“You need to fight for Suffolk and make your government listen!”

Yesterday, Suffolk’s Conservative administration finalised their budget for 2018-19, with cuts to services totalling £23.9m. Read LDGI Leader David Wood‘s full speech against these harmful cuts:

“Across the UK, councils are struggling. We all know this. Budgets are getting tighter and tighter, services are being cut, and at the end of the day it’s the most vulnerable residents that will be suffering the most.

However, we seem to be forgetting that austerity is a choice. Each year, the Conservative government chooses to give Suffolk less funding. We, a county with a Conservative-run council, are being left completely in the lurch by your own government.

You are in a privileged position compared to other councils across the country. You have a huge majority on this Council – that’s 52 Conservative voices that should be doing everything they can to make themselves heard down in Westminster. 6 out of 7 of Suffolk’s MPs are Conservative, and not to mention 3 of them hold very senior positions.

You need to fight for us and make your government listen to you. Make them understand the challenges that come from being a rural county. Make them support us as we deal with a rapidly aging population. Make them realise that this needs to stop – we desperately need more funding.

I’ve already talked about the cuts to rural buses, Greenways and Citizens Advice. But I want to reiterate my concern. These are cuts to services that provide huge benefits to the people of Suffolk, especially the elderly, vulnerable, and those living in rural areas. They provide a huge return on investment, and have far more value than can be expressed in monetary terms.

A £12m “saving” from adult social care is a massive cut – from one of the most important directorates in this council. That’s £12m less to support our frail and vulnerable residents. That means less care for less people – something none of us should want.

Saving £11m in adult care by “mitigating demand” is a frightening target. I’m not convinced that Adult and Community Services (ACS) will be able to achieve such a huge saving in one year, particularly when they are also undergoing such major upheavals in their staffing restructure. And if they do manage it, I would be very worried about how many vulnerable adults are falling through the gaps and not receiving the proper care that they need and deserve.

Although not as big a headline figure, cutting £1m from the Sheltered Housing Grant is just as damaging. Your own report acknowledges that residents will suffer from a reduction in support.

Only last night, BBC Look East spoke with residents of sheltered housing. They described the daily visits from care workers as a “lifeline”. Many of them won’t have any other human contact. Take away this minimal level of support, and you’ll quickly see that many will flounder and find it impossible to live independently. And ultimately, that’s going to cost us more.

Every budget we’re seeing staff numbers reduce. There are transformations and restructures happening all the time. The staff we have left are working to tighter and tighter budgets. And that means our staff are feeling more pressure, more stress. Yesterday it was reported in the EADT that stress led to 6800 sick days here. That cost Suffolk taxpayers over £750,000. Clearly, if these cuts go through, that situation is just going to get worse.

I personally cannot support this budget. Long and hard, you’ve vowed to protect rural Suffolk, you’ve promised to support vulnerable residents. These proposals hardly do that.”

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