COUNCIL leaders will meet next week to discuss how its £371million budget will continue to protect the most vulnerable as financial pressure builds.
East Sussex County Council’s cabinet will face tough choices as it looks at options to save a further £17 million in 2018/19 with the county’s funding being cut and demand for services rising.
Although lower than the original estimate of £22million, this year’s savings would bring the amount saved by the council since the start of the decade to £130million – enough money to provide care for 6,500 vulnerable adults or repair 2.6 million potholes.
The suggested 2018/19 savings target was lowered thanks to careful planning, efficiency savings and the Government allowing local authorities to increase council tax by a further one per cent – a move that would generate an additional £2.6million for services in East Sussex.
The proposed budget includes the three per cent precept allowed by Government in 2017 to meet part of the rising cost of social care and an increase in council tax of 2.99 per cent. This would mean the typical East Sussex property would pay an additional £1.51 a week for county council services.
Cllr David Elkin, deputy leader and lead member for resources, said: “Asking residents to pay more would not be something we would do lightly, but the additional contribution would help us support the most frail of our growing elderly population and children in care.
“Even with the money a council tax increase would generate, and the additional efficiency savings we have been able to identify, we have some very tough choices to make to deliver a balanced budget.”
The proposals Cabinet will be discussing involve changing the way services are delivered and stopping some services altogether, while ensuring support is available for the most vulnerable.
The suggested savings include proposals to:
• Reduce the county’s network of library buildings
• Reduce the number of household waste and recycling sites and introduce charging for some types of non-household waste
• Reduce the range and level of a number of adult social care services
• Reduce support for performance and improvement in schools.
Cllr Elkin added: “Through the course of last year we have attempted to highlight to Government the ongoing challenges the county faces, and we are grateful of the cross-party support our Stand Up for East Sussex campaign received.
“While we still face a significant shortfall in funding we will, wherever possible, make savings from back office or support services.
“We’ve already reduced the number senior managers at the council by 30 per cent since 2010, and the 2018/19 budget includes proposed savings of £1.4million generated by the sharing of finance, IT and HR functions with other local authorities under the Orbis partnership.”
The proposed budget also includes £99.3million of capital investment in the year ahead, including support to provide extra school places and transport improvements for drivers, cyclists and walkers.
Cabinet meets on Tuesday, January 23, to consider the budget proposals and make recommendations to full council. Full Council is expected to make a final decision on the 2018/19 budget on Tuesday, February 6.
Full details of the proposals to be discussed by cabinet can be found at https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=133&MId=2974&Ver=4
The Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, January 23, which starts at 10am, will be available to watch online at https://eastsussex.public-i.tv