County plans extra spending in some areas but cuts still required in others

As elected representatives at both Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council struggle to agree budgets for the coming financial year council leaders at County Hall in Lewes will be asked to agree extra spending worth £6.5 million when they discuss the latest budget plans next week.

Although proposals will include £3.5 million of savings, East Sussex County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to consider additional investment in roads and services for vulnerable adults and children as part of its £403 million spending on services for 2020/21.

The extra money could give a £1 million boost to highways for patching work, line repainting and installing dropped kerbs, fund improvements to the county council’s residential homes for children with disabilities and delay some previously agreed savings.

The extra money could help establish a project which helps young people with difficult lives access a range of support, expand the family-led process of making decisions for children at risk and get more personal support to help vulnerable people and families avoid homelessness.

The potential areas for extra spending are being recommended because they will help reduce costs in future as well as doing more for residents.

Chief executive Becky Shaw said: “We welcome some recent additional funding from Government which could be invested in services that benefit the most vulnerable in our society and prevent them from needing greater support and care in the future.

“Although our proposals include additional investment, we will still need to find savings of £3.5 million in 2020/21, guided by our agreed priorities for the county to ensure we direct our resources to where there is the greatest need and where they can have the most significant impact.”

She added: “While our careful planning has left us in a strong position, we face ongoing pressures which can only be addressed with sustainable funding, and we will continue to lobby central Government for a system that enables us to properly plan and deliver the highest quality services possible.”

The proposed budget includes a 3.99 per cent increase in the county council’s share of the council tax, which includes two per cent towards the cost of adult social care. For a Band D household in East Sussex, this equates to an additional £1.10 per week.

Over the past decade the authority has had to make savings of £134 million but, according to the report to Cabinet, still faces a deficit of £12.5 million over the two years to 2022/23 once current proposed savings are made.

The council’s planning has been guided by its Core Offer approach, which sets a minimum decent level of public services for East Sussex as the basis for all activity.

The draft budget and council plan will be discussed by cabinet on Tuesday, January 28 and can be viewed at https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=133&MId=3862&Ver=4

Cabinet members will be asked to make recommendations to the full council where a final decision will be made on Tuesday, February 11.

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