County Councillor Penny Otton: Thedwastre South Division

Including Thurston, Beyton, Hessett, Drinkstone, Felsham, Gedding, Rattlesden (also Onehouse, Buxhall, Harleston, Shelland and Gt Finborough)

Suffolk County Council Budget
The Suffolk County Council Budget was voted through Full Council on February 11. This year’s budget is based on a 12-month financial settlement from the government rather than the three or four-year agreement which is usually offered. Key points include:

  • A council tax rise of 3.99% (1.99% basic council tax and 2% Social Care Precept), representing an increase of £53.55 for a Band D property, from £1,343.61 in 2020-21 to £1,397.16 in 2021-22.
  • A council tax shortfall of £7.9m less than expected, to be met by using reserves.
  • Planned spending is £597.9m, 7.4% more than 2021-21.
  • £15.3m of spending to address ongoing COVID-19 costs.
  • No proposed reductions in council services or personnel.

LDG I Group Budget Amendment
The LDGI Group submitted a Budget Amendment to Full Council on February 11 alongside the administration’s budget. The amendment would have authorised the use of the full three per cent social care precept to avoid impacting SCC’s reserves and generate an extra £3.452m for social care at a cost of only £13.41 per year to a Band D household. The extra income would have provided funding for a wider service offer for Suffolk residents, including a new officer for the flooding team to unlock more government funding and the re-enablement of concessionary bus passes on community transport. The amendment was unfortunately not passed.

Joint bid for £6m flood funding
Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils have submitted a joint bid to the £200 fund for Flood and Coastal Resilience, requesting £6m to invest in flood protection schemes across both counties. The proposed projects would also capture water for reuse. If the bid is successful, town and parish councils will be encouraged to get involved through measures like permeable paving, water butts and ‘rain gardens’ that can cope with occasional flooding. These projects would be in place by 2027 if the bid is approved. I have asked if some of the current projects will be brought forward and waiting for a reply.

LDG I Group opposes government’s approach to local authority grants Suffolk County Council will receive £27m for highway repairs, maintenance and drainage in 2021-22, down from £31m the previous year. This has necessitated the use of £2m of reserves to top up the grant.

In the view of my Group, these cuts in government funding make it impossible to plan long-term for road maintenance and repair. Due to the uncertainty as to whether this grant would materialise at all, some vital work has already been postponed.

Change to School Transport Contract
The cabinet has agreed to give the new contract from September 2021 (currently being run by Suffolk Norse) to Vertas, a wholly company of the county council. This has been challenged by Ipswich Buses, as to do so could be illegal. We do not have details of whether there will be changes to how the contract will be run. This will include the swimming service.

I queried why this couldn’t have waited until the review of the Home to School Transport Policy had been scrutinised as other changes may be
recommended.

Cycle to School Scheme
Pupils are being encouraged to cycle to school by offering a voucher worth up to £70 if they trade in their bus pass. They must have done cycle training.

West Suffolk Hospital
Consulting on a proposal for a new hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

New Car Park at Woolpit Health Centre
A deal has been made with the developer to give land to the health centre to improve parking, which is particularly overloaded when vaccination sessions take place.

Locality Fund
I have agreed to fund the defibrillator and a computer for the Smart
screen at Thurston Library.

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