made a commitment to focus savings on the back office to protect, as far as possible, the frontline. This budget delivers on that commitment.
“Tough decisions have had to be made to address the speed at which funding has been withdrawn from the county council. Looking forward, it seems that further reductions will be coming our way.
“But as long as the county council is open with the public about the challenges and works with its partners and staff to find ways of overcoming them, we will be able to manage these changes.”
In February 2012, Suffolk County Council agreed a two year budget strategy which focused on meeting the budget gap in 2012/13 and 2013/14.
The 2013/14 budget is the second year of that two year plan which focuses on delivering savings which should limit the need for service reductions.
To draw up its proposed budget, the county council conducted a series of reviews in 2012. The council’s Scrutiny Committee examined the proposed savings on 26 November 2012 and details of the savings were shared with stakeholders.
By cutting the number of senior managers, strictly managing vacancies and transferring services and staff to new or existing organisations, the council’s workforce headcount (excluding schools) is expected to halve from 10,456 in April 2010 to 5,365 by March 2013.
The council says its 2013/14 budget has been designed to enable the council to continue to manage the unprecedented financial challenges that face the whole public sector.
Suffolk County Council has experienced significant grant reductions as a result of the Coalition Government’s deficit reduction programme.
To date the council has delivered £42.5m of savings in 2011/12 and is on track to deliver £26.2 m in 2012/13.
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement delivered in December 2012 indicated that the government’s deficit reduction programme will be extended a further year to include 2017/18.
Further significant reductions in public spending are expected and these are likely to be as severe for local government as experienced already though it is unclear as yet, how much of this will fall on local government.