Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

BudgetLast week I blogged about the next few months nationally but as a Councillor my and others focus is far more on the local issues and for us at the County Council it’s a mixture of two heady things Devolution and Budget, now you know you are a local gov geek when you use the word ‘heady’ to describe what is essentially rather dry subjects however important both are to Suffolk.

For any Council deciding where to spend its funding in the coming year is its biggest decision.  The one that effects the quality of services it provides and importantly for our most vulnerable residents the quality of aspects of their lives. Thus, it’s the single biggest decision we have to make in our annual cycle.

Last week, Suffolk County Council Cabinet started the process of sharing each department thoughts on the budget they would require and the debate then starts that will take the next few months through to a Full Council meeting to debate and decide.

I try to work hard to get out there with our #WeAreListening events and I have lead more public consultation on things that are happening than the Council has ever undertaken, both in terms of surveys people can fill in on line, to town and village hall meetings. We have commissioned Ipsos Mori and others to provide the backbone to these events with statistically valid polling. Our desire to ask people what they think is critical to me as we have a number of tough decisions to make. But hey, let’s be clear, asking people is but one part of the decision making process, debate in the Conservative group is another, as is the debates at Full Council.  All are component parts into trying to make the right decisions. People often are not going to agree, but, we make the best decisions we can to serve the wider population of Suffolk and to make sure the organisation has the financial resources and capacity to deal with the often more hidden issue we have to deal with.

A couple of weeks ago, I did a sort of reply piece on Mark Murphy’s BBC Radio Suffolk show to address some political pot shots from the opposition about Care Homes and how they are funded and the extent to which SCC work with them for the good of residents that was on the day before’s show.  In essence, I provided context to oppositions Councillors comment that implied we provided all the places a few years ago and now we sold everything off to the private sector. What we actually did was bring in a private provider to provision the 9% of the Suffolk total number of beds we were the provider of.  But, beyond the political point scoring, it was a really good debate highlighting one of the many discreet services provided few people hear or know about, unless faced with such very tough and difficult choices.  As an adult there are few things more daunting than that of care provision for one’s parents and loved ones.

Often the debate is about roads and this year many of us will have seen the significant investment £10M we have made over and above our normal expenditure on the highways. Yet, few of us actually know which of our neighbours receive some form of care service support or hear about the discreet Children’s services to protect our young people from harm. Getting Mrs. Smith out of bed each morning and helping her wash and dress, those hundreds of care beds we provide for people who can’t afford to pay for them themselves and all of these services to the most vulnerable in our communities largely go unnoticed. But we all, me included love to moan about pot holes for its the universal services, our roads.

So over the coming months there will be the chance to have your say and for the Cabinet to set out its plans for the coming year’s budget and when you do, it is important to say what you would divert money from to address something else.   For these are the debates your Councillors will be having as well.

Back to it

August is traditionally the month where local government sort of goes on holiday and thus in September perhaps it’s that back to school feeling after a summer holiday or perhaps having a break means you naturally have a bit more time to ponder the months ahead.

Nationally the new Prime Minister is certainly settling in well and her polling seems to indicate that her Brexit means Brexit stance and her personal mission to address inequality in our society, is going down well with people. Equally, nationally I think many of us on the Conservative side of things watch in amusement at the Labour Party; its lacklustre Leader who seems unable to spot empty unreserved seats on trains, let alone that he is unelectable as a Prime Minister as only the hard left takes him seriously as a potential Leader of our Country. But hang on you say he won’t be there much longer with Leadership ballot papers in the post as the right of the Labour Party has a new champion to slay the left wing beast, oh dear not exactly dynamic is he. If Corbyn remains you can see the real prospect of Labour dividing into two and that will of course through up a local dimension to the mix, the local Labour party, old school hard left or Blairites? One side just wants to spend the County Council reserves until all is gone and the other well……they just want to spend all the county reserves until it’s gone, so from my perspective not much between them.

But of course who knows who they are for or against as locally Labour are keeping their head down desperately hedging their bets ahead of any split that might come. Before Theresa May became PM I openly backed her to win, it’s called standing up and being counted. I do believe you have to make decisions in politics, but hey not always the right ones, just look at my backing of the Remain campaign! But you have to stand up for what you believe in, so come on Sandy Martin and David Elsmere let’s hear from you as to whom you back. Jane Basham and I agree on almost nothing, save you should stand up and be counted, she has declared for Corbyn, oh well.

Interesting few months ahead.

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