Suffolk County Council increases budget to support most vulnerable residents and county’s recovery from Covid-19

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Suffolk County Council has agreed its budget for 2021/22.

Following approval of its annual budget today, Suffolk County Council is increasing its planned spending once again in 2021/22 to £597.9million, some £41million (7.4%) more than 2020/21. As part of this, the council will be spending £15.3million to address its ongoing Covid-19 costs, arising from the continuing local response to the pandemic. There are no proposed reductions in council services or personnel in 2021/22.

This year’s budget is based on a 12-month financial settlement from government, rather than the 3 or 4 year agreement which is usually offered.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic over the last 11 months or so, the Government has continued to support local authorities as they adapt to serve communities, redeploy staff into alternative specialist roles and see income streams such as business rates and council tax reduce significantly. Suffolk County Council has received around £82.2 million in financial support during 2020 to meet Covid-19 related costs and whilst the challenges of continuing to respond, and in time recover, from Covid-19 remain, significant financial pressures will continue.

The council’s income from council tax is going to be £7.9 million less than expected in 2021/22 and this shortfall will be met by using council reserves. Reserves can only be spent once and do not represent a viable long term financial solution. This effective use of reserves is made possible because Suffolk County Council has maintained a consistent approach to managing its finances effectively for a number of years, holding a proportionate level of reserves for this exact situation.

In 2021/22, general Council Tax will rise by 1.99 per cent, which represents an increase of £26.68 for a Band D property, from £1,224.70 in 2020, to £1,251.38. There is also a two per cent rise in the Social Care Precept for the forthcoming year as the council recognises the ongoing challenges with meeting the rising costs and rising demand for adult care services. This means a Band D property will see an overall rise of £53.55 this year for Suffolk County Council’s element of their Council Tax bill, from £1,343.61 in 2020-21 to £1,397.16 in 2021-22.

It is fair to say that the pandemic this year has also significantly impacted the expected progress of the council’s recognised transformation programmes, as it has been absolutely necessary to focus on community resilience. This has included redeploying staff into bespoke roles such as procuring personal protective equipment (PPE) to support Suffolk’s care sector and adapting working practices for frontline staff to maintain effective social distancing measures. As a result, the council is expecting a shortfall of around £7.8 million in projected savings for 2021. Whilst this means that further work is needed to identify potential future programmes of work, many of the new ways of working adopted by the council during 2020 because of the pandemic may actually offer potential alternative transformation savings as the organisation continues to adapt and tailor the way it works to deliver services for Suffolk’s communities.

As part of the meeting, the council’s Business Plan for 2021/22 was approved which draws attention to the ambitions for the authority over the next 12 months and its commitment to four key priorities: 

  • Living with Covid-19 and Suffolk’s recovery
  • Inclusive Growth
  • Health, Care and Wellbeing
  • Efficient and Effective Public Services

Throughout the business plan the Council presents its environmental thread demonstrating the range of projects and commitments in place as part of addressing the climate emergency that was declared in 2019. This includes details of the Council setting its Carbon Budget and the related work involved in achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Download Suffolk County Council business plan 2021 to 2022 (PDF, 7.5MB).

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, Councillor Gordon Jones, said:

“Due to the impact of Covid-19 on the local economy, there will be a significant reduction in the funding generated from council tax in 2021. This will result in a drop of £7.9 million income for the council and to ensure we balance the budget, we are using money from our risk reserves.

“We feel this is an appropriate action to take in 2021 as we continue to try and reduce the financial burden on residents at this difficult time and maintain services at current levels. Pressures on our services continue to increase at a pace that is far greater than any increase in our funding. During 2021 and beyond, we need to continue to focus on transforming services to ensure there is a sustainable footing in years to come, working alongside government to ensure they are fully aware of the pressures affecting Suffolk County Council and other local authorities.

“Suffolk County Council is an incredibly efficient organisation with committed, specialist officers who continue to innovate and find ways to transform the services we provide to communities across Suffolk.”