Budget Day 2013 – Council Tax record and pledge – 0%, 0%, 0%, then 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%

On Thursday Suffolk Council Councillors came together for our annual debate on the Budget and indeed this year’s had added poignancy in that we are some 10 weeks off our County elections.

The debate was its usual lively and uncompromising self, as we Conservatives set out our spending plans for the next year protecting front line service and delivering value for money for every single penny of Council Tax payer’s money we spend and at the same time dealing with the continued reductions in Government grants.

We also announced that if elected we will Freeze the Council Tax for the whole of the next 4 year term, that certainly ‘through’ the opposition and it was interesting to watch them try to counter it, failing spectacularly in the process.

We have been accused by some of electioneering which I find a very curious comment indeed, if you are, as we all are, out on the door step and people are telling us how hard it is and worried they are about their household budgets, a comment I have heard time and time again; surely pledging to live within our means, not demand more and more of their hard earned money in Council Tax is just the right thing to do?

We pledged that we will protect frontline services and if you read the budget book we have clearly set out our vision as to how we are going to go about this; in my area of responsibility we have reduced our expenditure in real term by tens of millions of pounds each year, we have gone from a department of 4,000 staff to 1,000 staff, we have created 4 mutuals most of which are now part of the EADT top 50 to watch grow, and we have transferred our Care Homes to Care UK are bring in £60Million of investment in 10 brand new state of the art homes extending the offer to their residents of nursing as well as social care; we are finding new ways of working with communities and embracing both the transfer of Public Health to the Council but also a far better and involved working relationship with Doctors and HealthCare Providers through Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board.

A track record of 3 years of 0% and a pledge of 0% for 4 more years – that’s what voting Conservative in the County elections in May means. That’s called treating the hard earned money of Council Tax payer’s with respect.

A Big Day for Suffolk

Today is Valentine’s Day, but I suspect in the Council Chamber at Suffolk County Council there will not be much love in the air. As today is also Budget day at the Council and you can’t help but wonder who decided that this would be a Council meeting day. Our partners put up with a great deal from us to do these roles with the endless evening meetings and probably more than the occasional moan at home about the things we see and hear; I personally think this day should not be a day when we discuss Council business but a day when we say thank you to our partners for putting up with the life of a Councillor.

So beyond the debate ahead, my focus is to be home in time to take Lisa out to dinner and remember to pick up those flowers.

It’s quite a packed day and I’m just off the Ipswich for a final check in with my Director to discuss my speech, then onto a 3 hour group meeting, grab a sandwich and then to the debate ahead, not to mention going on to FHDC (have done the same thing with a meeting today at 6pm) to approve the final decision on the Newmarket Home of Horseracing, a significant day in the life of Newmarket where one half of my family have lived for over a hundred years and I want to be there to play my part in that debate as well… hope the restaurant I’m taking Lisa to stays open late!

Across Suffolk over the past week no doubt Councillors have been putting the finishing touches to their speeches and as I wrote mine I pondered the past ones since my election as a Country Councillor and indeed what got me into politics in the first place was a County Council Budget.

Today we will be proposing a third successive year of 0% Council Tax increase and who knows what else, well I do for one! And it is such stark contrast to the appalling hikes of the last Labour/Liberal administration when in the face of considerable less financial pressure they simply put the council tax up by 11.9% in one year and 18.5% in another, that’s over a third in two years, as I write this I almost have to check the facts as its difficult to believe they could be so utterly arrogant and feckless with people hard earned money, quite shocking.

Beyond the sanity we have brought to the Council, there is lots more I could say but that is for this afternoon, but one of thing I shall reflection on is the brilliant way my officers in ACS have responded to the challenges, the quite amazing way they have embarked on the journey I have demanded and the outstanding work they are doing.

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