Conservative councillors, backed by Labour, voted through a budget which will mean East Sussex residents paying more for County Council services including roads, adult social care, and education. Cllr Philip Daniel, Liberal Democrat Finance spokesperson, explains:
“The Liberal Democrat budget amendment meant charging residents a lower rate of increase in regular council tax for ESCC: 1.50% instead of the Conservatives’ 1.99%. That’s on top of the 2% rise by which the government asks local people to pay the County Council for Adult Social Care. We recognise that many people in the county are in financial hardship. Council Tax rises over five years have been almost double the rise in earnings. They are having to absorb the impact of the cuts made to council services by the Conservative government over the last ten years, are paying increased fees and charges for services and now are facing yet another increase in council tax.
Our budget amendment supported spending on capital projects by capital finance, so that work on roads and buildings refurbishment could go ahead funded from the capital budget not from revenue as the Conservatives have now agreed. This would free up more money for frontline services. Altogether, we proposed £2,523,000 of savings and changes to funding which could be used to support our hard-pressed services, slow the Council Tax increase and start to restructure the Council”.
Councillor David Tutt, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, comments:
“We have consistently put forward budgets that propose a transformation of the way the council organises itself, including putting the emphasis on staff delivering front-line services rather than on highly paid managers.
We are very concerned at the fragility of the County Council’s finances. Services will now be funded almost entirely from council tax and from business rates. We know that businesses are already struggling. The business rate system needs to be reformed to create a level playing field between High Street stores and on-line traders. One-off pots of money from central government are simply putting a sticking plaster over the gaping holes that the Conservatives have made in local authority services – our roads are not the only thing with huge potholes.
East Sussex County Council already has the 4th highest council tax of any shire county in England (2019/20). £134 million has already been taken out of County Council funds over the last ten years and council tax set by the County Council has risen by 36.92% since 2007 compared with Liberal Democrat run Eastbourne Borough Council where the tax rise over the same period has been 21.07%. We have to ask how long residents can continue to pay for these taxes imposed by the Conservative administration?”.