After many months of waiting the Conservative Administration on East Sussex County Council have at last published details of their proposed budget for the coming year. Delays came partly from late Conservative Government announcements on local government finances and also from uncertainty about the so-called “core offer” of minimum services. The plans will be discussed for the first time in public at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 22 January, leaving very little time for the public to comment upon them before the budget is set on the 5th February.
Details of the plans reveal just how bad things have become as following years of service cuts and Council Tax hikes, the plans for 2019/20 bring more of the same. In addition to a 2.99% rise in Council Tax, in excess of £5m of cuts will be made on top of those already working through from last year’s budget. The impact of these cuts is likely to be felt across the board, including services to adults and children. Whilst details of precisely how they will be applied is still unclear, the Liberal Democrat group will be requesting this information at the Cabinet meeting.
Liberal Democrat Finance Spokesperson, Philip Daniel, explained that “the true state of the County finances is even worse than it may appear as the Conservatives are using a number of “one off” grants to prop up services. These monies can only be used for one year and will result in a bigger challenge to make the books balance in 12 months from now. The budget doesn’t balance beyond next year and foreshadows yet more cuts from 2020 onwards.” Cllr Daniel continued, “it is interesting to see that the Conservatives have taken up some of the ideas the Liberal Democrats put forward last year, such as the way that the “Minimum Revenue Provision” is calculated, in order to reduce the pain, but they are still shying away from the need to completely change the way in which the Council is organised in order to provide a sustainable future”.
Liberal Democrat Leader, David Tutt commented, “we know that many of the problems stem from major cuts in the grant provided by national government. These cuts are destroying communities and taking away vital services which local people need and expect. I recognise that all parties have been lobbying Government on this issue, but I believe that the time has now come for East Sussex Conservatives to stand up to their own Government and tell them that enough is enough”.