Hard Choices

On 22nd April I blogged about the visits I and county officers made to the Care Homes across Suffolk that would directly be effected by our PFI Funding bid for three new state of the Art Care Homes we were planning to build; and the many great people, staff, carers and customers that we met.

Now that seems like an age ago and the KEEP CALM and CARRY ON attitude towards the finances of this country has rightly been replaced with a realism about the national debt and the need to get it under control.

But for us that means we have hard choices to make about the things we want to do and the things we can afford to do. Simply put we do not have the budget to carry on with the proposals.

At the Cabinet meeting Tuesday I presented a paper and reiterated an important principle, at an unprecedented time of change in local government, we must be prepared to take difficult decisions if we are to provide, value for money and maintain essential services to Suffolk taxpayers.

This is why one I proposed we take is stopping work to pursue a Public Finance Initiative project to create three new care homes in Suffolk.  In making that decision I thought long and hard about the potential missed opportunity but can clearly justify my thinking for three reasons:

  1. Our financial assessment showed that the project would cost the county council an additional £3m in the first five years. This is simply unaffordable in the current economic climate.
  2. The county council owns 17 care homes and operates 16 of them. While the PFI credits would have benefited part of our overall estate, replacing four of the homes with three new ones, we need to consider the homes estate as a whole. This should be within the wider context of a need to develop a range of services for older people to meet their changing expectations. Options must be affordable, sustainable, and most importantly be truly fit for purpose.  
  3.  Our care homes provide a range of services which are important for the wellbeing of many older people, but we cannot provide these services in isolation. As part of Suffolk’s Flexicare vision, we must ensure we are working with partners to consider the long-term needs for older people in Suffolk. This includes delivering better services in a climate in which a growing ageing population will push up demand for services and when people expect to be able to have more choice and control over the care and support they need.

That said at this time I believe it is more important for us to consider how we can work smarter and more effectively, by reviewing alternative options to meet the needs of all older people in the coming years. 

Our work to develop the PFI option included a period of consultation earlier this year, which produced valuable and insightful feedback from many people.

Just before I wrap up my blog and as I said on Tuesday in presenting the papers I would like to publicly thank everyone who took the time to send in their comments about the PFI proposals and in particular those good people who took the time to meet myself and the team as we presented the proposals to people living in Mildenhall, Haverhill and Lowestoft; and would like to reassure them that their feedback will most definitely influence my consideration of future proposals.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal, anything I write is promoted by Lance Stanbury on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Park Farm Cottage, Fordham St. Genevieve, BurySt. Edmunds, Suffolk IP28 6TS

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