REPORT TO GIPPING VALLEY: DECEMBER 2018

Happy New Year to you all.  I hope that you and the Suffolk economy prosper in 2019 despite the challenge of whatever occurs on 29th March.

Locality Funds

Just a reminder: your district councillors, John Whitehead, James Caston, Kevin Welsby and me all get a “Locality Budget” of around £6k to help community groups to deliver projects.  I get a further similar sum from the County.   If there are further things you want to do could you let us know before the end of January.

Increase in insurance pay-outs

Between 1 January and 16 October this year, Suffolk Highways have already paid out £67,819.07 for vehicle damage including costs and legal fees. This is a dramatic increase from the £26,004.63 for the whole of 2017.

The number of claims has also more than doubled, from 598 in 2017 to 1,265 so far in 2018.  This shows the cost of not getting potholes fixed quickly and the problems that Suffolk residents suffer. The County must do better.

Pension Fund

The local government pension fund has performed well and is now worth almost £3,000 million.  It covers county and district staff, many academies and town and parish council staff and is now 92% to 97% funded.  The level changes day to day as Brexit and other economic news drives the £ and share values up and down.

It does have some funds in companies that produce fossil fuels and supply tobacco.  It will look again at this around March to decide if it is proper.  Is it reasonable to consider just the financial duty to the pensioners and their employers, or should the damage to the environment and people’s health count as well?

The Incinerator

As I type this Suffolk County Council is considering a further re-financing of the incinerator.  Currently the money is borrowed by Suez as part of the contract that saw them finance, build and run the plant.

The county can borrow through the Public Works Loan Board at a fixed rate lower that Suez can.  So, there is a significant cost saving if County take on a bit more of the risk of plant ownership.  The SCC investment will increase by another £10.2m, and the council will own 28.4% of the plant value in total.  The net present value of the saving will be £5.1m.

Scrutiny

The top level view of the budget proposals for next year were scrutinised on 22nd November.

The basic assumptions on income are:

  • Council tax will be increased by 2.99% and the Social Care Precept by 1%. The council tax base will increase by 1%.
  • No estimates have been made for the value of the chancellors’ recent announcements of extra funding
 18/19   budget InflationCost   pressure Transfor-mationTactical   savings 19/20   budget
Adult & Community Services234.56.911.2-11.0-2.1239.5
Health, Wellbeing & Children’s Services138.02.014.1-1.8-2.6149.7
Fire & Rescue and Public Safety24.40.50.1 -0.724.3
Growth, Highways & Infrastructure49.61.20.4-0.2-4.246.8
Corporate Services26.60.80.5 -1.526.4
Central Resources27.40.10.7 -0.128.1
TOTAL500.511.527.0-13.0-11.2514.8

The inflation assumptions are 2% on wages or 3% on purchased materials and services

The cost pressures in ACS include the ageing population and the increasing complexity of need. In CYP we are seeing increasing numbers of children with learning or behavioural difficulties.

The “Transformation Programmes” are targeting considerable savings at £13m and, in addition there will be a need for “tactical savings”. Tactical savings will total £11.2m, and proposals include:

  • Phased removal of Citizens Advice Grant.
  • Staffing reduction (totalling £3m) across all directorates
  • Reduce Housing Related Support and hostel beds
  • Negotiate care pricing
  • Stop displaying bus timetables at the roadside
  • Reduce spend on sponsored bus services
  • Reduce Suffolk Highways out-of-hours stand-by service and winter support fleet for
  • Stop road sign cleaning and only maintain mandatory road markings
  • Turn more streetlights off overnight
  • Cease accreditation of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme (the scheme will continue, however organisations will license themselves directly with the charity rather than through SCC)

The “saving” on the CAB grant is particularly difficult to understand.  This is a charity that delivers high value at low cost as much advice is given by volunteers.

Gipping Valley News from John Field