Unions oppose ‘devastating’ county council budget cuts

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

Trade unions have spoken out against ‘unnecessary and devastating’ spending cuts proposed by East Sussex County Council.

The Conservative-led authority is facing a £17m budget gap for 2018/19 due to rising demand and reduction in funding from Government, even after a proposed 5.99 per cent increase in its share of council tax is factored in.

David Elkin, deputy leader of the council and lead member for resources, described how they were being fed ‘starvation rations’ earlier this month as the authority has already had to save more than £100m since 2010.

Four trade unions the GMB, UNISON, the National Education Union and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, have spoken out against the proposed level of cuts.

In a joint statement, Lib Whitfield, GMB regional organiser, Phil Clarke, from the NEU, NASUWT’s Ian Thomas, and Lynda Walker, UNISON branch secretary, said: “The reduction in funding for supporting local residents and carers will see a direct impact on carers’ ability to continue in their caring role.

“This is likely to result in increased demand and cost pressure on the community care budget, as well as a potential increase in homelessness, including street homelessness, a likely increase in anti-social behaviour and impact on community safety.

“The budget also details cuts to the schools ISEND budget and education which will see a reduction in direct support for schools.

“Some schools will be unprepared to pay for pupil support and the lack of early intervention will see more children and young people excluded and requiring costly specialist provision.

“This will further impact on schools with outcomes for pupils vulnerable to underachievement are likely to decline significantly as they are disproportionately affected by poor provision.

“These cuts are all taking place under a Conservative-led council whose own party in central Government are responsible for the massive reduction in council budgets.

“These reductions in financing are so great that even the council themselves recently petitioned the Government with the ‘Stand Up for East Sussex Campaign’ in order to ask for more funding.”

They added: “The trade unions representing the staff in East Sussex will continue to campaign at a local and national level against these unnecessary and devastating cuts to services and against every job cut in East Sussex.”

Earlier this month Mr Elkin said: “Through the course of last year we have attempted to highlight to Government the ongoing challenges the county faces, and we are grateful of the cross-party support our Stand Up for East Sussex campaign received.

“While we still face a significant shortfall in funding we will, wherever possible, make savings from back office or support services.”

Proposals were approved by the cabinet last Tuesday, while the final budget will go before all councillors next Tuesday (February 6).