Labour councillors on Suffolk County Council have condemned the administration after hearing that there is no money set aside in the budget to implement the recommendations of a report aimed at resolving the County Lines and gang violence issues that have beset Ipswich.
Labour Shadow Spokesperson for Adult Care, Cllr Sarah Adams has called on the Conservative administration on Suffolk County Council to think again over the punitive cuts of £12m to the Adult and Community care budget that will be presented to the Council’s Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 23rd November.
Budget Scrutiny papers show that the bulk of the Council’s cuts next year will fall on care purchasing. This means that older people will undoubtedly be left to fend for themselves in their old age as the council looks to ‘mitigate care purchasing demand increases’, or in plain English cut services for older people.
The Labour Group has appointed Cllr Kathy Bole as its Spokesperson for Disability in recognition of the particular, significant impact of government and council cuts to funding is having on the lives of disabled Suffolk residents.
Labour Leader and Shadow Spokesperson for Finance has called on the Conservative administration on Suffolk County Council to think again over the punitive cuts to the Adult and Social Care budget that will be presented to the Council’s Scrutiny Committee next Tuesday.
Papers released today show that the bulk of the councils cuts next year will fall on care purchasing. This means that older people will undoubtedly be left to fend for themselves in their old age as the council looks to ‘mitigate care purchasing demand increases’, or in plain English cut services for older people.
Labour Councillors on Suffolk County Council have called on the administration to come clean on their plans for the long-term care of people with learning difficulties as a report into council finances calls identifies them as an issue for council budgets. Continue reading Lack of planning is a ‘disgrace’
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.
In July last year, a DfE report looked into cost effectiveness and value for money of children’s centres and showed the link between the services offered and reductions in public spending on truancy, school exclusions, special educational needs, youth and adult crime, mental health problems, and welfare benefits.
The report also highlighted the link between use of children’s centres and higher educational attainment and higher future earnings for the children and their parents.
Children’s centres have the potential to make a massive difference to the lives of children and their families, yet across Suffolk there are areas where families simply can’t access these highly valuable services.
The DfE report clearly states that ‘the benefit of children’s centres in monetary terms has the greatest impact on the public purse in terms of future savings to required spending’.
Children’s centres are a resource that should be increased and built upon to save the council money in the future, we need to invest in them and the children that use them as one of the most cost efficient services that we can offer.
In December, we brought you evidence showing how respite care and a ‘Short Breaks’ service for families with children on the edge of care can and is saving councils millions of pounds a year through reducing the number of children in care, not to mention helping to improve the futures of countless children and their families.
We, as a council, agreed that it would be investigated as a measure to bring down demand for Children & Young People services and to make savings, but this doesn’t appear to be included on the budget.
I hope that I’m wrong and there is a ring-fenced amount of reserves to operate this service if it is proved suitable and cost effective for Suffolk.
As it stands, the Family Assessment Support Team is our only service dedicated to reducing the number of children in care, yet in January this year it was reported that the team is attempting to operate with half of its social worker posts vacant.
We understand the difficulties in recruiting social workers and that we have about 30 social worker vacancies across Suffolk, but it is hard for us to believe that you are serious about reducing demand for children’s services when the early intervention services that we have to do this are simply not working properly.
The budget that the administration has presented to us seems far too concerned with short term cuts and goals, when we need to be thinking long term in order to make the services sustainable.
There is overwhelming evidence produced by independent and government groups showing how preventative and early intervention services are more cost effective in the long run, but we seem to be stuck in a cycle of short term measures and short sighted cuts.
We need to stop thinking in terms of 2-3 years down the line and invest now in preventative and early intervention services to save the County Council money in the longer term future.
I would like to speak on the Labour Amendment’s plans to reverse cuts made to the Fire Service.
Pushed through by the administration as a result of the IRMP and in the face of serious and genuine concerns of both Fire Service personnel and equally the general public, it will be no surprise that we would wish to reverse these cuts – in terms of the number of appliances and indeed the fire crews, both full time and on-call.
This would mean re-instating the full time crews and, in addition, to fund new full time day crews in Sudbury and Felixstowe.
This would help in the ‘prevent work’ inspections that are so important in preventing emergencies from occurring, and would also support the on-call teams in those areas – improving coverage and safety.
The administration also proposes cuts in the funding of Trading Standards, as well as Suffolk’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Both of these areas deal in particular with the more vulnerable in our society. Trading Standards, for example, has a vital role in trying to keep people aware of scams and cybercrime.
So cutting their support is a backwards step, bearing in mind the very good reputation the Suffolk Trading Standards team has locally and nationally.
Regarding cuts to the Citizens Advice Bureau, I can think of no action more regressive and backwards looking than cutting a service that provides advice to the public, advice that helps prevent financial difficulty, family breakdown and other serious issues, all of which have a very real impact on our communities – and many that have repercussions on the Council in terms of more expensive statutory costs.
For the last six years there has been year on year cuts to County services in Suffolk, justified as ‘efficiency savings’, ‘transforming services’, ‘refocusing’, or simply saying the council will be doing ‘more for less’.
Year on year we stand here and say this is wrong, it will not work, or simply that your budget cuts will increase the gap between those who can afford to pay themselves for what the council no longer provides, and those who cannot.
Highways and public transport budget cuts are not as life threatening as those imposed on, say social care, but they are life changing.
