An initiative between the big South East councils to share expertise and some services will help to meet the savings target of East Sussex County Council.
That’s the view of County Council Leader Peter Jones after the authority agreed a plan to make £100m worth of savings over the next four years, including £37m in 2011/12.
The savings plan, introduced following Government action to tackle the national debt, was agreed at a full county council meeting yesterday (Tuesday).
Cllr Jones said: “We’ve joined six other big councils across the South East to form SE7 and we’ll be looking to share some services and reduce costs. I am confident that this initiative will help us to save millions of pounds towards the £100m that we need to save over four years in East Sussex.
“In order to cut our own costs, we will have to stop some services and provide other services in a different way. For example, we’re currently reviewing the way we provide Children Centre services.
“Our aim will be to ensure that people still have the opportunity to get the help they need – it may just mean they have to travel further to access it. Other examples would be youth support, street lighting and support services, where we are looking at making the best use of the reduced budget that we now have.
“There is no doubt that we face some big budget challenges ahead, especially in the first year with £37m to be saved, including £20m from Children’s Services. Also, due to the level of savings required, we will have to cut the equivalent of between 150-200 full-time staff posts in the first year, although we will be doing all we can to keep compulsory redundancies to an absolute minimum.
“We’re in for a bumpy ride but we’ve been planning for these cuts for nearly two years and I want to reassure our residents that this council is in a very strong position to manage through these tough financial times.”
At the full council meeting, the authority agreed a net budget of £358m for 2011/12 and also approved the proposal for no increase in the county council’s part of the council tax bill.
This means that for an average Band D council tax payer, their bill for County Council services will stay at £1,158.30.
The Council also approved its capital programme with better news for building projects.
Additional government grant for capital schemes will mean that the Council can deliver priorities including support for the academies programme in Hastings and Eastbourne to help raise educational standards, road and school building improvements and better broadband for the County.
* The SE7 collaboration involves East Sussex County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, Hampshire County Council, Kent County Council, Medway Council, Surrey County Council and West Sussex County Council – which between them cover a population of 5.3 million people and are responsible for net budgets worth £3.4 billion per annum.