Urgent action needed to safeguard council services

escc logoSAVINGS will have to be found from council services next year unless the government acts urgently to help, a report warns.

Mounting pressure could leave East Sussex County Council with a funding gap of as much as £55 million next year, making it impossible to maintain the current levels of service unless a better funding deal comes forward.

At its meeting on Tuesday, July 9, Full Council was presented with the latest financial position and the annual State of the County report – a detailed look at the area’s unique characteristics which helps paint a picture of the achievements and challenges of the past year and what the council can expect in the year ahead.

A decade of cuts to Government funding has meant East Sussex has had to make nearly £140 million of savings since 2012 whilst, in recent years, demand for services and costs have risen considerably.

In spite of this, the report highlights the 27,000 people supported through Adult Social Care services in 2023/24, the 30,000 families the council’s Children’s Services department has had contact with, the nearly two million items issued by the library services, the 250,000 tonnes of household and business waste dealt with by the waste team and the maintenance of over 2,000 miles of road, including repairing over 29,000 potholes in our roads and pavements.

Council Leader, Cllr Keith Glazier, said: “Years of careful financial planning has put the county council in the best possible position to deal with the growing pressures, but we have been very clear that, without fairer longer-term funding agreements, the level of service we could offer would eventually be more severely affected.

“Having already saved more than £140 million over the last decade and worked hard to find new and efficient ways to deliver the services people rely upon, we are now at the point where even our core offer – the basic but decent level of service we feel our residents deserve, is under threat.

“In light of the unsustainable financial position we find ourselves in, we have already taken steps to reduce our day-to-day spending where possible and are constantly reviewing all areas of the council’s work to ensure we continue to make the best use of every penny we are able to spend.”

East Sussex faces unique challenges which impact on the need for support and services in the county including around 25 per cent of the population being over 65 compared to a national figure of 18 per cent, , average wages remaining lower than the national average and 30,000 people the county living in some of the most deprived areas of England.

As work continues ahead of budget setting early in 2025, leaders of all parties at the county council will write to all the area’s newly elected MPs highlighting these challenges and calling for their help to preserve public services.

The letter will ask them to press the government for immediate extra financial support and make the case for long-term, sustainable funding arrangements for local government.

It will also ask for their backing for longer-term changes including;

  • A reform of the Special Educational Needs and Disability system to ensure funding better matches the priority needs of children and families
  • A long-term national funding settlement for social care for adults
  • Limits on the profits that commercial agencies, competing directly with local authorities, can make on placing children in residential care or providing agency staff

Cllr Glazier added: “There is still some way to go before we have to set a budget for 2025/26, no decisions have been made and we would consult the public on any significant changes to services.

“We will continue to work with officers and colleagues from all political parties to ensure East Sussex’s case is made to central government, and that any decisions take into account the views of our residents and supports our four priorities – driving sustainable economic growth, keeping vulnerable people safe, helping people help themselves and making best use of resources now and for the future.”