Tag Archives: budget

Woodbridge: the county news. My October report


County Council Boundary changes consultation This affects us all. The Boundary Commission have now announced that they will be looking to reduce the number of Suffolk County Councillors  from 75 to 70. This means that boundaries will change. The next stage of the process is to determine where new division boundaries should be.
This is the chance for everyone – to have their say – both as councils and as individuals. Whilst I have personal reservations about the efficacy of reducing the number of county councillors when our workload is so heavy (at least, mine is) I suggest that this is an excellent time to look at the borders of the Woodbridge division, to ensure they work best for Woodbridge. For example, it has never been at all appropriate that the road-markings up the middle of Pyches Road separate the Woodbridge and Wickham divisions, particularly when Suffolk County Council is the Highways authority.
The public consultation will run until 2 December 2019. I urge you to take part: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/18495

Local bus cut developments The petition for the 800 and 64 services has now surpassed 1500 signatures on and offline. (We had a stall in the Thoroughfare during the Carfree Day and gained another 400).
I have met with the Transport Manager and Business and Information Manager for Suffolk’s Growth, Highways and Infrastructure directorate to discuss how to go forward with this. They emphasise they have limited capacity to sway First decisions, although I point out that they are paying a significant sum of public money to First for bus-passes.
In parallel, as you know, we are arranging a meeting for many of the parishes along the route, and then with First.

Sizewell C – response to Stage 4 Consultation On 24 September, the Cabinet agreed a response to EDF’s Stage 4 consultation for Sizewell C. The Cabinet maintains that they support the principle of nuclear technology, but do not currently have sufficient information to support the proposals for Sizewell C.
You will have been copied in to my response as Woodbridge County Councillor.
My county group (of Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent councillors) has called on the Suffolk Cabinet to reject EDF’s proposals for Sizewell C . It responded to the consultation with concerns including:
• Expense: EDF will be overcharging UK consumers for electricity from Sizewell for the next 35 years. Latest prices of offshore wind generated power, per KWhr, without any subsidy, are less than half what EDF is being guaranteed;
• Impact on the surrounding natural environment, including the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB;
• Impact on the tourism industry;
• Additional carbon emissions and congestion from a road-led strategy;
• Lack of planning for nuclear waste disposal;
• Unsympathetic design to the surrounding natural area;
• Additional pylons in an already crowded landscape;
• Not convinced by EDF’s economic development argument.

County Budget monitoring – first quarter At the end of Q1, the council is forecasting a net overspend by the end of the year of £1.2m on the Base Budget and £6.7m on the Dedicated Schools Grant Budget.
The base budget overspend is largely due to rising costs for adult care, an overspend on the Home-to-School transport budget, and an increase in the number of children in care with complex needs who require specialist placements. Most other departments at the council are forecasting to spend on budget.
The £6.7m overspend on the schools budget is largely due to an increase in children with complex Special Educational Needs, and the increased costs for support and transport to schools outside of Suffolk that go alongside this. Although the council has agreed to spend on building new special education placements within Suffolk, which ought to address some of this expenditure in the future, it is too late for this financial year.

Continuing delay to children’s centre consultation Suffolk County Council has confirmed that there is “no firm start date” for the consultation regarding potential closures of children’s centres. Originally, the Council had stated that this consultation would start in September and run for 6 weeks.
The Council is proposing to close 2 children’s centres completely – including the Caterpillar Centre in Woodbridge – convert a further 11 to SEND facilities or nurseries, reduce 9 to part-time hours and convert the remaining 16 into family hubs providing services for families with children aged 0-19.

County Councillor’s Surgery: My surgery this month is on the 19th October. It will be a little  shorter than usual, as I will be going on to attend the Peoples Vote March in London.

What’s been happening 2018-19 Woodbridge & Suffolk

2019-20 Budget and Cuts Suffolk County Council’s 2019-20 budget was agreed on Thursday 14 February. This will see an increase in council tax of 3.99%, and savings across the council’s directorates totalling £10.1m.

A particularly concerning cut was the decision to remove all grant funding from Citizens Advice. This will be phased over two years, with a 50% reduction in the 2019-20 budget (£0.184m). Fortunately, the CCGs stepped in and agreed to provide Citizens Advice with £184,000 in funding this year, to make up for the 50% funding cut from Suffolk County Council. Although this means Citizens Advice will not lose funding in 2019-20, it does not address the longer-term problem of funding in the future. The CCGs have been clear that this funding is only available for the 2019-20 financial year.

The budget also proposes staffing reductions across all directorates, totalling almost £3m. We do not currently have details of how these cuts will be distributed and which staff will be affected, but I am very concerned that this will result in less efficient services and an increase in stress amongst the remaining staff.

In terms of rural public transport, a triple whammy has occurred: the budget is saving £100,000 by not replacing any roadside timetables (catastrophic in a rural county with poor phone signal and a large elderly population); £30,000 by cutting subsidised scheduled services and providing Community Link services, while simultaneously and meretriciously “ensuring consistency of pricing through Suffolk” for Community Link provision by disallowing bus passes in all districts to save  £340,000 ( a seemingly large sum till you remember the £8million they wasted on the Orwell Crossing). Previously these passes were valid on Community Link transport everywhere but MidSuffolk.

