Suffolk’s priorities announced

Mark Bee and George Nobbs, leaders of Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils ENGANL00120131121113223
Mark Bee and George Nobbs, leaders of Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils ENGANL00120131121113223

Suffolk County Council’s priorities for the next three years include raising education attainment, improving the county’s road network and supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities, the authority’s leader announced on Friday.

Addressing all of Suffolk’s county councillors on a day marking the council’s 40th birthday, Councillor Mark Bee, said: “The next three years are going to see some major changes. While our budget may be significantly reduced, we certainly have no intention of simply sitting here talking while services are crudely pared back.

“On the contrary, we believe there is a way of protecting frontline services that the people of Suffolk value the most. To do so, we are going to oversee the most radical redesign this council has ever seen. A leaner, more focused organisation that, through strong financial management, innovation, local leadership and market development, will provide or enable the provision of good-quality services for the people of Suffolk. And all with a heavy dose of pragmatism – focusing on what works.”

During his speech, he outlined the council’s five priorities between now and 2017 – some a continuation of previous focal points, and some new. The priorities are:

· Raising educational attainment and skill levels.

· Supporting the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to increase economic growth.

· Maintaining roads and developing Suffolk’s infrastructure.

· Supporting those most vulnerable in our communities.

· Empowering local communities.

Councillor Bee added:“We want to create a council that is more responsive, adaptable and continuously developing services in creative ways, listening to communities and in tune with people’s aspirations – with Suffolk’s aspirations.

“Living within our means can be tough. It means thinking strategically, planning carefully and making difficult decisions. We can secure the savings we need and the changes that are required. And, we can secure the future for Suffolk.”

Improving education attainment remains Suffolk County Council’s top priority. Councillor Bee continued: “We recognise what a long-term goal this is, dealing with issues dating back around 20 years. We also operate in a complex and constantly-changing educational environment. But, slowly, we are starting to see early signs of our work bearing fruit. In the cabinet changes I have made over the last month, I wanted to make a clear statement about education, and give it the pure focus it needs and deserves. And that is why I have asked Lisa Chambers to focus on education and skills.”

Council officers will now be tasked with putting these political decisions and directions into practice, with delivery being overseen by councillors. A business plan will first be developed to guide this work.

During his speech, Councillor Bee paid tribute to Councillor Guy McGregor, the council’s outgoing chairman. He also welcomed the authority’s new chairman, Councillor Chris Hudson, and vice chairman, Councillor Jane Storey. He said: “I would like to pay tribute to Councillor McGregor, to thank him for his year of service as chairman, and congratulate him on the money raised for the Town Pastors, his chosen charity. I know he has taken a great personal hand in raising money over the course of the year, including a spell in prison. The images of him in his kilt and brandishing a sword, as part of his fund-raising activity, will certainly live long in the memory.

“May I congratulate Councillor Hudson on his new role. I’m sure he will serve the office with distinction, look forward to his year in the role, and wish him well in his duties over the coming months. I would also like to congratulate Councillor Storey on her new role as vice chairman. Jane has been a stalwart of the county council for many years now. She is well deserving of the honour placed upon her by the county council today.”