Two rubbish tips could close in West Sussex as part of proposed cuts

Plans to close two of the 11 rubbish tips in West Sussex are among a long list of cuts threatened by the county council as it attempts to plug a £23.4m gap in its budget.

West Sussex County Council may have to review its network of Household Waste Recycling Sites to find savings
West Sussex County Council may have to review its network of Household Waste Recycling Sites to find savings

Other proposals include reducing concessionary bus travel for disabled people, and reducing day services provided to some care homes and people with learning disabilities.

While leader Paul Marshall said he was ‘under no illusions that some of these proposals are unpalatable’, the consequences to the council of not balancing its budget could be dire.

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In a report to a meeting of the cabinet due to be held on November 24, Katharine Eberhart, director of finance, warned that failure to do so could ‘prompt consideration of the need for a s114 notice’.

County council leader Paul Marshall admitted some of the cuts would be 'unpalatable' for many residents

A s114 notice is a council’s way of effectively declaring itself bankrupt. It would trigger emergency spending controls allowing no new expenditure, except for the funding of statutory services.

No one at County Hall wants to be forced down that road.

So the cabinet will be asked to agree 18 ways of cutting £4.593m from the budget in 2021/22 and £2.553m in 2022/23.

A further £15.5m is made up of decisions already in place and changes which will not lead to a reduction in services.

Mr Marshall said the council would have to take ‘difficult decisions about things that really affect people’s lives’.

He added: “We do not do that lightly and I want to reassure residents that we will do everything possible to mitigate the impact where we can.

“We continue to lobby hard with national government to help them to understand the impact of continuing increased demand, coupled with the pandemic, on local government.

“We have regularly briefed our local MPs on how local people are affected and continue to set out for them how this continued pressure on local authorities will impact on our communities and those we are here to support.”

So what will the proposed cuts involve?

The council runs 11 tips – known as Household Waste Recycling Sites – in Billingshurst, Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Chichester, Crawley, East Grinstead, Horsham, Littlehampton, Midhurst, Shoreham and Worthing.

Closing two of them would save around £190k per year, with £95k deliverable in 21/22 if they shut from October 1 2021.

No decision has yet been made about which tips might close.

While a spokesman said the council wanted to avoid closure ‘as far as possible’, he acknowledged ‘it cannot be ruled out in the longer term’.

A review of the services will be carried out to find ways to save money, with possible options including: restricting the types of items people can dump; introducing a booking system; and increasing the amount of recycling at sites to reduce disposal costs.

There are also plans to reduce the amount of DIY waste brought to the tips, saving  £500,000 (£250,000 in 2021/22).

While not the council’s preferred choice, this could include re-introducing a charge for such waste – something the council briefly did between October 2016 and April 2017, and something still done by Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey and East Sussex.

A spokesman said: “One way of achieving this saving could be to restrict the number of visits residents are able to make to the sites to dispose of this type of material.”

Another previously considered option which is back on the table is reducing the discretionary bus pass for more than 7,000 disabled people and some 3,800 carers/companions.

The plan is to stop subsidising the passes, meaning they could only be used off peak during the week and all weekend, and no longer providing passes for carers/companions.

Such a move would save £200k.

There could be more bad news for bus users as the council also plans to save £150,000 by reduce the amount of support it gives to public transport.

Such a move would mainly impact people in isolated and rural areas.

The future of the council’s 11 County Local Committees has been on the line since last year and is looking less than rosy.

The committees meet a few times a year and give residents the chance to get involved in decision-making for their area, discussing everything from potholes and libraries to children’s services and fire services.

Axing those committees – along with the Community Initiative Fund – and replacing them with something ‘more flexible and responsive’ will save £248,000.

One issue raised at most Local Committee meetings is that of the roads.

The council has been providing discretionary community highway schemes, which allow residents to suggest what changes and improvements need to be made and where.

The plan is to save £50,000 by axing these schemes.

Care of the elderly and vulnerable looks set to take a hit, with plans to save £640,000 by making changes to in-house residential services.

The services involve residential homes, some of which could be sold or redeveloped into extra care housing.

A report to the cabinet said ‘significantly fewer’ referrals had been made to the services thanks to other initiatives such as the NHS’s Home First service.

Figures from the council show that 124 people stay at the in-house residential homes – 41 short term and 83 long term.

There could be bad news for dozens of vulnerable people as plans to cut day services at 12 care homes are also on the list.

The services are provided by Shaw Healthcare as part of a contract with the council. Cutting them would save £250,000.

If agreed by the cabinet, the biggest hit will be taken by the Lifelong services day services – a scheme set up to help anyone with autism or any other life-long disability which hit before the age of 25.

The plan is to cut its budget by £2.24m (£1.12m in 2021/22).

Using some libraries as ‘parish hubs’ is also on the table, with the potential to save £70,000, though no details have been worked out yet.

The report to the cabinet said: “Certain parishes have expressed an interest in using the library buildings as a parish hub.

“The opportunity exists to discuss parishes potentially taking over the building and maintaining a small library self-service offer which they oversee.”

Elsewhere, the sale of council-owned property could bring in a sizeable sum, though it is too early to say if that is a route to be taken.

And County Hall’s public cafe, the Martlets, could be reaching the end of its days.  

Last year it ran at a £60,000 deficit – an expense the council can ill afford.

 If the list of proposals is agreed by the cabinet, there will be further work done on the detailed planning before a formal decision is made next month.