Reduced funding for grass cutting by East Sussex County Council is set to be spent on adult social care services instead.
A proposed 5.99 per cent rise in council tax and £17m of cuts for 2018/19 were labelled a ‘double whammy’ by the Lib Dems, but Tories described how they were in a ‘bit of a bind’ nationally and locally.
Areas of cuts include reducing the number of Household Waste Recycling Sites (HWRSs) and introducing charges for certain types of non-household waste, cutting back on preventative adult social care services, reducing support for performance and improvement in schools and scaling back the county’s network of libraries.
David Elkin (Con, Eastbourne - Sovereign), lead member for resources, proposed to reduce spending on cutting grass verges by £400,000 a year and allocating this money to front-line social care work instead when the 2018/19 budget was discussed by Cabinet today (Tuesday January 23).
He compared the county council’s level of funding from central Government to being ‘fed starvation rations’.
He added: “We believe that looking after the most vulnerable across all ages makes the increase [in council tax] necessary. It’s just not an option not to take it.”
David Tutt (LDem, Eastbourne - St Anthony’s), leader of the Lib Dem group, said: “These cuts are not down to poor management of local authorities they are down to Government policy which is relentlessly reducing the percentage of government grant that goes down to local authorities.”
The increase includes the three per cent adult social care levy and will mean an extra £78 a year on a Band D property.
Alan Shuttleworth (LDem, Eastbourne - Langney) described how residents would face a ‘double whammy’ of ‘massive service cuts’ and a ‘massive rise’ in council tax.
John Ungar (LDem, Eastbourne - Old Town) added: “These devastating level of cuts are being foisted on East Sussex residents by a Tory Government.”
On the Labour side Godfrey Daniel (Lab, Hastings - Braybrooke and Castle) raised the issue of setting a budget containing service reductions to libraries and household waste sites before finishing consultations in these areas, the as the results could lead to different outcomes.
Meanwhile Trevor Webb (Lab, Hastings - Central St Leonards and Gensing), leader of the Labour group, highlighted Sussex Police’s concerns about the effect of service reductions on vulnerable people and the potential this has to lead to an increase in crime.
But Roy Galley (Con, Maresfield and Buxted) described how they were ‘in a bit of a bind nationally and locally’ as the country was ‘living in sea of debt’.
He suggested instead of opposition members ‘playing to the gallery’ they should be proposing alternatives to the budget in front of them.
His points were echoed by John Barnes (Con, Rother North West) who described some of the comments as a ‘ritual dance designed somehow to appeal to the electorate’.
But he also said he had been advocating a different way of funding local Government services 30 years ago.
The budget will go to Full Council for approval on Tuesday February 6.