‘No red lines’ as county council looks to cut more than £70m

County Hall Lewes, East Sussex County Council HQ SUS-150925-134850001
County Hall Lewes, East Sussex County Council HQ SUS-150925-134850001

Spending in every department at East Sussex County Council will be open to cuts as there are ‘no red lines’ in its current budget review.

As part of this process the authority is looking to hear the thoughts and ideas of residents and business about how services should be delivered in the future.

The county council has already made £64m of savings in the last three years and is looking at making another £70 to 90m in the next three years.

This is due to cuts in the grant it receives from central Government and an increasing demand for its services.

David Elkin, deputy leader and lead member for resources, said, “Our ambition is to deliver the same with less money and where possible improve what we deliver and we have achieved that in a number of areas.”

This could be the done either through technology or through working in partnership with other organisations.

He added, “However, the continued funding squeeze, at a time when our ageing population places more demand than ever on our services, means more tough choices have to be made. The reality is we will have to look closely at everything we do and change the way some services are delivered, while some will have to be reduced or even stopped altogether.”

He explained that there were no ‘red lines’ and everything was ‘in the pot’ when they looked at ‘some really difficult and challenging decisions’.

Education would not be affected by any cuts as the money is passed straight from central Government to schools.

The county council’s four priorities (driving economic growth, keeping vulnerable people safe, helping people help themselves, and making best use of resources), would inform where the savings were made but residents have the opportunity to ‘engage with the process’.

Cllr David Elkin, East Sussex County Council lead member for resources SUS-151202-115313001

Cllr David Elkin, East Sussex County Council lead member for resources SUS-151202-115313001

He explained, “If you have thoughts or ideas come to us.

“It does not matter how ridiculous or simple they are. We are listening because there are no red lines.”

Cllr Elkin said that protecting the vulnerable would always stay ‘at the top of the list of our priorities’.

While ESCC is Conservative controlled there are a number of Lib Dem, Labour, UKIP and independent councillors, but Cllr Elkin felt they were “beginning to understand the scale of the challenge and like the residents there’s an opportunity for them to come up with thoughts”.

A report entitled ‘State of the County’, agreed by Cabinet in June this year, outlined initial ‘areas of search’ for next year’s savings.

It listed adult social care where work could be integrated with health, plans for closer working with partner agencies in children’s services, the re-letting of the highways contract and a review of winter maintenance policy and routes, as well as the possibility of looking at a commissioning strategy for community based services such as libraries and children’s centres.

An example of some of the partnership working that has already started is the Orbis project, which involves sharing back office functions with Surrey County Council.

ESCC’s part of the council tax precept has been increased by 1.95 per cent in the last two years as Cllr Elkin said they had decided they needed to protect the base budget in order to guarantee they could continue to deliver services.

He suggested this approach could also be taken next year, but this would need to be approved agreed by the entire council when it agrees to the 2016/17 budget.

Although they had made representations to Government over cuts to their grant through several organisations, they still expected drastic reductions to their funding in the next few years.

The council’s Cabinet will discuss the first draft of the budget in October, and will be awaiting the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on November 25 to see how far its grant will be cut.

The budget would then come back to Cabinet in January and would be agreed by Full Council in February.

To have your say visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/savings

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