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Len Jacklin’s Speech on the Council Budget

It will be no surprise to any of you that I propose to talk about reserves.

What are they?  What should they be?

They should be sums deliberately kept aside to cover any unforeseen and emergency matters, plus sums set aside for capital projects you will undertake in the foreseeable future.

Well, in 2010, you had £10.6 million kept aside to cover emergencies, Eric Pickles thought that was excessive then.

But let’s assume that that is a sensible amount.

Then you have sums you have set aside to fund the Broadband programme, and our contribution to the major infrastructure projects, and to cover the introduction of the new Apprenticeship system.

We don’t argue with any of that – in fact, we think you should be setting aside more to cover projects, and in particular the 3rd Crossing in Lowestoft, to make sure that the current £20 million funding gap can be filled.

But that is not the whole of what the reserves actually are, is it?

Every year there is an underspend.  Every year that extra sum is put into the reserves.  Every year you find more and more complicated ways of disguising the money in these “reserves” as if it were actually there for a purpose: Corporate Contingency Reserve; Earmarked Reserves; Service Reserves; Renewals Reserve.

Are you aware that there is £500k in the reserves for Music Services it’s been there for at least three years doing nothing.

Reserves belong to the taxpayer – it’s their money you’re stashing away

And let’s get this clear, this administration’s revenue reserves – not capital, revenue – stood on 1st April at £148.8m.  That’s the last known balance – every figure since then is speculation –

£148.8 million of the taxpayers money

And that’s not to mention the so-called Capital Reserves.  If we include them, a sum of £42 ½ million, that brings the total reserves to £191 million.

In 2010 those reserves stood at £77.8m. That means the overall reserves have nearly trebled in 7 years. But over the same period the Budget requirement  has dropped from £510m  to currently £487.9.

So let’s look at the reserves for this budget.

As well as their swingeing cuts, this administration claim that they will use £8m of reserves to meet the budget shortfall.

Cllr Smith puts on his gravest face and tells us solemnly that using £8m is necessary and how deeply he regrets it.   Don’t you all remember the same message last year? It all reads like a children’s story.  The same Grave solemn face,  warnings that the sky is about to fall.   What actually happened?   The sky didn’t fall.  Instead the cuts were implemented, the cabinet member tells us all how clever he has been and lo and behold we stash more of the taxpayers money – £9m more – away in reserves.

BUT we still cut the services to our taxpayers. It’s the same taxpayers money he is telling his stories about,  Their money, not his, not the administration’s , not the Council’s but the hard working taxpayers money, Their money..

We this side of the Chamber didn’t believe the stories then, we told you at the time, and we don’t believe them now.  After May when we sit on that side of the chamber and I sit in Cllr Smiths seat I shall examine each of the reserves,  starting with the £2.5m Lowestoft footbridge the money for which sits comfortably stashed in reserves even though there is no intention of spending it.

This County Council’s revenue reserves stand at over 30% of our budget requirement!

There is no justifiable reason to sit on this money. Government ministers are suspicious of Councils hoarding funds, they already have their eye on the pension funds, how long before they want our reserves? How can we claim that the revenue support grant isn’t sufficient for our needs when we continue to squirrel away money in this way.

That’s why we propose to use £15.66m from the Contingency reserve, and a further £3.5m from the Capital reserve and £740 thousand from the On Street Parking Reserve – putting the money to the use it was set aside for.

What is your message to Suffolk taxpayers?  “We can’t afford to provide a safe residential place for your mother or father because of government cuts…..We can’t afford to make sure your town is safe from fires………Your roads fit to drive on…….or to provide buses to get you to hospital……..

Well it won’t do!  There is money there, enough to spend, not just this year but next year and the year after and so on until the government sees sense, and we have a duty to use it to keep our residents safe.

SetWidth160-2013-05-14 Leonard Jacklin informal WS

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Sandy Martin’s Speech on the Council Budget

Mr Chairman, Fellow Councillors,

Suffolk County Council exists for a purpose.  It is to make the lives of the residents of Suffolk better than they would have been if the County Council did not exist.  It is to do the things that need to be done which would not be done better by someone else.  It is to help the people who could not easily help themselves.  It is to enable the changes for the better which we all want to see, but which will not just come about of their own accord.

