A COUNCIL’S spending plans for the year ahead represent ‘a sensible approach in tough times’, a senior councillor has said. Cllr David Elkin, East Sussex County Council lead member for resources, was speaking after a meeting of the full council approved a budget which will see £18 million of savings made in the new financial year.
The reduction will bring to £67 million the savings the council has made over three years, as the squeeze on funding from central government continues. The council agreed £366 million of net spending for 2015-16 and pledged to focus on its priorities of protecting the vulnerable, boosting economic growth and helping people to help themselves. Council also approved raising council tax by 1.95 per cent to protect key services, representing an increase of 44p a week for a band D property. Cllr Elkin said that the financially challenging climate meant the council had to have an ever sharper focus on its priorities. He said: “We should be under no illusions that the continuing austerity we are facing means we have to cut our cloth accordingly. “We’ve done everything we can in recent years to minimise the effect on services as much as possible, but we can’t avoid the fact that in tough times, difficult decisions have to be made. “The budget which council has approved is evidence of the sensible and prudent approach we’ve taken, and will continue to take, with our increasingly limited resources. “Increasing council tax will help us to protect the services which really matter to people.” The budget comes in the wake of a cut of more than a third in the core grant the council receives from central government since 2011-12, at a time when the county’s ageing population is creating growing demand for services. Around two thirds of the authority’s spending goes to children’s services and adult social care, including £50 million on care and support for older people, almost £45 million on learning disabilities and £35 million on supporting children and families. The budget will also see £27 million on the environment and £22 million on transport and highways. Meanwhile, in the new financial year, £139 million will be ploughed into one-off projects such as road improvements, schools, libraries, social care facilities and measures to stimulate the local economy.