Opposition groups challenge Conservative budget at ESCC

Liberal Democrat, Labour, Green, and Independent Democrat councillors on East Sussex County Council have worked together to challenge the Conservative budget by putting in a joint amendment.

david-tutt.pngCllr David Tutt, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group explains: “The financial situation for many families will become increasingly difficult with big hikes in utility bills and other taxes including national insurance. It is therefore critical that we do everything we can as local councillors to help and protect our residents.

"As opposition groups on the County Council, we have put aside our differences to create a set of proposals which we believe meet the needs of our communities in a better way than those of the Conservative administration”.

Key proposals include:
• investing in more Vehicle Activated Signs to prevent speeding and providing more safe crossings
• investing in more dropped kerbs and pavement repairs
• supporting schools to address mental health issues
• investing in drug prevention work
• funding pilot schemes to address climate change issues such as encouraging bio-diversity and assessing the benefits of retro-fitting property
• making a one-off investment to investigate creative models of delivering home care services.

Cllr Chris Collier, Co Leader of the Labour group adds: “We believe that our amendment makes creative and efficient use of this small percentage of the Council’s budget that could have a big long-term impact on our residents. I hope that Conservative councillors will see beyond party politics and work with us to deliver some of these much needed proposals”.

Cllr Jonny Denis, Co Leader of the Green group agrees, adding: "We believe that our joint proposals for using some of the £4million revenue surplus on the range of measures we are suggesting will provide some important services that our residents have told us they want.”

Cllr Stephen Shing Leader of the Independent Democrats notes: “This has given us all a real opportunity to make a difference in our local communities and this joint work has put down a real marker in showing that opposition councillors value working for their residents more than tribal loyalties”.

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The draft amendment is as follows:

County Council – 8 February 2022

Cabinet’s report paragraph 1 – Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources

Amendment to be proposed by Councillors Tutt, Collier, Denis and Stephen Shing

Delete paragraph x.xx of the Cabinet’s report and replace with:-

(1) approve, in principle, the draft Council Plan 2022/23 at Appendix 1 and authorise the Chief Executive to finalise the Plan in consultation with the relevant Lead Members;

(2) approve the net Revenue Budget estimates totalling £453.2m for 2022/23 as set out on Appendix 2 (Medium Term Financial Plan) and 3 (Budget Summary) and authorise the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Chief Finance Officer, Leader and Deputy Leader, to make adjustments to the presentation of the Budget Summary to reflect the final settlement and budget decisions with the following amendments:

1. To use £4,126,000 of the revenue surplus on: -
a. Ringfence investment in Vehicle Activated Signage (VAS) Units to tackle the widespread problems of speeding across the County (at £200,000 per year for 3 years) - £600,000
b. Ringfence further investment in pavements and dropped curbs (at £100,000 per year for 4 years – managed within the capital programme) - £400,000
c. Comprehensive programme of training for all teachers and education professionals to address concerns about Mental Health and other health issues arising from the pandemic and lockdowns - £750,000
d. Community Action Programmes aimed at countering youth offending, particularly drug crime - £425,000
e. Pilot a retrofit scheme to demonstrate the comprehensive benefits of retro fitting property - £450,000
f. Ongoing re-investment in I-Send EHCP Assessment Service for 2022/23 and future years - £188,000
g. Bollards - accelerate replacement of keep left lights with reflectors, including maintenance costs - £250,000
h. Carers – provision of extra sessions of respite care, training for new carers and for young carers and development of new County App for carers to give easy access to information sources and to each other - £580,000
i. Community Match Funding – for 2022/23, pilot a reduced external match requirement to 25% - £100,000
j. Biodiversity – Pilot the development of a 50% Council match funded scheme for local biodiversity and habitat initiatives (£100,000 per year for 2 years) - £200,000
k. Use Libraries savings in 2022/23 to invest in book stock - £183,000 (and removal of all £288,000 savings currently in the Medium Term Financial Plan by 2023/24)

2. One-off investment from the Market Sustainability and Fair Cost of Care Fund (MSFCCF) to review, research and identify innovative models of home care with a view to producing a business case and budget proposal for 2023/24 - £100,000
3. Use the existing Economic Intervention Fund to conduct and support feasibility work for pump priming and stimulating the Community Energy Sector - £100,000
4. Bring forward capital allocation from Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIP) to focus on the development of pipeline schemes - £100,000
5. Investment in Road Safety infrastructure providing more crossings - £1,750,000

Total of proposed revenue amendments - £6,176,000

To be funded by:

6. Use of 2022/23 revenue surplus - £4,126,000
7. One off top slice from the MSFCCF - £100,000
8. One off use of Economic Intervention Fund - £100,000
9. Capital investment brought forward - £100,000
10. 2022/23 Services Grant set aside for investment opportunities - £1,750,000

Total of proposed revenue funding amendments - £6,176,000

(3) in accordance with the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to agree that:

(i) the net budget requirement is £453.2m and the amount calculated by East Sussex County Council as its council tax requirement (see Appendix 5) for the year 2022/23 is £328.4m;

(ii) the amount calculated by East Sussex County Council as the basic amount of its council tax (i.e. for a band D property) for the year 2022/23 is £1,613.34 and represents a 4.49% (2.5% of which relates to the Adult Social Care precept) increase on the previous year;

(4) advise the District and Borough Councils of the relevant amounts payable and council tax in other bands in line with the regulations and to issue precepts accordingly in accordance with an agreed schedule of instalments to be revised as amended by proposals in paragraph (2) above;

(5) note the fees and charges set out in Appendix 9 that have been increased above inflation;

(6) approve the Capital Strategy and Programme as set out at Appendix 8;

(7) note the progress with the Council Plan and Budget 2021/22 since quarter 2 set out in section 4;

(8) note the Medium Term Financial Plan forecast for the period 2022/23 to 2024/25 as set out in Appendix 2 and amended by the proposals in paragraph (2) above;

(9) note the comments of the Chief Finance Officer on budget risks and robustness as set out in Appendix 6; and

(10) note the comments from the engagement exercises as set out in Appendix 7.

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