West Sussex County Council to consider budget

The views of nearly 3,000 people from across West Sussex will help shape WSCC’s 2015/16 spending and savings plans as the authority starts the process of setting its budget this week.

West Sussex County Council headquarters
West Sussex County Council headquarters

The council’s Performance and Finance Select Committee will meet on Thursday December 4 to consider the results of the ‘What Matters to You’ survey as it considers how to close a funding gap of £68million over the next two years while focusing spending on the areas people have said are most important to them.

Members of the committee will also scrutinise the council’s draft Future West Sussex 2015-2019 Plan – a pledge between the authority and the public about what will be delivered for them between April 1, 2015 and April 2019.

Key investments outlined in the corporate plan include:

• £4m per year for the next two years to alleviate pressure on our adult services budget

• Multi million pound investment in high speed broadband capability across the county

• A further £15m in the Better Roads programme to improve many of the county’s residential and rural roads

• Significant investment in infrastructure improvements to ensure businesses can flourish

• Further investment in the council’s Think Family programme which helps get out-of-work parents back to work and helps those families who need a little bit more support

Reductions in government grants mean that the council needs to save £68million in the next two years and draft proposals for how this will be achieved will be considered at the meeting.

Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “Local government is facing budget pressures like never before but despite the savings that we have to make, we are spending the £500-odd million pound of our budget on services that make a real difference to people’s lives.

“I’m not pretending that there will not be difficult decisions to make over the coming weeks and months.

“It is inevitable that there will be changes to some services. But this proposed package of savings looks at how we can balance the budget with minimum impact on frontline services which is what people have told us is most important to them.”

In total 51 per cent of residents who responded to the ‘What Matters to You Survey’ said they would like the council to consider a council tax reduction or freeze. While 41 per cent said they would consider a council tax increase.

Louise added: “These draft budget figures are based on us freezing our proportion of the council tax again because I feel very strongly that we should not increase the burden of West Sussex County Council on our taxpayers, something the majority of people who responded to the What Matters To You Survey also agreed with.

“We are doing an awful lot behind the scenes to make savings every day, looking at everything we spend and renegotiating with our major suppliers to reduce costs. We are redesigning parts of the organisation to simplify the way we work and give a better service to our residents customer and we continue to invest in our staff to develop the skills they will need to operate in a different way.”

Deborah Urquhart, committee chairman, added: “West Sussex County Council provides services 24 hours a day, seven days a week that touch people’s lives in all sorts of different ways. How those services are funded and where savings are made have an impact on us all.

“The budget and the corporate plan will be scrutinised in detail between now and final decisions being made in February. The views of our residents and their scrutiny of what we do make us better and it’s important that we have our residents’ feedback every step of the way.”

The Performance and Finance meeting will be held at County Hall in Chichester and is open to the members of the public.