POLITICAL leaders in East Sussex have united to voice to David Cameron their “significant concerns” over Government funding cuts.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, sent on behalf of all political group leaders, East Sussex County Council leader Cllr Keith Glazier, Conservative, Rye and Eastern Rother Ward, said the cuts the authority was facing would “significantly reduce the quality of life for many people in East Sussex”.
The letter has been sent as the council revealed it was considering raising council tax by 3.99 per cent in the budget for the new financial year, to help offset some of the pressure on adult social care services.
The authority has saved more than £78 million since 2010 but is facing a further £70 to £90 million savings by April 2019, including £40 million from its adult social care budget.
The six group leaders told the Prime Minister the Government’s approach to local government did not reflect the “varying needs” of different areas, with East Sussex’s ageing population making it particularly vulnerable to cuts.
They said there was “misunderstanding” from ministers over suggested ways councils could make savings, some of which were “not realistic”, and the cuts were compounded by the way changes to funding were announced “very late in the day” and without consultation.
Cllr Glazier said: “The fact that leaders of all parties have put their names to this letter shows that this is an issue which transcends politics.
“We have done everything possible to ensure we bear our share of the burden of reducing the national deficit, and produce a balanced and responsible budget, but the savings we are now having to make will place a heavy burden on some of our residents.
“We’re calling on the Government to acknowledge the impact of funding cuts, particularly on social care authorities, to work more closely with local councils and to adopt a fairer approach to the way it allocates funding.”
Next week (January 26), the council’s cabinet will discuss a proposal to increase council tax by 3.99 per cent, including a two per cent “social care levy” approved by the Government, which must be spent on adult social care services.
The increase, equivalent to 92p a week extra for a band D council tax payer, would generate an extra £4.7 million. This would allow the council to meet extra financial pressures and to save £1.9 million of adult social care funding which would otherwise be removed.
Preserve funding for a number of services
This would preserve funding for a number of services, including some of those which support people with mental health issues, the homeless and young people with complex needs. However, the size of the funding shortfall means many other services will reduce, be provided in new ways or cease altogether.
Cllr Glazier said: “The money we’d raise by increasing council tax would not alter the fact we’re facing very severe financial pressures, but it would allow us to preserve some valued services.
“Asking people to pay more of their hard earned money is not something we take lightly, which is why we’ll be looking very carefully at this proposal before any decision is made.”
The budget proposals and the council plan for 2016-17 will be discussed at cabinet on Tuesday, January 26, before being put to a vote of the full council on Tuesday, February 9.
The letter to the Prime Minister was signed by:
- Cllr Keith Glazier, council leader
- Cllr David Tutt, Liberal Democrat group leader
- Cllr Trevor Webb, Labour group leader
- Cllr Stephen Shing, Independent Democrats group leader
- Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe, Independent group leader
- Cllr Philip Howson, UKIP group leader
The county council has increased council tax by 1.95 per cent in each of the last two years, following a four-year period when there were no increases.