Lewes Lib Dems fight unprecedented cuts to East Sussex County Council budget

Following the recent announcement that the Conservative administration at East Sussex County Council plans to strip back services to "the core", Lewes Lib Dems pledge to fight back.

ESCC said it was looking at a worst-case scenario deficit budget position by 2021/22 of £46.4m. The Conservative County Council Cabinet members, who looked at the "core offer" in July, agreed the plan would be costed and developed over the summer, with more detailed proposals to be considered in the autumn ahead of budget meetings in February 2019.

Ouse Valley County Councillor Sarah Osborne said: “People in Lewes are rightly outraged by the Conservative mismanagement of East Sussex County Council’s budget. We have seen major cuts including the loss of two local schools over recent years and the latest news would lead to an unprecedented further reduction. I have opposed these cuts and am particularly disappointed that the Conservative Councillors voted to raise their own allowances while cutting essential services. I voted against this increase and am donating my share to charity.”

Opposition Leader on ESCC, Eastbourne Lib Dem Cllr David Tutt, said: “This utterly deplorable situation has also come about because the Conservative controlling group have failed to take any of the necessary preparatory steps to deal with this funding crisis. All local authorities have seen a sharp reduction in government grants over the last few years but unlike in Eastbourne where we’ve been facing the challenge head on for some time now and, as a consequence, built up income-generation programmes and significantly reduced costs with only minimal cuts; County Conservatives have just buried their heads in the sand until it’s too late. They have adopted a slash and burn approach to their finances and services. This has meant savage cuts to services such as cuts to our libraries, cuts to the voluntary sector, children’s and adult social services, Music Services and vital provision to vulnerable people as provided by excellent local organisations such as Home Works. The list of draconian service cuts goes on and on.”

Ringmer & Lewes Bridge County Councillor Philip Daniel said: “The Liberal Democrats recently presented an alternative budget, which would have reduced the need to cut by £7m and ensured many key services could be maintained, but the Tories rejected our proposals out of hand. I am fighting hard with Lib Dem colleagues to keep much-needed services going such as the Phoenix Centre and the Music Service to ensure that vulnerable people, young and old, in our community continue to benefit from vital provision.”

Seaford South County Councillor Carolyn Lambert said: "Central government policy is to withdraw government grant from local authorities by 2021 and to replace it with 100% retention of business rates, plus of course, Council tax. This is an unsustainable and highly fragile way to fund critical public services, including education, highways maintenance, adult social care and care for vulnerable children and other residents. We have made this point repeatedly as a group at County Council and have put forward alternative budgets that have sought to mitigate the most severe cuts to services, including, this year, a proposal to make savings through a corporate vacancy control procedure.

"We have repeatedly challenged the Conservatives to lobby their ministers and MPs to put the case for the funding that is needed, particularly for adult social care - day care services for those with dementia and other mental health issues have just been removed from Seaford. We will of course support the Council Leader in making the case to government but so far, as the Leader has admitted, government is simply not listening."

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