Budget saving proposal amended following council’s scrutiny process

Published

Suffolk County Council has revised one of its initial budget proposals for 2019/2020.

This is to help alleviate potential financial pressure on local services used by residents in parts of the county.

After careful consideration, the revised proposal is that Suffolk’s Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) will not face a complete withdrawal of their funding from council in 2019/20. Instead, the proposal sees a phased reduction in funding over a longer period of time.

The proposed adjustment gives Suffolk CAB an additional 12 months to plan ahead and develop ideas for alternative funding sources, instead of the previously proposed four months.

This follows constructive discussions and a period of review after a public meeting held last week. Proposals to save £368,000 next year by removing grants to Suffolk’s CAB were discussed by councillors from all parties, as Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection, Councillor Richard Rout listened to views and answered related questions from the committee.

Councillor Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection, said:

“The meeting was very productive. It was important to capture the views of elected members and also hear directly from members of the public who attended the meeting. I particularly welcomed the views of Janet John from North East Suffolk CAB and Mel Jones from Diss & Thetford CAB, who I had both previously met when I spoke to representatives from all Suffolk CABs ahead of the committee. Janet spoke passionately about the role of the CAB in Suffolk and the potential impact of this saving proposal and we have fully taken these views into account.

“I can confirm that we are now proposing a period of phased grant reduction to alleviate concerns and to help Suffolk’s CAB to plan ahead and establish new revenue options to ensure they find suitable funding for years to come. This means they will get a grant of £184,000 in 2019/2020. The grant will then end in 2020/2021.

“We are proposing this approach as we recognise the financial impact that a full reduction in grants would have next year.”

The scrutiny meeting on Thursday 22 November marked the beginning of the council’s three month process to develop its budget proposals which will eventually be agreed by full council in February 2019.

As well as viewing and discussing initial savings proposals for 2019/2020, the committee learned more about the council’s plans to increase its overall budget by nearly £15 million (3%) to £514.8 million in 2019/20, with specific increases in the council’s children and young people and adult care budgets to support the most vulnerable residents in the county.

Councillor Rout added:

“The council recognises the great work done by CABs, and I’m very grateful to the managers of all Suffolk’s CABs for engaging so positively with us during this very tough process. We will offer continuing support, including a training session with our external funding team to explore new funding opportunities. I am also visiting all nine CABs to better understand the differences between areas of the county in relation to funding streams and how we can offer advice and support.

“We now need to look again at our saving proposals and identify where we may be able to meet the shortfall that this year’s grant reduction would have saved. We still need to make savings of £22m in 2019/2020 to balance the budget and there are no easy options left.”