COUNCILLORS in East Sussex have voted to raise council tax by 3.99 per cent – to mitigate the impact on vulnerable residents of continued cuts to its funding.
The increase, equivalent to 92p a week extra for a Band D property, includes a two per cent levy, the maximum authorised by the Government, to offset some of the savings the authority must make from adult social care services.
A full meeting of East Sussex County Council approved a budget which will see £369 million net budget spent on services in the new financial year – including £228 million on adult social care and children’s services to protect the most vulnerable in society.
However, council leader Cllr Keith Glazier said the fact the council would have to save of £20 million in 2016-17 and £70 million by 2019 meant an impact on residents was ‘unavoidable’.
The budget includes an extra £2.7 million transitional grant above the original Government funding settlement for 2016-17, and £2.7 million extra in 2017-18, after additional funding was awarded following lobbying by the council to ministers.
Last month, all political group leaders on the council wrote to David Cameron to voice their ‘significant concerns’ over funding cuts, which they said would ‘significantly reduce the quality of life’ for many people in the county.
Cllr Glazier said: “Having already had to save £78 million since 2010, we have cut our spending back to the bone, leaving us with very little room left to manoeuvre.
“The council tax increase gives us a little bit of leeway to preserve funding for some adult social care services which we would otherwise have had to stop – but the cuts to our funding mean we can’t avoid making savings which will affect the community.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we ask residents to part with their hard-earned money, but asking people to pay a bit more will help protect some services which make a real difference to vulnerable people.
“We believe the budget which members have approved does as much as possible for people in East Sussex in the toughest financial climate we’ve ever seen.”
The budget includes £164 million spending on adult social care, including residential and home care for the elderly and support for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues.
It also includes £65 million for children’s services – including supporting looked-after children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities – and £61 million on communities, economy and transport – including roads and libraries.
The £20 million savings for 2016-17 include £8.1 million from adult social care – £1.9 million less than originally envisaged as a result of income from the two per cent ‘social care levy’.
The budget for 2016/17 also includes £129 million of capital spending for one-off projects, including £18 million on highways structural maintenance.
The savings which will be made means the council, which has already reduced the number of senior managers by a quarter since 2010, expects to lose the equivalent of between 100 and 150 full-time posts in the next financial year.
Full details and the council’s plan for 2016-17, which sets out its ambitions and objectives for the year ahead, are available in the budget papers at https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=150&MId=2259&Ver=4