The Lib Dem Opposition on East Sussex County Council today rejected the County budget as damaging to vulnerable residents, unsustainable, and obscure about where cuts would really fall. The Lib Dems blamed central government for withdrawal of grants, failure to reform local authority finance, and negligence in delaying a solution to funding of adult social care.
Group Leader Cllr David Tutt (Eastbourne, St Anthony’s) labelled the budget “a betrayal of our responsibility to local people”. He went on: “it is time to take a stand against hollowing out of local services, and send the government a message to put local authority cuts into reverse.” Cllr Tutt continued: “As last year, we don’t really know where £5m or more of further cuts will really fall – there’s no detail. Even with those cuts, the budget numbers don’t properly add up – and certainly not in the following year and the one after that. The council is relying on one-off sources of money.” Cllr Tutt called upon the Conservative Leaders to stand up to their Government and said: “if you do I will stand firmly beside you and accept whatever sanctions that results in. The time has come to say that further service cuts would be too damaging to our community”.
Lib Dems attacked further cuts proposed to children’s services. Deputy Leader Cllr Kathryn Field (Battle and Crowhurst) said: “Support for looked-after children has been a bright spot in County services; the excellent work of our staff will be threatened by planned funding cuts.”
Lib Dems also pointed out that capital spending on infrastructure would fall, and the Council’s reserves would decline sharply. Finance Spokesperson Cllr Philip Daniel (Ringmer and Lewes Bridge) said: “The capital programme should create new school buildings, roads and community infrastructure – not only is capital spending falling from next year onwards, but maintenance items have been shifted into it. The Council plans to make the sums add up by paying nothing from the revenue budget towards capital next year. That’s not a secure future.” Cllr Daniel added: “We need strong money reserves, but the Council’s plan sees reserves fall from last year to April 2019 by 15% and to go on falling in the years ahead.”
Lib Dem Councillor Carolyn Lambert (Seaford South) said: “The money from extra business rates retention isn’t certain and other Councils aren’t relying on it – I don’t want to see further cuts happen because revenue sources aren’t really there.”