New Strategic Direction Update
At the Full Council meeting on the 2nd of December, 2010 Councillors agreed to continue implementing the NSD, and to continue to engage with Suffolk’s communities throughout its development. We continue to question this policy but it does appear to be becoming less dramatic as time marches on..
On the 23rd of November 2010, S.C.C held an Understanding Divestment event, in which 300 members of the Parish Councils, Voluntary and Community sectors were able to listen to the proposals put forward by the administration, and ask questions around the new County structure.
Transforming Suffolk Innovation Fund & the Transforming Suffolk Community Fund
Suffolk County Council has teamed up with the Suffolk Foundation to launch two different grants for voluntary and community projects across the county.
The first is the Transforming Suffolk Community fund, which will aid smaller community groups with a one off grant of between £500 and £5,000. It aims to aid projects which will meet one of these four priorities;
- Creating a stronger and vibrant community
- Green issues including carbon reduction
- Learning and skills
- Health related projects.
The second is the Transforming Suffolk Innovation Fund run by Suffolk County Council, which looks to provide a grant over three years of up to £50,000 to innovative voluntary and community projects. It is particularly interested in projects that;
- Will integrate existing services or develop new ones that are long term sustainable;
- Will support voluntary and community organisations by helping them to help themselves;
- Carry out research into needs and service provision;
- Will develop innovative practices for delivery of new and improved services.
The fund totals £2.5m for the whole county
Fire and Rescue Service Command and Control Function – Interim Arrangements
On 7th December, 2010 the Cabinet decided to transfer the Command and Control function of the Fire and Rescue Service to Cambridge.
The Liberal Democrat group “called this in” to Public Protection scrutiny. We considered that this move, apparently driven by the need to transfer the function from the Colchester Road Fire Station site, which is to be sold between the end of next year and the “go live” date for the regional fire control centres, unnecessary. Our information was that regional fire control was unlikely to proceed, that a government announcement was imminent, and that the company concerned was taking measures that looked designed to limit financial damage. We were unhappy with the principal of transferring a core element of our business outside the county and with details of the analysis of the various options considered. In particular the costs for similar functions when transferred to differing destinations appeared so different that it was difficult to believe they were serious estimates.
The majority group Councillors decided that the decision was sound. However, immediately after the meeting ended, the Government minister announced that regional fire control was cancelled and that they were prepared to help authorities put local solutions in place.
This now looks like a cynical attempt at staff reduction involving 23 people, 16 women and 7 men,. It will not encourage the staff cooperation that the current substantial reductions require.
A large number of proposed cuts to county services have been released and were examined at scrutiny on the 15th December. As I expected all 108 were passed without serious requests for modification although there was a serious debate on the budget process. The calculation of reductions from the “Budget Requirement” below was questioned since that figure is just an estimate agreed by no one.
The budget calculations are:
|Summary of the Budget Gap 2011/12|
2011/12 Demand and Demography
2011/12 Budget Requirement
Draft Cash Limit
Savings as a % of 2010/11 Budget
|ACSBottom of Form||199.1||0.3||3.4||202.8||190.4||-12.4||6.2%|
|Corp & Cap||46.8||0.0||2.0||48.8||48.8||0.0||0.0%|
|ex Inflation & demographic||502.1||474.2||-27.9||5.6%|
And proposed staff reductions are:
Current Headcount (at 30/09/10
% of Reduction
The impact of cuts is not expressed in any realistic way.
A consultation is commencing on the County’s Home to School Transport Policy. There are a number of adjustments but the most significant are removal of provision for Roman Catholic students and an increase in the charge under the discretionary policy from £130 to £150 per term for children of compulsory school age. Changes are also being made to the way transport is provided to children with Special Education Needs and to the Post 16 Transport Policy
Attainment in Suffolk Schools
An extensive report to this week’s Cabinet Meeting shows Suffolk pupils attainment lagging national figures in many areas. At key stage 2, the end of the primary phase, differences vary with subject area from around 3% to 5%. At key stage 4, the County is 1.6% below the national average for pupils obtaining 5 or more GCSE’s including English and Maths.
The administration blame the 3 tier school system for this difficulty but it is interesting to see that the eight secondary schools classified as National Challenge Schools all improved, four by about 5%, two by over 10% and one by as much as 20% with targeted help. The largest change was from 20% to 50% of pupils gaining 5 or more GCSE’s.
I must of course mention that our local Secondary also improved. It is now in the top eight in the county.
You may have heard that the County is withdrawing from the Safety Camera Partnership. At first sight this is a backward step since speeding is an issue that affects us all and the cameras have been proven to reduce accident rates. However the belief is that the police will take on the task using funds raised from education for errant drivers. I hope that will prove to be correct.