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‘No plan B’ if budget proposals don’t save more than £50 million, Suffolk County Council warns

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Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (6297508)
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (6297508)

Finance chiefs at Suffolk County Council have warned they “don’t have a plan B”, if its proposed savings programmes do not generate tens of millions of pounds in savings over the next four years.

The council announced a series of nine transformation programmes, which it says are aimed at improving services and delivering savings across all areas of the authority’s business.

The four-year programme, which was launched in April, aims to deliver approximately £53.9 million in savings by 2022.

Speaking at a meeting of the scrutiny committee that took place on Wednesday, December 19, the county council’s Conservative cabinet member for finance and assets Richard Smith, said: “They are extremely important.

“Over a four-year time scale, we are looking to achieve more than £50 million of savings from these areas.

“In a way, we don’t have a plan B. If these fail, the county council is in trouble.

“A good deal of effort has gone into making sure these transformation programmes do succeed, and we do have our reserves to fall back on.

“But our nine transformation programmes are absolutely crucial to the future financial health of the county council.”

Three of the programmes – managing demand on adult services, learning disabilities and autism and the high cost of children’s care – have the primary aim of saving cash.

Meanwhile, other areas, such as improving digital services, travel choices and implementing a strategy for special education needs, propose to improve the council’s existing services.

Figures presented to the scrutiny committee revealed the authority planned to save £8.2 million from adult demand services, £2.1 million from learning disabilities services, £1 million each from travel choices and adult demand, and £800,000 from commercialism schemes, over the next financial year.

Among the key work has been enabling people to remain independent at home for longer, in order to reduce demand on care services, as well as implementing changes to the home to school transport, and filling empty public transport seats with people who need to travel that may not be able to.

The authority is also working to improve broadband connections and speeds, and also introduce measures to help staff work from home during periods of heavy snowfall.

The leader of the council’s Labour group, Sarah Adams, previously said she believes the transformation programmes had the potential to modernise the council’s services.

But she added that the authority needed to “encourage growth and not simply use them as a vehicle for yet more arbitrary cuts”.