Big questions for Suffolk County Council
THE EADT today puts questions about eight important issues to the leaders of Suffolk County Council on behalf of the community.
In response to the public spending cuts, the county council is planning to divest itself of many of the services which is traditionally provides. This huge change will affect each and every one of us in some way.
At the moment, there is a blank canvass, with very few details. Inevitably, with a lack of detailed information, there is a great deal of uncertainty and concern about what the future holds in many areas of life. In recent weeks, our letters pages have been dominated by this topic, with many of the correspondents seeking clarity. We believe these letters reflect the concerns of the wider community.
Given the tight timescale for the first of these changes to be introduced, we believe it is imperative that we start receiving some detailed answers from county council leader Jeremy Pembroke, chief executive Andrea Hill, and other decision-makers at Endeavour House.
The eight questions we have compiled on this page address what we believe to be the most important issues. We know that some people at the county council believe that the EADT is opposing their New Strategic Direction. This is not the case. We remain neutral. We know there are some very difficult decisions to be made. But we believe it is our role to challenge, and to ask the questions which we believe the people of Suffolk need to have answered.
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Yesterday, I personally gave Andrea Hill a copy of the questions which we publish today. I have asked her and her senior colleagues to provide answers within the next week. We will, of course, publish the responses in full.
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1. Impact on vulnerable people.
Has Suffolk County Council thought through all the implications of its new strategic direction, especially for the most vulnerable people?
? children at risk and families in need
• adults with disabilities, older people and carers
Has it anticipated the impacts?
What does Suffolk County Council think these impacts will be?
2. Local government’s moral and legal responsibilities.
Has Suffolk County Council thought through its (1) moral and (2) legal responsibilities to the most vulnerable people in the county?
Has it done this in the context also of other impacts over the next two/three years – e.g. reduced personal income, loss of employment, reduced welfare and housing benefits?
Does Suffolk County Council think that people will realistically be able to make the ‘choices’ and ‘take control’ of their circumstances in the way it proposes?
3. Linking things together.
Has Suffolk County Council a clear plan for linking together the changes proposed and their timescales?
• order of changes to specific services
• reduced budget spend on these services
• reduced Suffolk County Council workforce for these services
• development of potential new providers and transfer of services
When will we see evidence of such a plan?
4. Leadership capacity.
Does Suffolk County Council have the general leadership knowledge, experience and capacity for the scale and pace of changes proposed - and their implications, including unanticipated events?
Is there leadership knowledge, experience and capacity in Suffolk County Council to work through all the detail of the changes in a partnership way with council staff, service users, voluntary organisations and potential service providers?
How will the council build support for what is proposed?
5. Suffolk’s local economy.
What quantity of services does Suffolk County Council anticipate being provided by organisations which are not currently part of the Suffolk local economy?
What might be the loss to the Suffolk local economy?
Will Suffolk County Council prevent any net loss?
6. Suffolk County Council and the NHS.
Given the scale of parallel changes to the NHS in Suffolk which may impact on the same people, is there a joint plan about what will be the combined impacts on vulnerable people?
What might be the unintended consequences of unilateral action by either Suffolk County Council or the NHS?
How will this be prevented?
7. External advice and feedback.
What advice is SCC taking from others nationally or regionally about the changes proposed?
What has been the feedback received so far?
What is the risk that Suffolk County Council will prove unable to do successfully what it has said?
What then would be the reputation damage to Suffolk - as well as to Suffolk County Council?
8. ‘Pro-active and wide-ranging engagement’
On 23 September Suffolk County Council agreed formally that there ‘should be pro-active and wide-ranging engagement across Suffolk to establish whether the key new strategic direction proposals find favour with the communities we all represent before moving forward to implementation; and the findings from this engagement be reported back to full council at its meeting on 2 December.’
What pro-active and wide-ranging engagement has there been so far with:
? service users – children, parents, adults with disabilities, older people, carers?
? voluntary organisations – large and small; county-wide and local?
? local communities?
? Suffolk public generally?
? public media?
? staff of Suffolk County Council?
How widely are opportunities for this engagement being advertised?
How will the results be analysed?