West Sussex County Council is receiving transitional grants of £6.2m in 2016/17 and £6.3m in 2017/18, despite a steep reduction in overall funding from central Government.
A total of £5m has been set aside for improving pavements and footways over the next two years, £500,000 for road markings, and £1.7m towards the Public Health budget as the dedicated grant from Government was £2.9m less than originally expected.
Proposals were endorsed by members of WSCC’s Performance and Finance Select Committee on Wednesday (March 16).
A decision on the use of the transitional grant was not made during last month’s budget due to the late announcement by Government, and a Lib Dem amendment resolving to spend up to 50 per cent of the extra money on improving West Sussex’s roads and pavements was defeated.
Jeremy Hunt (Con, Chichester North), cabinet member for finance, explained that it was one-off funding and the county council was proposing to use it as intended to ‘soften the blow’ of Government cuts.
Christine Field (Con, Lindfield and High Weald), cabinet member for community wellbeing, said that their remaining funding was largely bound up in contracts and the £1.9m would give them some ‘breathing space in the coming year to look very closely at all these things’.
Officers explained that Public Health involves driving improvements in health and wellbeing, raising awareness of healthy lifestyles, and preventative services, and the funding would ‘soften the immediate impact on services’.
Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate and Three Bridges) said it was time for the NHS to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ with Public Health funding and added: “We have really got to find the money from somewhere and the NHS has far deeper pockets than we do.”
He explained that wellbeing teams support projects such as Crawley’s Dementia Friends campaign, which was recognised internationally with recent delegations from Denmark and Norway.
Mrs Field replied: “When push comes to shove the public are more convinced by investing in high end services. It’s that tide we are trying to turn.”
Bryan Turner (Con, Broadwater), chairing the committee, said: “I’m really pleased we do this kind of work but it’s frustrating that the Department for Health works the way it does.”
The £5m on improving pavements and footways is due to focus on access for vulnerable users, at places including schools, clinics, and hospitals to help reduce slips, trips and falls, as well as places with high footfall such as shopping areas and key links around car parks, and both bus and railway stations.
An extra £500,000 has been earmarked for community flood prevention schemes, a two-year £650,000 project will look at improving ‘children’s attainment’ and £1.1m for invest-to-save opportunities.
This would leave £2.9m unallocated for 2017/18, but any spending in that year would have to be agreed at next year’s budget meeting.
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