West Sussex prepares to finalise £535m budget plan

‘SCAREMONGERING and a lot of irresponsible talk’ have been criticised by the county council’s leader ahead of Friday’s council meeting.

West Sussex County Council
West Sussex County Council

Cuts of around £55m stand to be approved at West Sussex County Council on Valentine’s Day, as part of its £535m budget plan for 2014/15.

“I’ve heard a lot of scaremongering and a lot of irresponsible talk about our savings programme and it is just plain wrong,” said Cllr Goldsmith.

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“We are in good financial shape. We will always do what’s best for our residents and we will always be there for those people who need us the most. The budget being presented to full council on February 14 marks the start of a new chapter for West Sussex County Council.”

Her budget will also include ten major projects over the next 12 months for the council, according to a spokesman.

“It is widely anticipated that Louise will outline some key areas of investment that align with the council’s priorities around giving the children the best start in life, helping the county’s elderly residents enjoy independence and good health in later life and boosting the economy at the meeting on Friday,” he said.

“These areas are expected to include a £15 million pound investment in improving more rural and urban roads across the county, on top of what the county council does every year as part of its roads maintenance programme, a £12 million investment in education in Worthing, including a new secondary school and additional school places, and a £6.25 million injection into adult’s services.”

Cllr Goldsmith added: “Families all over West Sussex have to balance their monthly income against their outgoings. We are no different.

“We have to make savings. However, for the same level of council tax as last year, we will be investing in the things that matter most to our residents — indeed, we will be investing more money than we are saving so this is not a budget about cuts.”

Tax freeze for fourth consecutive year

Michael Brown, cabinet member for finance, said: “It has never been more important for us to do what we can to give householders a break during these tough economic times and that is why we have made the decision to freeze council tax for the fourth year in a row.

“We have worked very hard to make savings by reshaping our organisation and making it as efficient as possible to keep council tax as low as possible. That work never stops.

“This council is committed to making sure that every penny of our hard earned residents’ money is spent wisely.

“By dint of good financial management we are able to propose a budget which maintains, or increases, the value of all front line service budgets, invests handsomely in the future, maintains adequate reserves and allows us to invest in greater efficiency to make further savings from our cost base in future years.”

Council projects

Other significant investments expected to be announced at the meeting include a further £3.3 million investment in the county council’s Think Family programme to support West Sussex’s most troubled families who need additional support to ensure that their children grow up with the best possible start in life.

Cllr Goldsmith is also expected to talk about making a further £1m available to encourage communities to act against flooding as part of Operation Watershed 2014.

The spokesman said: “Businesses are also expected to be given the opportunity to bid again for grants from a second round of the Be the Business programme thanks to further funding of £500,000.

“Finally, the continued rollout of high speed broadband over the next 12 months is expected to mean that 90 per cent of householders across Sussex can access it if they want to by April 2015.”

The full council meeting will begin at 10.30am on Friday (February 14) at County Hall, West Street, Chichester.

Go to www.chichester.co.uk to see the fallout of the meeting and visit www.westsussex.gov.uk for a live webcast.