As Councillors we glibly speak about “services”, but we need to remind ourselves what those services are.  People cannot put out their own fires, or rescue themselves from car-crashes.  People are not going to jump out of their cars to mend the holes in the road in front of them.

People whose families are in chaos are not going to give themselves dispassionate advice and emotional support and temporary respite provision to prevent their children from being taken into care.  People are certainly not going to organise their own children to be taken into care, even when it is, unfortunately, the best option.

And people who have fought for this country, who have worked all their lives and paid their taxes and National Insurance, people who have made Suffolk the prosperous County which it is, are not going to be able to build their own care homes or commission their own domiciliary care packages.

This Council plays a crucial role in the lives of each and every one of Suffolk’s residents.  I’m not at all sure that all Suffolk’s residents necessarily appreciate that.  In fact, I’m not entirely clear that everyone in this room appreciates that.  But we can all see the consequences when that role is not being properly fulfilled:

  • Potholed Roads
  • Ever slower response times to Fires and other emergencies
  • More & more children being taken into care
  • Residential Homes being closed down or rated inadequate and elderly people being stuck in Hospital

Fellow Councillors, this Council provides statutory services, responsibilities which we cannot shirk.  However much we might hate spending money, if this Council has to take a child into care, and if that care cannot be provided in this County, and if that means that the child has to be placed in an out-of-county placement, then this Council has to pay the financial cost of that – we can’t wriggle out of it, we have no choice, it is a legal requirement.  And if an elderly person has conditions which make it impossible for their relatives to cope with caring for them at home, we have a legal duty to arrange residential care for them unless they can afford to pay for themselves.

So whatever we do, however difficult the financial position this government – or the next government – might decide to put us in, we have to pay for those statutory services, and if we continue to cut the budget allocated to those services we stand in very real danger of either failing in our statutory duties or in writing a completely unreasonable budget which bears no relation to reality.  And in fact, our officers in Adult Social Care have warned us all that this is the case – there is the very real possibility of a £5 million – £10 million overspend on Adult Social Care in order to meet our statutory obligations.

Cllr Smith has based his case on a vengeful implacable government that will continue to cut Local Government’s spending power forevermore.  Well, any government which can cut £200 million from the real-terms spending power of this Council and still expect us to fulfil our statutory obligations is certainly vengeful and implacable.  All I can say is that I am very glad that I didn’t vote for them and if Cllr Smith believes that the government, and the Party that runs it, will continue to take this attitude, perhaps he should do something about it by leaving the Party and campaigning against them.

But can this attitude really continue forevermore?  Councillors, I can tell you now, if you vote for our amendment, and this authority decides to spend an additional £16 million per annum on revenue, we will still be a financially viable authority in four years’ time, even if the government continues on its present course.  But there are a lot of authorities that won’t.  Can you really see the government – even a Conservative government that hates the North – allowing Liverpool and Lancashire and Durham and Cumbria and umpteen other authorities to become completely bankrupt?  What are they going to do – introduce direct rule from Westminster?

If you subtract £16 million from £191million, and then do so again next year, and again the year after, and so on, it is perfectly possible to do this for four years without bankrupting this Council.  And Councillors, can I just say how saddened and disgusted I was to see that some at least of the Conservatives have been delivering leaflets telling voters that Labour would bankrupt the Council in 5 weeks – it’s a deliberate lie, it’s a preposterous lie, and I had thought we were above such things in Suffolk.

So whatever happens we will need to spend money on our statutory services.  And you may well have to spend more than you are budgeting for – as your own officers have warned – because it is the most expensive interventions which are also the ones which this council is not legally allowed to avoid paying where necessary.

