County Councillors Report – Keith Welham

In Touch Community News

Suffolk County Council Financial Budget

SCC is currently going through its process towards approving the budget for 2023/24. At the beginning of January, the Scrutiny Committee discussed the papers in preparation for them to go to Cabinet and then Full Council. The Conservative budget proposes a 3.99% increase in tax, broken down into a 2% rise in the Social Care Precept and a 1.99% increase in general tax. The Council aim to make most of its savings through increasing the number of unfunded vacancies amongst the Council’s workforce. Our group consider that funding of those unfilled vacancies, many of them in adult social care, should be included in the budget. Those posts need to be filled to provide adequate social care in the community so that patients who have no medical need to remain in hospital can return home or to residential care. 

Our group propose an increase in the general tax rate closer to the Government-recommended amount, which will be a 0.89% increase above the Conservative proposal. This equates to a £9.94 a year, or a 19p per week extra, for a Band B property, and would generate just over £3.3m. We would:

  • Allocate £1m to actively recruit and employ Occupational Therapists and Social Workers,
  • Invest more into Suffolk Libraries to help maintain their extra, essential, services through the cost-of-living crisis,
  • Invest £1m in improving community transport to help achieve Net Zero through EV vehicle usage.
  • Employ a Carbon Budget Officer to oversee development of a clearer pathway towards Net Zero,
  • Carry out a county-wide review of speed limits.

Suffolk County Council Carbon Budget

The Scrutiny Committee met in January to discuss the Carbon Budget. It is apparent that SCC is not on track to reach Net Zero by 2030. Current forecasts show that SCC will still be producing 10,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2030 – that’s still half of what we are emitting now. Our Group believes that more needs to be done to improve the accuracy of calculating all of SCC’s emissions, which is why we have proposed a Carbon Budget Officer is employed to provide a sole focus on improving the reporting of carbon emissions. 

Further Investment in Trees and Hedgerows

SCC are planning to invest £110,000 in managing and inspecting trees and hedgerows. The money will be used to ensure that trees and hedgerows are given the best chance to thrive. Currently, the Council has planted around 50,000 trees and hedges this planting season. This comes as the latest science indicates trees can capture nearly twice the amount of carbon as previously thought. Our Group believes this highlights the greater need to plant more trees and, more importantly, how crucial it is to avoid unnecessary felling of trees. 

Public Transport S106 contribution

I contacted Simon Barnett, SCC Passenger Transport, and he has received an email from Bloor Homes with regard to using S106 monies for bus services between the village and Stowmarket. However, the matter is still not resolved. SCC have confirmed that no S106 monies have been used for the current service provided by Dan’s Coaches.

SID application

The application has been acknowledged and further photographs submitted. We await details of precise agreed locations and estimated cost of new posts. Westcotec will then be approached for updated cost information and timescale for providing the equipment.

Trinity Walk and FP39 and FP46

Josh White, the Community Liaison Engineer, will be providing options and costings for works to prevent parking at the end of Trinity Walk and improvement to the footpath alongside the Freeman School Playing Field.

Other highways issues

I will be meeting Josh White to discuss a range of highways concerns, including Devon Road and the High School Access.

New Highways Contract

Tenders are currently being assessed; the name of the successful tenderer and some details of the contract will be known in the near future. We can anticipate that the changeover period will result in delays to works which we have already been waiting for a very long time to be carried out. / 01449 673 185 / 07831 705 714

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