Suffolk County Council freezes share of council tax, again

SUFFOLK county councillors have voted to freeze the authority’s share of next year’s council tax bills for a second consecutive year.

They also voted through an amendment, proposed by the administration, not to increase councillors’ allowances, saving £56,000. The move will see no increase in councillor pay, in line with the two year staff pay freeze currently in place.

The vote means £26m will be saved from the county council’s 2012/13 budget.

It follows four months of consultation with partners, councillors, staff and members of the public.

The savings are focused on reducing management costs, cutting bureaucracy and protecting frontline services – all priorities set by the county council’s leader Mark Bee. In November, he also called for a freeze on council tax.

The budget demonstrates how the council plans to invest more of its limited financial resources in services that help vulnerable people earlier – so that they remain independent for longer and do not become dependent on more costly support in later life.

The agreed budget savings include:

·        Improving efficiency and removing processes (including a 1.5% efficiency saving across all departments) - £12m

·        Savings in adult care from more investment in prevention - £8m

·        Delivering savings agreed in previous years - £1.8m

·        Reducing management costs across the organisation - £1.5m

·        Reducing office space used - £0.7m.

The 2012/13 budget includes capital investment of £115m in major projects to benefit Suffolk including reorganising schools to improve attainment, delivering better broadband for Suffolk and continued investment in the county’s road network.

Councillor Mark Bee said:

“Today’s budget comes at the end of months of working with our partners, councillors, staff and, most importantly, the people of Suffolk with whom we all share an interest making the best use of public money. I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to be part of this democratic process.

“I’ve made it very clear that what I want to see is the creation of a budget that saves money on back office and bureaucracy, protects, as much as possible, frontline services and keeps council tax down.

“I’m pleased that despite the financial circumstances we are facing, the budget we’ve agreed meets these expectations whilst at the same time makes it possible to invest some of our capital budget in major projects.

“What’s important now is for the council to continue working in partnership and finding workable solutions to the financial challenges we face. I will continue to challenge the council to do everything it can to deliver the best for people in Suffolk.”

The 2012/13 budget is the first stage of a two year plan to save £50m from £1 billion annual budget the county council is responsible for.

In September last year, the county council began a public consultation to get a better idea of the priorities of Suffolk residents. The information received from almost 2,500 people helped to shape the proposals. A series of public events and meetings, designed to give people an opportunity to comment further, were held across the county.

Councillor Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for resource management and transformation, said:

“How we spend public money is one of the biggest and most important decisions we have to make in local government. The feedback we’ve had from Suffolk people this year has been hugely influential in shaping our approach to tackling the financial challenges we’re facing.

“Strong financial management has always been a political priority for this administration and I believe we’re in a position to move forward and make the most of the resources we have available to us.”

By Andrew St Ledger on February 10th, 2012