Budget plan offers stability and prepares for future

COUNCIL leaders are set to discuss a £453 million budget which invests in vital services and helps prepare for future challenges.

The proposed 2022/23 budget ensures stability now, supporting services residents rely upon, and cancelling almost £900,000 of savings due to be made from the early help service which will mean continued support for vulnerable families.

A further £5 million is earmarked for extra spending on priority services in the year ahead, especially where investing now will reduce pressure for years to come.

The budget also allocates an extra £6m of investment to combat climate change between 2023-2025 and an extra £31m to further maintain roads infrastructure over the next 10 years.

This is on top of extra one-off spending of £5.8 million for roads and pavements and £3.1 million for climate change, which were both agreed in November and will largely be spent during 2022/23.

Despite the more positive picture, officers warn that future years could bring greater demand for services amid significant financial uncertainty with a possible funding gap of almost £10 million projected by 2025.

To help ensure East Sussex is prepared for tougher times, residents will be asked to pay an increased Council Tax precept to the county council under the latest plans – with residents in Band D properties paying an additional £1.33 per week.

This is made up of an annual base rise of 1.99 per cent in Council Tax allowed by the Government and an additional adult social care levy of 2.5 per cent which can be added to support services for the most vulnerable through a time of increased pressure and planned reforms of social care.

A report set to be presented to East Sussex County Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, January 25, says:

“The importance of the services provided by this Council has once again been evident over the past year of ongoing challenge and change, particularly the crucial support we provide for those in our county who are most vulnerable.

Additional funding announced, together with our prudent planning, means that, for now, our financial position remains secure, and for a third year we do not need to seek any further savings beyond those already planned.

“We will continue to use this window of stability to support recovery from Covid, prepare and protect services for the changes ahead and invest in key priorities for local people such as maintaining our roads and working to reduce our carbon emissions.

“However, the position beyond 2022/23 is much less clear…The updated financial outlook presented in this report therefore signals that we are likely to face a much more challenging position from 2023/24 onwards.”

The report sets out how the council continues to develop partnership working and find further efficiency savings, while making sure decisions are based on its key priorities – driving sustainable economic growth; keeping vulnerable people safe; helping people help themselves; and making best use of resources now and for the future.

It also refers to continuing lobbying efforts, the need to highlight the specific needs of East Sussex when pressing central Government for fair and sustainable allocation of funding that enables the authority to continue to meet the needs of its residents.

Cabinet members will be asked to consider the report and proposed 2022/23 budget and make recommendations to Full Council.

Full Council will be asked to make a final decision on the budget at its meeting on Tuesday, February 8.

To view the full Cabinet report, visit https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=133&MId=4774&Ver=4