They will alter people’s futures permanently, by having to make less advantageous choices on education, living standards, work, where to live, and ultimately longevity of life. Using this administrations words, these cuts have indeed ‘managed down demand’ of the future of those who have to rely on public transport to achieve the best possible outcomes for themselves.
The dismantling of public transport and decreasing investment in our infrastructure will, in the end, cost us all far more than this council has cut in these areas in its annual budgets since 2011.
So, we propose a reversal of the cuts to the services that support the most basic needs of Suffolk residents, to provide a life line by the;
- Reinstatement of printed bus timetables countywide
- Continued investment of Real Time bus screens in remote urban areas where there remains poor mobile phone coverage that denies bus users access to smart phone bus apps.
- An enhancement to the countywide district council budget to cut highway verge and hedges – so that road safety is no longer put at risk by this council, and the disabled are able to use unobstructed footways
- Reinstatement of the 2015/16 baseline funding to Community transport providers, ensuring the scheduled buses services can continue without cuts.
- And,for our three main towns, a programme of capital investment, raised bus stops to aid the less mobile and new bus shelters to encourage greater bus patronage, and a modest but much needed capital programme of cycle and pedestrian schemes to aid healthier lifestyles and keep our towns moving.
The Labour Group’s Amendment proposes to make Ipswich Park and Ride genuinely viable under its new contract.
Any responsible highway authority knows that Park and Ride is part of a package of measures to manage traffic congestion at peak times in towns and cities. You can’t simply ‘change the grant offer’ as the Transport Cabinet Member will surely call it, though it is of course a funding cut, and expect service to survive. The proposed withdrawal of subsidy and the omission of any funding to improve the Park and Ride sends Ipswich residents a clear message from this council.
This Council really doesn’t care if Ipswich streets are clogged up commuting traffic each weekday, so long as there is more money in reserves.
So much for this Tory led council being signed up to an ‘Ipswich Vision’.
The Labour amendment proposes a Revenue Enhancement to maintain Park & Ride services during a transition period, a two year capital investment to implement the highway improvements identified by the bus operators as necessary to make the new contract viable, and a modest fund to market and a modest marketing fund.
This is what a responsible highway authority should do to protect its county town from unsustainable traffic growth.
And finally, on the subject of the Ipswich Cattlemarket bus station toilets, despite my repeated questioning, the administration has remained silent on whether there has ever been was any financial provision for the toilets. But then, as we know, none of them travel into Ipswich by bus, so haven’t any idea of how important this is.
Not so much for Ipswich residents, but for the many rural Suffolk residents (residents from their own divisions) who bus into town, and arrive after up to maybe an hour’s journey at the Cattlemarket station.
This Tory council has stubbornly refused for three years, even refusing the repeated demands of the Women’s Institute, to see sense.
Labour will find the money in its budget to install the toilets, to accept Ipswich Borough Council generous offer to maintain and in doing so respond, as a responsible council should do, to significant and justified public demand.
The sustainability of the county relies upon a road network that is at an acceptable standard. That’s why we have included a reinstatement in the cuts to Capital investment in our road network.
The Highways Infrastructure Asset Management Plan has consigned our non-strategic local roads to a future of neglect, to becoming a patchwork of temporary asphalt dollops, and occasional localised permanent repair.
We all know of roads like this all over the county.
Labour’s proposal will enable a programme of responsible structural maintenance on local roads countywide.
Chair, I fully support the budget amendment.
Remember ‘No School an Island’? How about no community an island or no pupil an island as an aim? How can this be achieved?
There needs to be far more of a Strategic Overview of services for young people in Suffolk.
Firstly, Home to School Transport. By reversing the proposed cuts to Home to School Transport of £0.55m and by giving Revenue Enhancement to Discretionary Post 16 Transport of £0.20m the amendment will compensate for the £0.2m cut in 16/17, to ensure that charges for discretionary travel does not limit the opportunities for low income families – especially for young people, so they are not prevented from furthering their studies due to rural isolation.
The Social Mobility of Suffolk young people cannot improve if they cannot get to the most appropriate courses for their future direction due to a lack of transport.
Let’s support young people to move literally in the right direction.
Secondly, there must be a far greater coordinated push on Teacher Recruitment and Retention via a Revenue Enhancement of £0.20m – to enhance the resources and support budget to attract far more excellent teachers to Suffolk.
This is a national issue and any long term response or solution must come from central government. However, a local injection of funds for an immediate relief is necessary.
Having spoken to the Department for Education recently, they confirmed this approach and were sympathetic to the amendment’s aim for teacher recruitment.
Used creatively, the extra funding could attract specialist teachers to Suffolk whose expertise and excellent practice could then be shared amongst a number of schools, thereby raising attainment.
Thirdly, reversing the cut made to Early Years Help and Specialist Services CYP Inclusive services fund for Autism and ADHD in 15/16. To provide an enhanced diagnostic service for families of children and young people with ADHD and Autism to enable them to access the services they need.
I really should not have to say yet again that a cut of £0.25m be reversed for services to support some of the most vulnerable children and their families in Suffolk. Bearing in mind that many families will face the loss of the specialist support offered by Autism Suffolk as a result of cuts to their service at the end of March 2017.
The Labour Amendment aims to ensure that no school, community, pupil or family is an island marooned by cuts to services and lack of affordable transport.
If you believe in a county where equality of opportunity is paramount, where excellent teachers are encouraged and retained and the most vulnerable pupils are supported, then vote for the Labour Amendment.