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06.08.18

East Sussex to slash services in Northamptonshire-style of spending cutback

Services at a Tory-led council are to be cut back to those most in need in an effort to prevent another Northamptonshire-style financial crisis that left the Midlands authority bankrupt.

East Sussex County Council’s announcement last month that reductions in central funding has led to the restriction of certain services was followed by the authority’s ‘State of the County’ report, which gave more detail on the areas most at risk.

Under East Sussex CC’s ‘Core Offer’ – similar to what has been proposed at Northamptonshire – were services such as children and adults with “critical or substantial need,” sufficient maintenance of highways, and trading standards and road safety services.

For children’s social care, the authority will aim to provide support where there is evidence that they “have suffered significant harm” or are at immediate risk of such, and will provide an alternative home for children who are unable to live with their parents or in their extended family.

Library and information services, household waste disposal centres, and statutory planning functions were also areas highlighted by chief executive Becky Shaw in a statement last month.

The report noted that without more Whitehall funding— East Sussex CC’s books will be drawn back by a further £17m over 2019-20 to 2021-22— the authority’s financial situation will mean the core offer with reduced services will be best course of action to prevent the issuing of a section 114 spending ban, which Northamptonshire County Council has already done twice this year.

Despite forecasted increase in council tax receipts bringing £35.8m in additional funding to East Sussex, it still leaves a worst-case scenario of a budget deficit of over £46m by 2021-22.

Shaw said: “Careful planning, efficiency savings, innovation, hard work and commitment to our four key priorities have 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.

“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 report wrote of East Sussex’s lobbying of central government for extra cash: “Over the last year the council has carried out extensive lobbying to raise awareness of the issues affecting the people of East Sussex and the effects that reductions in government funding are having on our ability to support local people. We will continue to impress on the government that we are already close to the core offer.

“Although all councils with demand led services are experiencing financial challenges, the county’s demographic means that we face now the problems that will not hit others until much later.”

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Image credit: HildaWedges, iStock images

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