It was a feisty meeting of East Sussex County Council’s cabinet this morning as councillor’s met to discuss the authority’s ‘core offer’.
Since 2010 ESCC has cut £129 million from its budget and faces the need to trim tens of millions more in the coming two years. This morning’s cabinet meeting gave the go ahead for the council’s officials work out what it would cost the council just to meet the minimum statutory level of service – its core offer.
Before giving their agreement there were some heated exchanges with council leader Keith Glazier intervening on a number of occasions to cut speakers short or request that they stick to the point. Towards the end of the meeting Mr Glazier told his colleagues: “In the five years I have been leader I have enjoyed the working relationship we have had. But recently I have found meetings to be personally and politically offensive and none of us come in to this chamber for that.
“We face a really serious problem and if you don’t get that then you have to get it very soon.”
He went on to pay tribute to council offers who work to achieve, “the least worst scenarios” when it comes to making spending cuts. Mr Glazier assured members that his Conservative group lobby the government hard to provide the cash resources that the council needs.
Hastings councillor Godfrey Daniel told the meeting: “I can only hope there is a general election soon because without one there is no hope for local services, no hope for local councils and no hope for local people.”
And he called for council officials to prepare a document that lists the services the council provides that would need to be lost if it was to cut back to basics and provide just a core offer.
“I’d like to see a document that says what is not in the core offer, for example I see no mention in the core offer of public service bus subsidy…” said Mr Daniel.
He told colleagues: “When people hear about austerity this is what it means; these terrible cuts having a terrible affect on people as a direct result of the government’s policies.”
Councillor David Tutt described the report before them as, “very, very sad,” while Councillor Philip Daniel said it was “very depressing”.
The report set out ESCC’s current four priorities that are: Driving sustainable economic growth; keeping vulnerable people safe; helping people help themselves and making best use of resources.
The council’s ability to make the ‘best use of resources’ is a test that is applied to all activities.
Members heard that demand for Adult Social Care (ASC) will continue to increase, both as a result of the growth in the proportion of older people and the complexity of their needs with increasing as people live longer.
The proportion of people over 65 in East Sussex is considerably higher than nationally – 25.6 per cent in East Sussex compared to 18 per cent in England as a whole. By 2022 this will have risen to 26.7 per cent (19per cent in England) and by 2031 it will be 31 per cent in East Sussex (22 per cent in England). The proportion of those aged over 85 is already significantly higher in East Sussex than nationally and will continue to rise sharply. It is this group that are the most likely to need council services.
It is because so much has already been cut from the council’s budget with more still to save, that ESCC decided it now needed to set out a ‘core offer’ . This is made up of the realistic level of service the council is obliged to provide by statute and also to meet real local need.
It was explained that the ‘core offer’ needed to include an element of ‘early intervention and prevention’ to head off a potential escalation of urgent need and more expensive interventions. It also has to include work to support the economy of the county – helping to ensuring that local people have access to well paid, high quality employment.
It was suggested to councillors that a ‘core offer’ was developed on the following basis:
Provide sufficient maintenance to keep our highways, footpaths, verges, street lighting and traffic signals safe to use.
Provide core archives and records services; provide a statutory trading standards service (e.g. inspections and sampling for high risk food, animal disease control and prosecutions and enforcement actions); provide a statutory road Safety service to carry out studies into road accidents, and take measures to prevent such accidents; undertake road safety audits on all internal highway improvement schemes; provide a modern and sustainable library and information service, based on current and future needs and set up support for communities who wish provide a more local service.
Provide a Gypsy and travellers service and maintain Bridies Tan transit site and the four permanent traveller sites in East Sussex; provide a core emergency planning service and
provide registration services.
Manage the national concessionary fares scheme in East Sussex and operate civil parking enforcement where it has been implemented.
Act as a strategic authority that intervenes, in partnership, decisively and cost effectively where it can make a difference, especially by levering in external funding.
Dispose of household waste collected by the borough and district councils (Integrated Waste Management Services (PFI) Contract) and provide a limited number of household waste disposal centres.
Planning & Environment
Statutory planning service and development control service; statutory flood risk management and statutory strategic transport planning (including delivery of the local transport plan).
Support to schools and pupils
Plan for the right number of school places in the right locations in the county administer a school admission process; commission and purchase home to school transport where there is a statutory duty to do so; safeguard children and young people; manage referrals and undertake statutory assessments of children with SEND and commission suitable placements; monitor performance of all schools: advise the Regional Schools Commissioner about concerns relating to academies and identify support for maintained schools at risk of being judged to have serious weaknesses or being placed in special measures by OFSTED; work with schools to support vulnerable pupils who are at risk of or have been excluded or who are not attending and ensure children who are being educated at home receive suitable provision.
Children’s Social Care
Provide care and support for children and young people where there is evidence that they have suffered significant harm or are at immediate risk of significant harm and provide an alternative home for children who are unable to live with their parents or in their extended family; commission the health visiting service to undertake statutory checks and provide help and advice to parents; provide key worker support for those families covered by the Government’s Trouble Family programme and payments and
arrange youth provision where others fund it but think we are best placed to deliver.
Older people and working age adults
Assess and meet critical and substantial need and commission and deliver services that meet that need directly or through the independent and voluntary sectors; engage with the market to ensure that they are aware of and can meet current and future need and Ensure a robust safeguarding system to protect vulnerable people.
- This will be delivered through:
Health and Social Care Connect – which allows people to report abuse or neglect; apply for care and support; and o get support for a carer.
- Locality Teams – multidisciplinary teams of professionals from health and social care. These can include nurses, therapists, social workers and proactive care practitioners to provide consistent care for local people;
- Joint Community Rehabilitation – occupational therapists, physiotherapists and support workers to provide re-ablement and rehabilitation services which help people restore or minimise loss of function and maximise independence and/or wellbeing; equipment and technology to support independent living; and supporting people – where it provides a replacement for direct care.
How the council will operate under a ‘core offer’.
Councillors will be supported to fulfil their role as the democratic voice of local people; the council will be open and transparent about what it does and the decisions it makes. It will provide information about how it run things and will engage with local people and communities about their aspirations for their lives and respond to their feedback and it pledges to provide, “the best possible customer service.”
Councillor John Ungar told the meeting: “I can’t see how the council can avoid making cuts on top of cuts that affect in a detrimental way the council’s ability to provide services.” While Philip Daniel warned that the council,was in an impossble position.
“We simply do not know what the funding position will be. the report suggests a £46 million deficit in 2021/22 but there is a variance of £30 million either way…” he told colleagues.
Councillor Carl Maynard warned councillors not to be alarmist an reminded them there were positives pointing to the council’s economic regeneration policies which he said had been “effective”.
“We are ensuring East Sussex remains a prosperous place to live and work,” he said.
After a discussion lasting more than an hour councillors agreed to ask officials to go back and provide detailed costings for a ‘core offer’ and to report back to later in the autumn.