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16 November 2011, 05:00
The first details setting out how Suffolk County Council is thinking about saving £50m over the next two years have been published.
They show how the council plans to focus necessary financial savings on reducing management costs, cutting bureaucracy and improving efficiency across the organisation.
The council says that the proposals also demonstrate how they plan to invest more of their limited financial resources in services that help vulnerable people earlier - so that they remain independent for longer and do not become dependent on more costly support in later life.
The proposals, which cover the next two financial years, are now available for public consultation and include:
· Council-wide efficiency savings (1.5% per year across all departments) - £15m
· Early intervention, coordination and streamlining adult social care - £15m
· Reducing the cost of our back office - £6.5m
· Early intervention and more integrated teams in children and young people’s services - £3.5m
· Re-letting the council’s highways management contract - £2m
· Reducing the amount of senior management - £2m
· Reducing/rationalising office accommodation - £2m
· Savings from better purchasing of services - £1.5m
· Saving money on waste management - £1m.
It's part of the council's budget-setting process which will help decide how best to spend the £1 billion budget it is responsible for.
Due to a 28% reduction in the amount of money it receives from central government, increased inflation and demand for services, Suffolk County Council has to save £50m in the next two years. This is on top of £43m saved by the council in the current financial year.
The details are contained in a report to be presented to the county council’s Scrutiny Committee on 24 November 2011.
Councillor Colin Hart, chair of the Scrutiny Committee, said:
"Having to save £50m over the next two years means the county council is facing an unprecedented financial challenge. An important part of this process is the need for thorough and independent scrutiny of the proposals as they develop. The Scrutiny Committee will be taking a very close look at what savings are being proposed and we’ll no doubt ask some searching questions of officers and cabinet members in the coming weeks. We’ll then come to a view as to what recommendations we wish to make as part of the process."
In September this year, the county council began a public consultation to get a better idea of the priorities of people living in Suffolk. The information received from 2490 people helped to shape the proposals. A series of county-wide public events and meetings, designed to give people an opportunity to comment further, will be held. Members of the public can also give their opinions by email or telephone.
Councillor Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council said:
"I've made it very clear that what I want to see from this process is the creation of a budget that saves money on back office and bureaucracy, protects, as much as possible, frontline services and keeps council tax down.
We're still at a very early stage and the proposals are very much open for public consultation but I think a good start has been made under extremely difficult circumstances.
The important thing now is to work closely with our partners, staff and interested members of the public to make absolutely sure the council is moving in the right direction.
The financial challenges we are facing in Suffolk are significant, but I'm determined that we must find a way to meet them while protecting the services we all value."
He also told Heart that by looking at the management structure savings would be able to be made but added, "It does mean there may be jobs that will be at risk and of course that is regrettable, but that is an inevitable cost if you want to save money and need to save money, and we are responding to a very clear message from the people of Suffolk that they want to see a reduction in the cost of bureaucracy - in fact they want bureaucracy to go."
Councillor Mark Bee, Leader of Suffolk County Council speaks to Heart
The views and opinions gathered during the public consultation and scrutiny phases will help inform the county council’s Cabinet which, in January 2012, will make a formal recommendation on next year's budget to the Full Council meeting in February 2012. This is where the final budget will be decided.
Councillor Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council's deputy leader and portfolio holder for resource management, said:
"We see this as a real opportunity for people to influence what is the biggest decision we have to make in local government - how we spend public money.
Our priority is to protect the most valued frontline services whilst keeping council tax down. Local businesses, district and borough council's, the voluntary sector and Suffolk residents can help us do that. This is a time for listening and working together to overcome the financial challenges we face."
The budget setting process and consultation is called The Budget Challenge.
The website for the consultation, including a list of where the public consultation events will be is: www.suffolk.gov.uk/wearelistening
Other ways of taking part:
Speak to a county councillor: www.suffolk.gov.uk and search for 'my councillor'.
The decision making process:
The final budget will be agreed by Full Council in February 2012. Prior to this, the budget will be considered by councillors at a number of meetings.