But how much better it would be to spend the money on things which prevent those interventions from being necessary!  Can you not see the link between a cut in family social workers and a rise in the number of children being taken into care?  Can you not understand that a more comprehensive package of high-quality home care and respite breaks would enable many more families to continue to care for their frail parents at home? What part of resurfacing a whole road properly so that it does not develop potholes in the first place do you not get?

The National Audit Office this week reported that the Better Care Fund has not delivered the target of savings from integrating Social Care and Health.  I cannot say I was surprised.  We on this side of the chamber are fully behind attempts to achieve Health & Social Care Integration, but there needs to be a complete change in the way that the 2 areas of provision work together, and it needs to start with investment and long-term commitment.

We believe in Health & Social Care integration because we believe it can deliver better services and help people keep healthier and happier – and in time it may very well save money as well.  But the money will NOT be saved if you try to take the savings before you have made the investment and achieved the change.  Like with so many other cuts, you trumpet a “re-organisation” which you claim will save tax-payers money, but then you stymie it by taking the saving before the re-organisation has had a chance to succeed, like a business paying out its working capital in premature Dividends on the expectation of future profits.

We know the sort of measures which nudge demand down to a lower level of intervention:

  • Home adaptations to prevent trips and falls.
  • Reliable home care.
  • Easily-accessed respite care.
  • Good-quality available Day Care services
  • Comprehensive advice and guidance services
  • More Social Workers
  • A vibrant and diverse voluntary sector

Every one of these you have cut, and cut again.  Of all the cuts you have made, the cuts to the Voluntary Sector must be the most counter-productive, the most callous and the most contrary to stated Conservative Party Philosophy.

And if cuts to Adult Social Care budgets are callous, how much more callous are cuts to family interventions and family social workers and children’s centres services such as the Welfare Rights service.  We warned you in stark language at last year’s budget that there would be children taken into care unnecessarily if you cut the Children’s Centres Welfare Rights service.  It gives me absolutely no satisfaction to say “We told you so” – not primarily because that decision has cost this authority hundreds of thousands of pounds, but because it has destroyed some families that did not need to be destroyed.

We have a vision of a better Suffolk, a Suffolk where families get the advice and help they need to stay together, where vulnerable elderly people and people with learning difficulties are enabled to stay in their own homes or with their families for as long as possible.  A Suffolk where walkers and cyclists of all ages can travel safely to work or to school or for leisure, where those who need to drive can travel on well-maintained roads, where those who need public transport can find it going where they want when they want it.  A Suffolk where all our young people can access the education and training they need and grow to their full potential.

Will we achieve that?  Can we ever be satisfied with what we have done?  No! – there will never be a time when we can do everything we would want.  But should we try, with the resources we have, to at least achieve some of it?  Or should we leave £190 million in the bank?

Cuts or care. You decide.

Labour Leader, Sandy Martin

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Labour Amendment Calling for Increased Spending on Important Services Voted Down

The Labour Group’s Budget Amendment has been voted down by Conservative and UKIP Councillors today at a meeting of Full Council.

The Labour Amendment demanded that the Council invests in key services to improve care and reduce costs in the long run. The Amendment proposed to maintain or increase spending on:

  • Children’s Services and specialist programmes that reduce costs and improve care by avoiding the need for children to be placed in care, or sent out of County
  • Adult Care services that are preventative and early-intervention to improve health and reduce the need for expensive nursing care, whilst improving standards in care homes
  • Roads and infrastructure to improve public transport, hospital parking and cycle and pedestrian safety; and to mend our potholed roads across the County
  • The Fire Service to reverse the cuts to our Fire Service and invest in new full-time day crews in Sudbury and Felixstowe, so that tragedies can be avoided in the future
  • The Library Service to ensure that all of Suffolk’s excellent Libraries remain open
  • And the Voluntary Sector, which already provides cost effective and vitally important statutory services

The Labour Amendment received support from most of the Council’s Opposition Parties but failed to achieve an overall majority as UKIP supported the Conservatives.

