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12.10.18

Councils consider unitary bid in potential split from East Sussex local government

Eastbourne and Lewes councils have held talks about breaking away from the cash-strapped East Sussex County Council and forming an independent unitary authority.

Lewes District Council and Eastbourne Borough Council have held an informal “sharing of ideas” session about the possibility of breaking away from county council control amid a funding crisis.

Andy Smith, leader of Lewes District Council, and David Tutt, Eastbourne Borough Council leader, said the two local authorities have worked well together by “putting to one side our political differences” and focusing on “high-quality delivery of services that are essential to our communities.”

The two councils have clarified that conversations so far have been “informal” but have explored the feasibility of unitary status authorities in East Sussex.

East Sussex County Council faces a financial crisis and is looking at major reductions to core services to tackle a budget deficit of around £46m by 2021-22. The county council set out plans to strip back services in August and has warned it might only be able to offer services it is legally obliged to provide.

Smith and Tutt said: “As council leaders for Lewes district and Eastbourne borough, we have had recent successful experience of introducing new and innovative ways of working.

“This has enabled us to allow a more sustainable model of public service delivery to emerge whilst at the same time making significant financial savings and avoiding the need to cut any frontline services.”

They said that they are exploring “all potential options and opportunities for the future sustainability of local government,” including the feasibility of a unitary authority.

“However, the most important thing at this time is for colleagues across the county, regardless of political belief, to share experience and views in progressing this important debate,” the leaders explained.

Northamptonshire CC voted in favour of proposals to create a unitary authority back in August, as it looks to make radical cuts to fight a £70m budget deficit.

Northamptonshire’s financial woes have been widely nationally reported since it became the first council in 20 years to issue a section 114 order, followed by a second spending ban in July.

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Image credit - LanceB

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