Libraries, crossing patrols, eXplore cards – many of Suffolk’s vital frontline services could be saved, if you just look at the budget figures with the right mindset. Not that the Conservative administration admit this – they have told the people of Suffolk that there is ‘no alternative’ to cutting or divesting these – and many other – valued services. We Lib Dems say they are wrong!
Indeed, we have laid out in detail how the council’s upcoming budget could be reorganised to save these services at no extra cost, despite the cuts to central government grants! Coverage in local news was incomplete so the full list is below. We propose to:
- Keep all libraries open
- Retain school crossing patrols
- Retain funding for youth clubs
- Maintain subsidised bus services to rural communities
- Keep the eXplore student discount travel card
- Reopen Ipswich Bury Road Park and Ride service
- Keep open all Suffolk Household Waste Recycling Centres by reducing hours (on Mondays and Tuesdays)
- Retain Fire Control within Suffolk
- Keep Felixstowe Fire Station as full-time on weekdays and retained at weekends
- Retain the Fire Service’s Ipswich Aerial Appliance
- Retain checking overloaded lorries to protect roads and people
As my group leader Kathy Pollard puts it
“Unlike the Conservatives, we have been listening to Suffolk people. It has not been difficult to identify the savings we needed to retain these services. It is a question of priorities. Clearly the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council are determined to close and privatise as many services as possible. This is ideologically driven and is not being imposed on them by central Government.
It is also very unfair to expect parish and town councils to pick up the extra cost (for example) of running libraries. They would have to increase their parish rate considerably and people would effectively be paying twice for a service which under statute should be provided by the County Council.”
Lib Dems are suggesting savings can be made by: Removing one Director and two Assistant Director posts; and reducing business mileage by 10% (which would save more than £900,000 per year ); external room hire; the “Management of Change” budget; reserves; the Cabinet to 8 from its current 10 members; the road maintenance budget (this will not affect emergency repairs); and variousmanagement and other costs in the Fire Service
Although we have confirmed these figures with council officers, Jane Storey, deputy leader disagrees with us.
Of course she rather HAS to disagree. If she doesn’t, she has to address head-on the peculiar priorities in funding that this council proposes at this time of huge fiscal constraints. Why, for example, do the Tories stop at proposing libraries and school traffic patrols be run by volunteers? A school crossing patrol person gets paid £35 a week. Our Chief Executive ( the UK’s SEVENTH highest paid County/London borough Council CEO) gets £4192 a week – and that’s before the generous pension payments she gets added on top. Indeed, why stop there? the county council has a number of high salaried posts that could be divested with huge ease (I suspect) to volunteers – people whose only interest is the good of the county, rather than their personal enrichment.
We already know there are a lot of highly qualified and public-spirited people in Suffolk who are prepared to volunteer their services, Jane. You’re very prepared to used them for less high-status, more practical, replacements to modestly paid workers. Why not think a bit more divergently and use them to replace senior executives if they have the background! THAT’s where you’d REALLY make the savings!
But sadly, if you suggest this to our Tory administration (and I have) you only get an incredulous laugh. Clearly, in some peoples’ minds, there are some SCC posts which are too highly-salaried to be divested. Yet (I fain would ask) WHAT does a County Council Chief Executive actually DO? I can tell you pretty simply what a lollipop person does, or a librarian or a bus driver. But a Chief Executive?
Cynically I suspect that only administrators truly value administration. People like me, long-time housewives and carers, balancing a budget with too many mouths and not enough cash, feel that any sensible housekeeper can learn to cut their coat to the cloth available, without losing the services they need for those they care for!
Maybe the difference is in the words ‘care for’?