These small savings will impact on the elderly, the disabled and the transport poor, as well as more generally on tourism. I suspect they will create considerably greater costs than they save. Continue reading What’s been happening 2018-19 Woodbridge & Suffolk

SUFFOLK: What’s been going ON, Feb-March 2019

Suffolk CC 2019/20 budget. Suffolk County Council’s 2019/20 budget was agreed on Thursday 14 February, voted in by the Conservative majority despite significant opposition concerns. This will see an increase in council tax of 3.99%, and savings (cuts) across the council’s directorates totalling £10.1m.

I am concerned by a number of these cuts, in particular:

  • The decision to remove all grant funding from Citizens Advice. This will be phased over two years, with a 50% reduction in the 2019/20 budget (£0.184m);
  • Reducing the amount spent on Housing Related Support, which supports those at risk of homelessness (£0.45m);
  • Reduced funding for sponsored bus services (£0.34m) and cessation of the provision of roadside bus timetables (£0.1m);
  • Reduction in highways maintenance, including no road sign cleaning (£0.1m), only maintaining mandatory road markings (£0.075m) and less frequent weed treatments in rural areas (£0.055m);
  • Staffing reductions across all directorates, which may result in less efficient services (£2.968m).

Suffolk CCGs to pick up Citizens Advice funding for 2019/20 As mentioned above, the budget includes a cut to the grant funding provided by Suffolk County Council to Citizens Advice. This grant will be cut by 50% in 2019/20 (£184,000) and removed entirely in the 2020/21 budget.

Thankfully, the CCGs have stepped in and agreed to provide Citizens Advice with £184,000 in funding this year, to make up for the 50% funding cut from Suffolk County Council. Although this means Citizens Advice will not lose funding this year, it does not address the longer-term problem of funding in the future. The CCGs have been clear that this funding is only available for 2019/20.

Reduction in Suffolk’s 2018/19 predicted overspend Suffolk County Council’s latest budget monitoring report suggests the 2018/19 budget will be overspent by £5.9m – an improvement on the overspend of £7.5m predicted after quarter 2.

The £5.9m overspend is 1.2% of the net budget and is made up of £3.8m on base budget and £2.1m on Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) spend.

Although it is positive to hear the overspend is reducing, I am concerned by where these savings are being achieved. The majority are due to ongoing staff vacancies at the council, particularly in social work teams. This is clearly not a long-term solution and is a dangerous false economy. Without adequate staff, the county council will struggle to properly and efficiently provide services in Suffolk.

Respublica report into housing costs Suffolk County Council £66,000. Last year Suffolk County Council commissioned the thinktank Respublica to undertake a study into housing growth in Suffolk at a cost of £66,000. The final report was published on 21 February. At just 14 pages long, it cost the authority almost £5000 per page and failed to discuss the issues in any great depth.

Ofsted inspectors conclude Suffolk’s SEND service is inadequate Inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) returned to Suffolk in January to see how SEND services had progressed since their inspection in December 2016.

Following that visit, inspectors ruled Suffolk was not effectively meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND.

In their report last week, the inspectors acknowledged that some improvements have been made, but say children and young people relying on SEND services have not yet felt the benefit.

The inspectors concluded that while sufficient progress had been made regarding governance and leadership of the strategic planning and delivery of the 2014 national SEND reforms, they ruled that insufficient progress had been made in the three other areas requiring improvement.

These were:
• the poor timeliness, integration and quality of SEND statutory assessments and plans and the delivery of subsequent individual packages of support
• the lack of understanding among parents and carers of the support available, and the inadequate quality of the local offer, including access to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), and
• lack of joint working to monitor, quality assure and maximise the effectiveness of work undertaken to improve outcomes for children.

Suffolk Free School Travel – new opt-in for funded transport Following changes to the school travel policy, which will take effect in September 2019, eligible families must now “opt-in” to receive free school transport – pupils will no longer be automatically signed up.

If a child is eligible for free transport, parents will need to apply this year and each subsequent year, even if they have never needed to apply in the past. The application window for this year is 1 March 2019 to 31 May 2019. There is more information available at www.suffolkonboard.com/optin.

I must emphasise that pupils’ eligibility for free travel is statutory, and restricted to under 8s living more than 2 miles and over 8s living more than 3 miles from their nearest school, together with some pupils eligible on grounds of disability, safety and special circumstances.

Jetty Lane Community Youth and Arts Centre gains planning permission At the end of February Suffolk Coastal District Council planning committee unanimously granted planning permission for the proposed Woodbridge Jetty Lane Community Youth and Arts Centre on 21 February. They have already awarded it £188,000 CIL funding.

When the previous Community Youth Centre was pulled down in 2017, many local groups were forced to move out of Woodbridge simply because there was nowhere to house them. The Jetty Lane site (Jetty Lane being the original name of The Avenue) – has been used uninterruptedly for Youth and Community clubs and meetings since 1949: that’s SEVENTY years! It is now the last site suitable for such a centre in Woodbridge, designed to serve the needs of the community in and around Woodbridge, designed to be sustainable, selfsupporting and affordable for community groups – and funded hopefully by charity bids.

The County Council have had such faith in the need for this project to have offered a 125y lease on the land at peppercorn rent. As Chair of Jetty Lane we are thrilled that the district council has demonstrated similar faith!