A few weeks ago at the SCC annual budget debate, the Labour Group on Suffolk County Council put forward an amendment to the budget proposed by the Conservative administration.
The amendment recognised the damaging cuts to the Rate Support grant from the Conservative Government, which made setting a balanced budget extremely difficult and the need for responsible levels of reserves.
The Labour amendment proposed using £15.5m of the Council’s reserves to try and retain some of the services cut by the Tories who claim the cuts are not effecting front line services.
The Tories proposed to cut the budget for Adult Social Care by £6m, this at the time when nationally it was recognised that the service is in crisis. We feel that £5.5m should be used from reserves to try and help our services cope.
They then proposed in the same document to increase your Council Tax by the 3% allowed by government, while admitting that this increase would not even cover the cost of paying the living wage to care workers.
Labour proposed using £3.38m from the reserves to help the shortfall in Children’s and Young’ Peoples services to try and litigate some of the harmful effects that their cuts are having. We tried to persuade the administration to use £2.05m to pay for cuts to the Fire Service and to protect the Citizens Advice Bureau, as well as our hugely successful Trading Standards.
During the debate, Labour asked how the £20m financial shortfall to build our Third Crossing in Lowestoft would be met. The total cost comes to £100m, which represents the estimated £91m cost, plus a contingency of 10%: £70 promised but not yet paid by central government, £10 from the Capital Reserves from SCC – so we still need to find £20m.
The indignant replies were that the administration, the government and our MP had promised that the bridge would be built.
The question of where the money was to come from was not answered.
Needless to say, the Conservatives, along with UKIP Councillors, succeeded in defeating our amendment. This unholy alliance are all of the mind-set that money held by the Council on your behalf should be hoarded away year after year.
In my four years as Councillor for Oulton, we have seen the Councils reserves rise by £30. Each year the Tories supported by UKIP have told us that because of government cuts, the budget would be overspent and the reserves would be used.
But not a penny has been spent.
Last year alone, the Tories put £9m of your money back in to the bottomless pit of the reserves, bringing the total held by them to £191.2m.
Labour don’t believe them when they say they will be overspent this year – and if they are it will not be anything like the figures they predict.
They called us “madmen”, “dangerous”, “lunatics”. But they never questioned our figures.
They talked about their budget as “safe” and “prudent”, “wise” and “responsible”. But they never mentioned the dangers to our elderly who are suffering, or our most vulnerable children that are being failed, or our safety from fires that has been jeopardised… all of which are due to cuts that they have made.
In May, you can choose the uncaring miserly doctrine led Tories, propped by UKIP Councillors, or a caring and careful Labour-led administration.
It’s your money sitting in a vault, whilst many are struggling. It simply isn’t fair.