Suffolk County Council's Conservative leaders vote down plan to reverse cuts to health visitors
Calls for Suffolk County Council to increase funding in Citizens Advice and reverse cuts to health visitors and bus subsidies have failed to secure agreement.
A full council meeting on Thursday discussed the planned budget for 2020/21, which proposed an increase in council tax by nearly 4 per cent or around £40 – a 1.99 per cent basic rate increase and 2 per cent for the adult social care element.
Both the Labour and Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent groups proposed amendments, with both demanding a reversal of cuts to health visitors last year where 41 roles were axed.
Both also requested a commitment to restore funding of Citizens Advice bureaux to levels of £368,000 prior to April 2019, instead of the £120,000 a year planned.
Other calls included a “common sense” approach to the controversial school transport policy, a reversal of cuts to bus subsidies and an end to “quick-fix” pothole repairs in favour of an £860,000 highways fund.
But those amendments were rejected by the Conservative administration, with deputy leader Mary Evans describing the Lib Dem, Green and Independent proposals as a “back of a fag packet wish list”.
Conservative council leader Matthew Hicks said: “We recognise the unrelenting demand and complexity of support required for vulnerable children and adults in Suffolk. As such, it is only right we increase spending in these key service areas.
“We will continue to look after the most vulnerable in our community, despite the cost pressures we continue to face, and continue to hold a prudent level of reserves.
“We want to do what’s best for our residents.”
Green councillor Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw said her group’s amendments were “rational and reasonable”.
Labour councillor Sandra Gage, who was a member of the cross-council CAB task force that recommended the county council reinstate full levels of £368,000 annual grants, said: “In 18/19 Suffolk CAB’s advised on around 87,000 problems. CAB’s work is increasing by 7% annually.
“Core issues raised include debit management, health, housing, relationships, legal, consumer scams, social care, travel and transport.
“Suffolk’s district councils together grant the CABs over half a million to support this work. SCC last year offered just £184,000 and proposes to reduce it further to £120,000. That’s just daft and financially irresponsible.”
The budget was approved by 46 votes to 12.