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Service savings and Adult Social Care precept proposed as Suffolk County Council addresses economic challenges ahead

18 January 2017

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Budget proposals for the 2017/18 financial year will be considered when Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet meets on Tuesday 24 January. The Cabinet will discuss plans to freeze Council Tax for the seventh successive year, honouring the commitment made before the last County Council election in 2013.

Proposals outline savings of £31.3million across a number of services as the Council continues to make good progress with transformation programmes and identifies ways in which services can be managed in an efficient and effective way.

The budget proposals will also consider use of the national Adult Social Care precept. Last year this was agreed at a rate of 2% of total council tax in Suffolk. The Government has given all local authorities flexibility to decide how they use this precept over the next three years, with the opportunity to increase up to a total of 6%. Cabinet will discuss plans to agree an increase of 3% for the social care precept in 2017/18, 3% in 18/19 and 0% in 19/20. If this is agreed, the precept will raise £8.5m extra funding in 2017/18 to help ease the pressure on adult social care services, helping to meet current severe cost pressures in services for vulnerable older residents.

There is a budget gap of £39.8m during the next financial year, and on top of the proposed savings, the council plans to utilise around £8.5m from its total usable reserves of around £49m.

The final decision on the budget will be made at the Full Council meeting on Thursday 9 February.

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Heritage, Cllr Richard Smith said: “After many years of very tight budget management, this year we are expecting an overspend of around £6m. This equates to just over one per cent of our overall budget and mainly is due to the increasing cost of delivering important statutory services to support the most vulnerable young people in Suffolk. We are using money from our reserves to cover this increase in costs. This situation demonstrates exactly why we have maintained our reserves at a prudent level.

“Despite ever-increasing financial pressures, we remain absolutely committed to providing services to the most vulnerable people in our communities. Using our reserves responsibly, combined with a range of savings to help us meet our budget gap, is the right thing to do.

“We have looked carefully at the areas of services where we need to make savings over the next year and I am confident that, should they be agreed, these proposals are targeted so that they will not impact the delivery of the County’s services.

“Following the 2% Adult Social Care precept last year, we plan to increase this precept by 3% of total council tax in each of the next two years to help us meet the financial challenges currently facing the social care sector. This additional funding will not cover all associated expenditure but will go some way to helping us meet the cost of delivering social care services to adults in Suffolk and contribute to the increased charges from the welcome increase in the National Living Wage.”

Full details of the committee paper are available on Suffolk County Council’s website at: http://committeeminutes.suffolkcc.gov.uk/