County council’s big cuts – your questions answered

SUFFOLK: Public sector organisations have spent the past few months working out how to implement the latest round of drastic cuts, as budgets everywhere are squeezed by eye-watering amounts.

And Suffolk County Council (SCC) is no different.

Earlier this week, the Evening Star revealed the council will have to find a 30 per cent reduction in costs, meaning hundreds of jobs will be lost.

In the worst-case scenario, the council could have its budget slashed by up to �180 million over four years, and at best, its finances will still be squeezed by at least �54 million.

The Star has launched Save our Services to call for the protection of frontline services for those most in need.

As part of the campaign, we issued vital questions to several organisations to make sure the people who use their services know exactly how the cuts will affect them.

The council has given its answers below, and responses from NHS Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital will be published over the next few days.

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Star: Where was Suffolk County Council chief executive Andrea Hill when the authority’s most important media briefing in its history (on the cuts) was made?

SCC: Regular briefings are offered to the local media to keep them fully aware of plans and proposals as they develop. Councillor Jeremy Pembroke as Leader of the Council led this briefing.

Star: If the council slims by a third, will the chief executive’s salary slim by the same amount?

SCC: The CEO’s salary and pension is published in the annual report, which is a public document. As council leader Jeremy Pembroke said yesterday on Radio Suffolk, staff at the county council are signed up to contracts so we can’t cut salaries.

Star: Who made the decision that the re-shaping of the county council should be headed up by the county’s fire chief and not the chief executive, who would normally be in charge of such an immense change?

SCC: Reshaping the county council is being led by the Chief Executive, Andrea Hill.

[Fire Chief] Andy Fry is a Director and leads on developing “community capital”. This briefing was about the community capital element.

Ultimately it is for the elected representatives of this county to decide on the correct direction.

Star: Who is now leading the new strategy, is it the chief executive or is it the fire chief?

SCC: The elected representatives of Suffolk decide on the overall strategy. The Chief Executive is leading the implementation.

Star: Has any provision been given for the fire chief to get more support because of the secondment to the re-shaping role?

SCC: In light of the answers above this isn’t relevant.

Star: Was the recent decision to purchase Landmark House considered in the light of the re-shaping of the county council?

SCC: Yes, as part of reducing costs, we are working with other county public bodies to establish buildings where we can share facilities and thus reduce costs for all by making some buildings redundant. Landmark House is just one example of this.

Star: Will Suffolk county council join with us in our fight to protect frontline jobs at the expense of backroom staff and possibly managers?

SCC: Our concern is to ensure the people of Suffolk get the services they need, where they need it and maximise the available resources with which to do so. By reducing the council and the level of back-room administrative costs we will be more able to manage within the cuts imposed by central government

Star: What will SCC be doing to protect the front line?

SCC: Suffolk County Council wants to protect frontline services and will reduce bureaucracy first. If there is 30 per cent less funding from government, there will be an impact on front-line services.

Star: Have you discussed these proposals with the unions and, if so, which ones?

SCC: Yes, they are AEP, ASPECT, ASCL, ATL, CYWU/UNITE, FBU, NASUWT, NAHT, NUT, UNISON, UCU and VOICE.

Star: Have discussions, either early or advanced, taken place in relation to the numbers of jobs which will have to go? If not, why?

SCC: We are in the early planning stage. On July 20, Cabinet will decide on the model for reshaping the council, which we call our New Strategic Direction. If they agree the model it will go to full council in September.

We will consult with an enormous range of organisations, individuals, public and private bodies before we can begin to identify the likely effect of the changes in terms of jobs.