Protecting vulnerable key in tough times, says council

COUNCILLORS in East Sussex are being asked to back a budget and council plan which focuses resources on key priorities that include protecting the vulnerable – amid a continued squeeze on funding.

At its meeting next week (Tuesday, January 27 2015), East Sussex County Council’s cabinet will consider proposed savings of £18 million in the new financial year which begins in April.

The reduction would bring the total savings the authority has had to make over three years   to £67 million. The saving is needed mainly because of a cut in the core grant that central government gives to East Sussex – down by a third, or 34 per cent, in the past five years.

The proposed budget, which will be put to a vote of the full council next month, also includes raising council tax by 1.95 per cent to help maintain valued services. This increase would equate to 44 pence a week for a Band D property.

The budget and council plan would focus spending on the council’s priorities of protecting vulnerable residents, driving economic growth and helping people to help themselves, for example by giving them more choice over their care.

Around two-thirds of the council’s £365 million net spending goes to Children’s Services and Adult Social Care – which support the county’s most vulnerable residents.

The proposed budget would include spending £49 million on care and support for older people, almost £45m on learning disabilities and £35 million on support for children and families.

In other areas the budget proposes spending more than £22 million on transport and highways and £26 million on the environment.

Spending plans also propose £139m investment in one-off capital projects for the year ahead, including almost £15 million to extend super-fast broadband in East Sussex.

Cllr David Elkin, lead member for resources, said: “The continuing reduction in our funding means we have less money to spend even as demand for our services is rising, especially as a result of an ageing population.

“We’ve proven in recent years that we can be trusted to act prudently and responsibly, but the climate of austerity we’re operating in means more difficult decisions have to be made.

“An increase in council tax is not something we treat lightly, but would help us control our resources at a time of great uncertainty and ensure we can continue to run the services which really matter to people.”

Cabinet will consider the draft budget at its meeting on Tuesday, January 27 2015, before making a recommendation to full council, which will reach a final decision on Tuesday, February 10 2015.