Conservative Surrey’s Budget: £22 million of Black Holes and No ‘Plan B’
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems
Members of Surrey County Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee were stunned today when the Conservative Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care announced that £19 million of savings in the budget for 2014/15 being discussed at the meeting of the Conservative Cabinet next week "will not be achieved". The savings are planned in the budget by switching care to "social capital" under the Friends, Family and Community Support programme.
Fiona White, the Liberal Democrat Adult Social Care spokesperson on Surrey County Council said: "It was clear from the beginning of this project that the proposed savings could not be made instantly and it would take several years to see the full effect of changes come through. I warned of problems at the time.
"It is refreshing that a member of the Conservative Cabinet has come clean about the problem, but this does leave a massive black hole in Surrey County Council's budget plans, which no councillor can now possibly support."
"If Surrey is to avoid unacceptable cuts in services it is essential that a realistic budget is set for Adult Social Care."
In another shock announcement the Cabinet Member for Business Services revealed that the Conservative Cabinet has no 'Plan B' if the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announces a Council Tax Referendum Threshold that is lower than 2%.
In December the Government announced that it would be setting a Council Tax threshold without holding a referendum of no more than 2%. The Conservative administration at County Hall has been planning its budget for 2014/15 based on a 1.99% Council Tax increase, on the assumption that it will be set at 2%. The Government will shortly be announcing what the actual Council Tax Referendum Threshold will be. There is widespread speculation that the threshold could be set at 1.5%.
Hazel Watson, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Surrey County Council said: "This would leave a further £3 million black hole in Surrey County Council's budget, which the Conservative Cabinet is discussing on Tuesday, 4 February. It is shocking that it has now been revealed that the Conservative Cabinet hasn't even considered a Plan 'B', and has no proposals for funding the shortfall.
"The County Council is less than two weeks away from setting its budget for 2014/15. The Conservative administration's budget is clearly unrealistic and has not been properly thought through."