Labour Spokesperson for Finance, Len Jacklin, said “These are difficult times for Local Government, and no one can deny the need to be prudent. And that is exactly why we brought forward this amendment. It is no surprise to us that the more the Tories cut from their planned services, the more they have to spend on picking up the pieces. By cutting preventative programmes, which cost money, but helped avert all kinds of crisis and difficulties, the administration has created bigger problems that we are now beginning to see.”

Labour Group Leader, Sandy Martin, said “The Labour Group set out to provide a real alternative to a Conservative administration that has been defined by unsafe cuts. We gave Suffolk residents a vision for a County that would have robust services, good quality care and a level of spending that would be financially sustainable. Had this amendment passed, it would have provided much needed relief to numerous services and thousands of vulnerable people in the County, so I’m bitterly disappointed in the bloody-mindedness of the Conservative administration. I think the fact that UKIP voted with the Conservatives on this just demonstrates that they are NOT anti-establishment, they are Purple Tories.”

Cllr Martin added, “The choice ultimately now lies with Suffolk residents. With elections in May, they can bring about the change that is needed at the County Council. If the Labour Group is in an administration after Local Elections, we will seek to bring this Amendment into effect.”

Suffolk Radio: Sandy Martin discusses the crisis in Adult Social Care

“We have a crisis and there’s no point in anybody trading figures or throwing statistics at people, the fact is this needs to be solved and you’re not going to solve it by taking more money out of the system.”

Labour Leader, Sandy Martin, discusses the crisis in Adult Social Care ahead of Care summit.

(Full discussion from 1hr 8mins in)

Cllrs Sandy Martin, Len Jacklin and Sarah Adams discuss Suffolk Labour’s amendment to the Conservative budget at Suffolk County Council

“The point is that we can’t afford not to spend this money. And in particular on family services and on the most vulnerable children, and on elderly people.”

Cllrs Sandy Martin, Leonard Jacklin and Sarah Adams discuss Suffolk Labour‘s amendment to the Conservative budget at Suffolk County Council.

The budget is set to be discussed at Full Council on Thursday, 9th February

Radio Suffolk: Sarah Adams challenges Suffolk Tories to put their money where their mouth is on Adult Care

“I’m still hugely disappointed. To say that ‘the safety of people in residential homes and the care sector is the highest priority’ is not matched by the budgeting of the Conservative administration. If they were really serious, they’d put their money where their mouth is.”

Labour Spokesperson for Health and Adult Social Care, Sarah Adams, challenges the Conservative County Council to put it’s money where it’s mouth is on Adult Social Care.

(From 1hr 28 mins)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04nzst6

SetWidth160-2013-05-14 Sarah Adams informal WS

Spend to save and the safety of residents should be Budget priorities, says Labour Group

The County Council Cabinet today voted through the proposed Budget for the financial year 2017/18.

The Council has already made budget reductions of £34.4m for the current year to March, resulting in unpopular cuts to the Fire Service, community and passenger transport, Adult Social Care and the Voluntary Sector. The Cabinet have now agreed for a further cut of £31.33m. for financial year 2017/18.

Labour Spokesperson for Finance, Len Jacklin, said “As a former business owner, I will never argue against genuine cost efficiencies when they can be made. However, I will always oppose short sighted financial planning that fails to meet our needs and costs us more in the long run. That is what this Budget offers us – short term cuts, long term problems.”

He added “As we can see in the projected overspend in Children and Young People’s Services – which is largely due to increasing numbers of children being taken into care or being sent to out of county provision – by cutting the facilities and programmes that help avert family difficulties and prevent children going in to care, the administration has successfully saved pennies only to cost us all pounds later and it is the most vulnerable in our society that suffer as a result.”

Labour Group Leader, Sandy Martin, said “Whether it is our pot-holed roads, our overstretched Fire Service or our struggling Care Homes, the consequences of years of cuts and mismanagement are beginning to become visible. By using a little more of their enormous reserves, now is the time for the administration at Suffolk County Council to invest in preventative services that will save us money in the long-term and ensure the safety of Suffolk residents and businesses.”

setwidth160-2013-05-14-sandy-martin-informal-ws SetWidth160-2013-05-14 Leonard Jacklin informal WS