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More public money for adult and children’s care, but difficult decisions are needed to balance the books

In the next two years, Suffolk County Council needs to pump almost £74 million extra into protecting the county’s most vulnerable residents
Published: 03 Jan 2024
  • £74 million extra needed to protect most vulnerable over two years
  • £64.7 million savings to be made over two years
  • Council set to reduce workforce, services and use savings

As part of financial plans to prioritise those in greatest need, an additional £42.7 million for children’s services and £29.9 million for adult care are being proposed.

Along with local authorities up and down the country, the council has been hit hard by inflation and rising demand for services such as children’s care, special educational needs and disabilities and home to school transport. It means having to make difficult decisions about the services it provides, including £64.7 million of savings in 2024/25 and 2025/26.

This is the most challenging budget-setting process the council has faced for many years. But once again, we are putting adult and children’s care at the heart of our plans.
Councillor Richard Rout
Councillor Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and environment

The two-year savings proposals, which have been published on the council’s website today, include:

  • £11 million of staffing costs through changing the way services are delivered and restructuring across the council.
  • £30.6 million of additional savings from an extension of the council’s hugely successful Adult Social Care Transformation programme, which has focused on reducing demand for more expensive social care options by boosting people’s independence and ability to stay well for longer through innovative methods including cutting edge care technology. This transformation programme has already saved £30.7 million over the last six years
  • £0.5 million of savings by stopping core funding to Art and Museum sector organisations. To assist with the transition, £528,000 of COVID recovery money will be made available to Arts and Museum sector organisations for 2024/25 which will fully cover the funding reduction for one year.
  • £140,000 of savings by centralising Suffolk Archives to The Hold and closing the branches in West and East Suffolk. In February 2023, the council committed £3.4m to relocate the West Suffolk Archives branch to the proposed Western Way development. Remaining at its current location would have required over £5 million to protect the historic records and meet modern archive standards. West Suffolk Council has since decided not to progress with the Western Way development, ending that opportunity. Centralising the three branches into one brings Suffolk in line with the majority of archive services across the country and is better value for taxpayers' money.
  • £15.9 million of reserves will be used to balance the 2024/25 budget.

Councillor Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and environment, said:

“This is the most challenging budget-setting process the council has faced for many years. But once again, we are putting adult and children’s care at the heart of our plans.

“However, in order to ensure appropriate levels of funding for these key services, and those most in need in Suffolk, we must make difficult decisions about all the other services we deliver, and how we deliver them.

“This is necessary because the demand on council services for those most in need in Suffolk is at an all-time high. The cost of providing many of those services is significant, but the funding that we need is not keeping up. Across the country, councils are having to make similar tough choices.

“Our proposed budget next year will be around £752 million, of which £105m alone is down to these cost pressures from inflation and increased demand.

“We are a well-run council and over the last five years, we have saved £66 million by working smarter and leaner. But we now need to go even further.

“We have spent months scrutinising all the council’s spending. There is competition for every pound across all our services, and I understand that each service means something to someone.”

Following the recent funding announcement from the Government, Suffolk County Council will not receive enough funding to keep pace with inflation or the level of demand for services. The council has joined national calls for additional funding, and lobbied the Chancellor of the Exchequer direct.

Full details of Suffolk County Council’s financial plans for 2024/25 will be presented to its Scrutiny Committee meeting on 11 January.

The proposals would give the council a budget of around £752 million for 2024/25, made up of funding coming from Government, business rates, charges for services and council tax. The proposed budget would require a 4.99% increase in council tax in next year. This would be made up of a 2.99% increase in general council tax and a 2% increase dedicated to funding adult care.

This means the costs for a household would be:

  • Band B property: £23.50 per week (£1.12 per week increase from 2023/24)
    (Band B properties are the most common in Suffolk)
  • Band D property: £30.21 per week (£1.43 per week increase from 2023/24)

Cllr Rout continues:

"We understand the financial pressure facing the Government with public services everywhere asking for more money. This is money that simply isn’t available at the moment, especially after the vital financial support made available during and following the pandemic. This means it is up to local authorities like us to find savings to balance the books.

“I would like to thank the record number of people who completed our online budget consultation, and those who took part in our focus groups.

“Although the majority of people said that they would rather not see council tax being increased next year, I hope they can understand why - for the first time in years - we must ask for the maximum amount possible to help support those most in need.

“Our commitment to make the best possible use of every pound of public money made available to us is absolute.”

The budget proposals will be discussed at the council’s Scrutiny Committee and then presented at the Cabinet meeting on 30 January. At the Full Council meeting on 15 February, the proposals will be debated, with a vote taking place on the budget for 2024/25 – the first year of the two-year budget proposals.

The Scrutiny Committee meeting will be available to stream on Suffolk County Council’s YouTube channel, and public questions can be submitted in advance, details available at www.suffolk.gov.uk