The ‘blunt truth’ according to one East Sussex County Councillor (ESCC) is that the authority simply doesn’t have enough money to do the things it used to do.
Speaking at a meeting of the full council yesterday Councillor John Barnes warned his colleagues that the level of cost savings they have been forced to make in recent years was likely to continue for a further two years putting more services at risk. Since 2010 ESCC has already saved £129 million.
Next week the council’s cabinet will be presented with a stark report that looks at the next three years and presents a realistic picture of the basic level of council services which may be offered in the face of continued intense pressures on ESCC’s finances.
Rather than continuing to cut services bit-by-bit each year, the council’s ‘core offer’ is designed to be clear about how much money the county council needs to fulfil its duties, offer support to those most in need, deliver sufficient early help and prevention to be sustainable and continue to support economic development.
Becky Shaw, Chief Executive, said: “Careful planning, efficiency savings, innovation, hard work and commitment to our four key priorities has enabled us to make the best use of our dwindling resources, but the pressure created by local residents’ needs cannot be met by income raised locally.
“Having transformed our services and saved £129 million since 2010, we need to be realistic about what further budget cuts will mean for the residents, communities and businesses of East Sussex.
“Our core offer paints an honest picture of the minimum that we realistically need to provide in the future and we want to use this as the basis for discussion with the Government, partner organisations and residents in East Sussex.”
The core offer includes services for vulnerable children and adults with critical or substantial need, sufficient maintenance of highways, trading standards and road safety services, a core library and information service, a limited number of household waste disposal centres and statutory planning functions.
Based on Government funding and the county’s demographic, the State of the County report projects three financial scenarios, the worst-case demanding further savings of up to £46 million by 2021/22.
As well as significant reductions in funding from central Government, demand for social care is soaring and will continue to do so with more than a quarter of East Sussex residents aged 65 or over, a ratio the country as a whole will not reach until 2031. By then the percentage of East Sussex residents over 65 is projected to reach 33 per cent, compared to a national average of 22 per cent.
There is also a steady increase in the number and complexity of children who are vulnerable or who have special needs requiring support, as well as the costly challenge of providing sufficient school places in the right areas.
Lobbying of Central Government continues in a bid to highlight East Sussex’s specific challenges and push for a fairer funding deal for its residents.
ESCC leader Councillor Keith Glazier has written to James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about the ‘counterproductive choices’ the council has been forced to make.
Cabinet will be asked to consider the State of the County report and agree to the development of the council’s core offer when it meets on Tuesday, July 17.
The full report can be found online.
The meeting will be able to watch live online at https://eastsussex.public-i.tv