Could Citizens Advice grant and health visitor investment be restored at Suffolk County Council?
PUBLISHED: 16:30 10 February 2020
Fresh investment in health visitors and a commitment to restore Citizens Advice funding in full are among the challenges being presented to Suffolk County Council this week.
Both the Labour and Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent groups at the authority have submitted amendments to the Conservative-drafted budget ahead of Thursday's full council meeting.
Among the common challenges the two groups have presented are the recruitment of additional health visitors to reverse cuts made last year, and a call for Citizens Advice funding to be restored to former levels at £368,000, instead of the £120,000 proposed.
Other key proposals put forward include calls for a "common-sense" approach to school transport applications that prevent split villages and siblings, ending 'quick-fix' potholes repairs in favour of an £860,000 road investment fund and support for family carers with bus passes.
Sarah Adams, Labour group leader, said: "We have presented the Conservatives with an opportunity to start reversing some of the damage their cuts have caused to Suffolk.
"At the heart of our plans lies an emphasis on supporting the health and welfare of our residents - underpinning the invaluable work of the Citizens Advice; recognising the critical importance of health visitors to young families; caring for older people in sheltered accommodation; and supporting people at the risk of homelessness.
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"We would also invest in our roads and public transport to end the patchwork pothole 'quick fixes' while promoting sustainable, green travel alternatives too.
"Our budget amendment, which is fully costed and a socially conscious alternative, will invest in frontline public services. If residents are being expected to pay more in council tax, then we should be offering them a far better deal."
Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, said: "Over the past few years, we've seen some really damaging cuts to vital public services in Suffolk.
"This year, Suffolk County Council has been lucky enough to get millions of extra funding - and yet the Conservatives just want to put it into reserves.
"There is a crisis in both adult social care and children's services. Central government needs to know that local councils cannot continue to struggle to provide care in these two vulnerable areas.
"We think this money should be spent on services for the people of Suffolk and we've suggested a number of sensible proposals that will have a real impact: extra funding for home to school transport to ensure siblings and villages aren't split, recruiting more health visitors to support new parents, reintroducing companion bus passes for family carers, and increasing social worker salaries to make sure Suffolk is able to recruit and retain the social workers that our services desperately need."
Both groups have costed the amendments, which would be financed through a mix of putting less in reserves, using the additional £4million in the settlement from central government or reducing the Suffolk 2020 fund for one off projects down to £1m.
Gordon Jones, Conservative cabinet member for finance said: "All amendments to the proposed budget will be considered and debated by councillors at the budget setting meeting in the normal way."