‘GIVE us our fair share’– that’s the message delivered to Government by the deputy leader of East Sussex County Council.
Cllr David Elkin, the authority’s lead member responsible for finance, was speaking after travelling to Westminster to meet local government minister Brandon Lewis MP to discuss the level of funding the council receives from central government.
The authority has already seen a £31 million reduction in funding since April 2010 and is facing a further £78.5 million reduction over the next three financial years.
Cllr Elkin asked the minister for clarification on why local government had received such deep cuts, and for assurances that future funding would allow the council to continue to deliver the services its residents need.
He also asked for clarification on the restraints councils will face in the coming financial year, and in the long-term future, on setting council tax rates.
The majority of local authorities, including the county council, are currently required to hold a costly referendum on any increase of two per cent or more, while the Government is yet to announce the threshold for the coming financial year.
Cllr Elkin said: “I was grateful for the opportunity to meet the minister and we enjoyed a constructive discussion, but it was important I was frank with him about the impact funding cuts are having, and will continue to have, on the people of East Sussex.
“As a council, we are responsible for delivering quality services which really matter to residents, including supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society.
“Despite our strong track record on innovation and using limited resources effectively, the savings we’re having to make mean that unfortunately an impact on frontline services is unavoidable.
“We totally understand the need to reduce the deficit but savings must be distributed fairly. However, there is clear evidence that local government has been asked to bear more than its fair share of the burden.
“East Sussex has one of the highest proportions of elderly residents of any county in England and an increasingly ageing population and we feel strongly that any future financial settlement should take into account the added strain this places on our resources.
“With a potential reduction of £110million, or almost 30 per cent of our current net budget, it’s essential that we are able to plan ahead for the long-term future, which is why I asked the minister for clarity on the level of funding we can expect not just over the next two years but beyond.
“We know our patch better than anyone and that’s why we’d like the Government to trust us to deliver value for money for the taxpayer, including transparency around the setting of council tax.
“We’ve already had to make difficult decisions and many more lie ahead in the years to come. This meeting was about standing up for East Sussex and doing everything we can to ensure the county gets a fair deal, now and in the future.”