06.12.18

East Sussex boss rejects possible local council restructure to fight deficit: ‘This is purely politics’

The leader of East Sussex County Council has opposed the potential of a local government structure reshuffle in a bid to make savings following the authority’s announcement of a ‘core offer’ of services last month.

In an interview with PSE, Keith Glazier, who has been a councillor for over two decades, said the potential of a split in the authority would lead to up to five years of disruption in the county, and even then, the council would still be unable to fully tackle a budget deficit of around £46m by 2021-22.

Cllr Glazier’s comments come after councillors from Eastbourne and Lewes councils held talks in October of potentially breaking away from the fiscally-challenged council and forming an independent unitary authority.

Eastbourne and Lewes are the latest to contemplate the move to a unitary structure: Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire, and Northamptonshire county councils are all considering or enacting the process of aligning services to reduce unnecessary expenditure and create savings.

Responding to the potential of a split of the current two-tier structure, Cllr Glazier noted it is “purely politics.”

“There’s one or two flaws in the process: first and foremost is that, even with the old criteria that the secretary of state had, they were nowhere near big enough and would not be,” he said.

“The second thing is that they don’t deliver social care or children’s services, which is where the pressures are. If you only have to worry about—and this is not meant in a derogatory way—clearing the bins and getting planning through and looking after local parks, it’s a bit different than looking after really seriously needy elderly and children.

“They’re not going against each other generally speaking, we’re not making this a political fight—it’s just simply that there’s a borough and district election in May, and that was a really good headline: ‘we can deliver services better than the Tories.’”

“So it’s political, there was no sense in it. We in East Sussex don’t hold a view on whether we should be a unitary—we’ve worked continuously across the two tiers, and there’s so much work that goes on across the two tiers and across other councils, because actually it’s horses for courses.

“In other things we need to be much more local, so that’s constantly in our mind, and we will continue to look at the best way to deliver services for the people of East Sussex.”

 

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