Godfrey fears council deal offers ‘no hope’ for local people

There’s ‘no hope’ for local people while the current government is in office.

That’s the stark message from Godfrey Daniel, on of Hastings’ representatives on East Sussex County Council (ESCC). Mr Daniel was speaking shortly after ESCC published its ‘core offer’ which is a basic package of services the council believes is the minimum that residents should reasonably expect to be offered.

The package would see further cuts to library services, delays in assessing a young person’s special educational needs, fewer waste recycling sites, less maintenance to rights of way, less support to schools and in terms of serving the public the ‘core offer’ says: “…we will expect people to use the online resources available and will provide automated responses wherever possible, so people may not always get an individualised reply to enquires”.

Speaking to Hastings in Focus Mr Daniel said: “Despite their words, the Conservatives seem determined to continue the harsh treatment of public services on which the people of East Sussex depend. Far from ending, austerity is to set to further worsen so many peoples’ lives. I can see no hope under a Conservative Government – the Labour Party is not perfect, but offers us the best hope for the future.”

The core offer package is called Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources and if implemented would see swingeing cuts to services across virtually every area of service currently provided by ESCC, earlier in the year during a debate on plans to develop the core offer programme Mr Daniel told an ESCC meeting: “this is what austerity looks like.”

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Godfrey Daniel

He went on: “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.”

ESCC’s core offer, will be discussed by the authority’s Conservative only cabinet next week. It outlines ESCC’s ambitions for services which meet residents’ ‘vital needs’ and which are ‘value for money’.

The core offer includes reductions in some services but the council would still deliver not just services it is required to provide by law but also investment in the East Sussex economy.

The core offer includes key services such as highways maintenance, support for older people and vulnerable adults and safeguarding children at risk. It also includes preventative services for families with children and some continuing work with schools on standards, although these will be reduced.

However, the council says the core offer will not be sustainable for long unless East Sussex receives more funding. The authority has already saved £129 million since 2010, due in part to cuts in Government funding but also to rising costs and soaring demand for services, including from an increasingly aged population. It also faces a further funding gap of up to £46m by 2022.

The report to next week’s cabinet lists the £12.3 million of savings that could be made by adopting the core offer in the three years to 2022, but says further savings of up to £33.4 million could still be required in a ‘worst-case scenario’.

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Chief Executive Becky Shaw and ESCC leader Keith Glazer

ESCC leader, Councillor Keith Glazier said: “We’d all like to provide more than a core service because none of us came into politics to make cuts, but this proposal is presented as a realistic ambition in a time of austerity.

“As an efficient and well-managed council, we’ve shown how much we can deliver for East Sussex, even in a severe financial climate. Agreeing a basic but decent core offer will help us continue that and we’ll make sure every penny spent has the greatest possible impact.

“This will also define our discussion with residents, partners and the Government about the role the county council can play in future and what others can do to help us meet the needs of people and businesses here in East Sussex.”

Council Chief Executive Becky Shaw will tell members: “The Council is using its best endeavours to live within its means and is continuing to work to make sure it is making the best use of resources.

“It remains unlikely, however, that even the Core Offer will be sustainable by the end of the next three year planning period. Lobbying will continue, therefore, to try to achieve a realistic settlement from Government in the short term leading up to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

“We will also make the case that in the long term, a truly ‘fair funding review’ needs to recognise that the resources needed to meet local needs cannot be raised from East Sussex residents and businesses. The economy and demography of the county mean that it is imperative that national funding solutions are found to fund the growth in demand for social care for older people.”

Services under threat

Libraries – the core offer report says he council: “may in future provide a reduced library service.”

Waste management – the document says: “there may be further reductions in the number of household waste recycling sites in the county.”

Economy & Trading Standards: “there will be a reduction in our preventative and support work, to business, to people vulnerable to scams and the reduction in routine inspection may increase public health risks.”

Highways & Transport: “we will reduce our maintenance of rights of way and expect landowners to maintain footpaths on their land.”

Schools: “we won’t offer a school clerking service; we won’t offer our current programme of support to schools to help them to improve; we will reduce the support to develop school partnerships, federations or move to academy status.”

Children at risk: “we will reduce the training and preventative services that social workers can use to work with children and families. Though not statutory, these services are an important contributor to preventing children requiring a child protection plan or being taken into care; a reduction in the Early Help offer to families. A review, which will include consultation, is underway. Consideration will be given to working with fewer families and focussing our support to those families most at risk of social care intervention and the problems that are most likely to lead to crisis (mental health, substance misuse and domestic violence).”

Special education: there will be a reduction in the timeliness of our response to assessment of SEN; we will set up fewer annual review meetings, including post 16 students, which may mean that fewer plans are ceased and costs within plans may increase; there will be a reduction in the preventative activity that we undertake with schools to support children with additional needs to be successful and remain in mainstream education.

Customer service: “we will expect people to use the online resources available and will provide automated responses wherever possible, so people may not always get an individualised reply to enquires.”

 

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