ImageSuffolk County Council  have approved their budget for 2014/2015. Whilst there are considerable savings being made, some reserves are being run down and the overall effect is a zero increase in the Council Tax. The vote was 45 to 20 with one abstention. The Conservatives had some support from the Liberal-Democrats and whole hearted support from UKIP. The Labour Party voted against claiming that the reserves should be run down further – forgetting the reason why reserves are needed. They are for planned future capital spending and for emergencies. We can no longer claim that they are for rainy days since in the current fiscal climate all days are rainy days.
Surprisingly, the approval was not unanimous, which suggests that there are still representatives of the public who think that all problems can be solved by throwing money at them.
Many years ago when studying the Theory & Practice of Foreign Exchange I learned that Money has three functions. It is unit of account, a medium of exchange and a store of value. Listening to my Labour colleagues at County I realised that money has a fourth function – it is there to be spent. Let’s all be afraid for the future because this is the thinking that got us into trouble in the first place!
Earlier this week the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) got his budget approved by Suffolk’s Police and Crime Panel. Again a zero increase. The PCC explained to the Panel his rationale for recommending that there be no increase in the precept, helping financially stretched citizens in the county, and receiving the government’s 1% freeze grant. There would be an underspend in the Constabulary budget this year in the region of £800k, an amount which equated to around 2% of the precept. Funding grants had been received very recently for implementing automatic number plate recognition and enterprise resource projects collaboratively with Norfolk. There were some specific areas within the Constabulary where efficiency savings could be made, and which the Chief Constable is looking to address. The PCC was not willing to put up the precept for citizens when there were still significant efficiency savings that could be realised.
At District level we are once again going for the zero increase option.
Meanwhile, my Town Council is balancing its budgets by outing up its precept. Which is a fancy way of saying that we shall be paying more for our very local services.

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