‘Crunch point’ council will need to make more ‘difficult decisions’

Ore Library, Mount Denys and the Isabel Blackman Centre have closed, childrens’ services are under threat and parking charges could rise steeply but still East Sussex County Council faces a £15m budget shortfall next year and £27m shortfall the year after that!

Increased funding from Government is needed to protect vital council services.

That’s the stark message that East Sussex County Councillors will be given at next Tuesday’s cabinet meeting when they discuss the council’s State of the County report which details that the authority will face a budget gap of up to £15 million next year if additional funding is not made available and a deficit of £27 million by 2022/23.

East Sussex County Council spending cuts forced the closure of Ore Library last year.

A move to its Core Offer, a basic level of service the authority believes is the very least residents should be able to expect, might ease the pressure, the report tells councillors, but it will not balance the budget.

Councillor Keith Glazier, who is leader of the council said: “Becoming a more efficient council, working closely with our partners and changing the way we deliver services, along with robust financial planning, has helped us deal with a decade of financial pressure.

“But as the needs of our population rises, we need increased support from central Government so we can continue to deliver at least a decent level of service that both protects the most vulnerable in our society, provides vital services and strengthens East Sussex’s economy.

“The irony is that we are one of the most well-run councils in England, but the unique circumstances and pressures on East Sussex means we have reached crunch point sooner than most.”

The Bridge Community Centre – it’s Children’s Centre is likely to be closed. One of 14 such centres in the county facing the same fate.

He added: “The State of the County report is part of our extensive business and financial planning and presents a clear picture of the difficult decisions we face in deciding how best to make best use of resources in pursuit of our aims to protect the most vulnerable, strengthen the local economy and help people to help themselves.”

The document identifies growing pressures on the local authority due in part to reductions in funding, as well as an increasingly aged population and more children in need of help and protection as the number of families experiencing financial difficulties increases.

The report also states the county council must continue to lobby hard for a fairer funding deal in the short and medium term as any additional funding is likely to be a one-off and only help alleviate the pressure in the short term.

In a survey of East Sussex residents earlier this year, almost eight out of ten (78 per cent) said increased government funding would be the best solution to financial pressures on the county.

As well as examining the pressures faced by East Sussex County Council, the State of the County report celebrates successes.

Mr Glazier added: “In spite of the continuing financial pressures and challenges we face, our staff and partners work tirelessly and effectively to achieve as much as we can with the resources we do have and it is important that this is recognised.”

Achievements include the county council becoming one of only a handful of councils across the country to gain an outstanding rating from Ofsted for children’s social care, while work to integrate adult social care services with health is already delivering real improvements for residents.

Investment in roads since 2013 has halted deterioration and shown improvement in their condition according to the report, which states that the county’s highways contractor fixed 25,000 potholes last year as well as carried out extensive resurfacing work.

The report also shows how the council has worked to improve infrastructure across the county to open land for employment and housing to encourage investment, and established Transport for the South East to ensure a strategic approach.

Cabinet will meet on Tuesday, July 16 to consider the report, a full version of which is available at https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=133&MId=3857&Ver=4

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