Positive picture as extra £8.85m included in budget plans

BUDGETS to tackle climate change and maintain pavements and roads could be boosted by more than £8 million as financial planning for 2022/23 begins.

Having had to make savings of more than £138 million over the past decade, East Sussex County Council’s cabinet will discuss the possible investment of an extra £8.85 million on crucial areas when it meets on Thursday, September 30.

A report on the current financial position, to be presented to council leaders, says: “Our track record of running our services effectively and efficiently, coupled with the impact of Covid-19 and additional one-off Government support during the pandemic, has given us a short-term opportunity to prepare for renewed challenges ahead and invest for the future.”

Cabinet members will be asked to approve a recommendation to set aside the funding for additional investment, which will be considered by full Council in October. If agreed, Cabinet will receive further reports in November setting out proposals for one-off investments in highways and climate change.

Next week’s meeting marks the start of early discussion about how best to use the estimated net £427 million council budget to deliver vital services. The report to Cabinet does not include any new savings next year.

Although the council’s careful financial planning gives a clear and accurate picture of its current position, the report stresses that much is still to be determined by national spending allocations, the impact of national reforms and the longer-term impact of the Covid pandemic.

While the outlook for the new financial year looks positive, the report warns of difficult years ahead with added pressures and uncertainty over future long-term funding.

The report says: “As a result of managing our resources carefully over many years, and with additional Government Covid support, we have been able to maintain stability in service provision through the period of the pandemic and our current financial position is secure. However, the financial outlook in the medium term remains very challenging and uncertain.

It adds: “We face a significant financial gap, the uncertain impact of national reforms in major service areas and await clarity on long-term funding arrangements, particularly for existing pressures in Adult Social Care, which continues to make planning difficult. Without further Government support or sustainable reform of local government finances we will not have the funding we need for the future.”

The Cabinet meeting on Thursday, September 30 will be available to watch live online. The full reports and a link to the webcast are available at https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=133&MId=4771&Ver=4