Suffolk leaders call for new Prime Minister Boris Johnson to commit to investing in county
A plea has been made to the new prime minister for better investment in Suffolk, as public sector chiefs come together to outline the county’s priorities.
Leaders in education, health, business and policing are among those to have shared their case for fairer funding in the county, following the confirmation that Boris Johnson is the new PM and Conservative party leader.
The county has been snubbed for central government funding in key problem areas in recent months – including high street regeneration, knife crime and vital highways investment.
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore has not been afraid to voice his frustrations at central government’s approach to funding police in Suffolk.
Data from September last year published by the National Audit Office suggested real terms cash from central government had fallen by 29 per cent, prompting Mr Passmore to brand it a “lousy deal”.
It has forced the PCC to hike precepts up by 12.5 per cent last year, cut back on the number of PCSOs, and, following the news that Suffolk would not be getting a single penny of a £100million pot for tackling youth violence, he said: “The funding has gone once again to urban areas and I am pretty sick and tired of this.”
Other issues have included delays in transferring civil parking enforcement powers from police to local councils because there was no room in the parliamentary timetable to debate it, and concerns over sentencing for sexual offences.
He said: "My request to the new PM will be the same as my request to the previous PM and Home Secretary and that is Suffolk Constabulary should get a more equitable financial settlement, which reflects the challenges our county faces.
"At the very least I would expect us to be funded on the same per capita basis as neighbouring Norfolk, in which case our grant would be £3.5million higher, which would be a significant increase to the current total budget.
"I would also like to make the point that when additional funding is allocated for serious knife and drug crime for example, Suffolk misses out. I would ask that the challenges Suffolk faces with regard to county lines is taken more seriously by Government.
"Somehow, we have to make sure the new PM understands that if they only put the money into urban areas, there will be displacement into rural areas like Suffolk."
Frontline primary healthcare services such as GPs are having to withstand much of the demand pressure amid strangled budgets.
Dr Ed Garratt, executive lead for the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System, said: “The new Prime Minister will be well aware of the financial pressures on the NHS, particularly on primary care services.
“Despite being short of our share of the national funding allocation, we are still delivering great outcomes, as evidenced by the ‘outstanding’ ratings recently given to all three of our clinical commissioning groups.”
The British Medical Association has been lobbying for better funding, and said: “The NHS is facing unprecedented demand across almost all services and as a result of this doctors are being asked to work in an overstretched, under-resourced health service.
“We emphasise that this is unprecedented and that demand must be matched with increasing investment, based on a realistic assessment of what is needed to meet the health needs of current and future generations.”
Soaring demand for special educational needs provision, home to school transport and core funding for schools has been a persistent problem nationwide.
Suffolk is part of the F40 group of the lowest 42 funded authorities for education, lobbying government for a fairer settlement.
Education cabinet member at Suffolk County Council, Gordon Jones, said: "I would urge our new Prime Minister to consider fairer funding for more rural counties, so in Suffolk we can support and protect all of the county’s children and young people fairly, including those who are most vulnerable.
"Suffolk is a low funded authority which is why we are active members of the F40 group where we tirelessly campaign with ministers and MPs on a national and local level for fairer funding.
"The current National Funding Formula does not reflect the needs in Suffolk and like the F40 group we believe there should be some fundamental changes to the formula to make it fairer.
"Our high needs block funding for children with special educational needs and disability is particularly challenging with demand increasing and funding remaining at historical levels.
"The cost of home to school transport is also a significant cost pressure to our base budget, currently costing us as much as our front line social workers, which is not sustainable."
More by this authorJason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter