East Sussex County Council agrees £18 million cuts

Budget cuts
Budget cuts

Councillors at East Sussex County Council voted to accept £18m worth of cuts for 2015/16, as part of a three years saving plan of £67m.

But it wasn’t without opposition, with many councillors speaking out about the cuts.

Labour Cllr Jeremy Birch said, “It is cut, upon cut, upon cut, isn’t it, and it is the cumulative effect of all that on the quality of life of the residents of East Sussex.

“And don’t forget the people who are most hurt, inevitably, by cuts to public spending are the people who depend on public spending the most. It’s the special needs child, it’s the vulnerable elderly, it’s young people in difficulty, it’s families that are at the breaking point.

“I am angry that we are doing this to vulnerable people, who depend on us, who look to us, for services and support, and here we are ripping them away from underneath their feet because that’s what we are being compelled to do one way or another by the coalition government.

“I am angry about what is being done.”

But after amendments by Labour and the Liberal Democrats were defeated, the Conservative budget was approved.

Before the meeting, Cllr David Elkin, lead member for resources, said, “The continuing reduction in our funding means we have less money to spend even as demand for our services is rising, especially as a result of an ageing population.

“We’ve proven in recent years that we can be trusted to act prudently and responsibly, but the climate of austerity we’re operating in means more difficult decisions have to be made.

“An increase in council tax is not something we treat lightly, but would help us control our resources at a time of great uncertainty and ensure we can continue to run the services which really matter to people.”

The saving is needed mainly because of a cut in the core grant that central government gives to East Sussex – down by a third, or 34 per cent, in the past five years.

The council said around two-thirds of the £365m net spending goes to Children’s Services and Adult Social Care – which support the county’s most vulnerable residents.

The proposed budget would include spending £49m on care and support for older people, almost £45m on learning disabilities and £35m on support for children and families.

In other areas the budget proposes spending more than £22m on transport and highways and £26m on the environment.

Spending plans also propose £139m investment in one-off capital projects for the year ahead, including almost £15m to extend super-fast broadband in East Sussex.