East Sussex County Council cuts services to 'legal minimum'

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Image caption East Sussex County Council said it had saved £129m since 2010 and had to be realistic about the future

A second Conservative-run council has set out plans to strip back services to the "legal minimum" amid calls for talks with central government.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said it had saved £129m since 2010 and had to be realistic about the future.

The authority has confirmed it may only be able to offer services it is legally obliged to provide. The government has not yet commented.

Northamptonshire council also proposed "radical service reductions" this week.

Worst-case scenario

ESCC's chief executive, Becky Shaw, said: "Our core offer paints an honest picture of the minimum that we realistically need to provide in the future and we want to use this as the basis for discussion with the government, partner organisations and residents in East Sussex."

She said that included:

  • Services for vulnerable children and adults with critical or substantial need
  • Sufficient maintenance of highways
  • Trading standards
  • Road safety services
  • A core library and information service
  • A limited number of household waste disposal centres
  • Statutory planning functions

ESCC said it was looking at a worst-case scenario deficit budget position by 2021/22 of £46.4m.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The council would provide a core library and information service

The council said it was facing significant reductions in funding from central government and demand for social care was soaring.

It stated more than 25% of East Sussex residents were aged 65 or over - a ratio the country as a whole would not reach until 2031, it said.

A spokesperson for the authority said council leader Keith Glazier had written to James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, about the "counterproductive choices" it had been forced to make.

ESCC currently has 30 Conservative members, 11 Lib Dems, four Labour, three Independent members and two Independent Democrats.

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.

Image caption Scores of residents gathered outside Northamptonshire County Council headquarters to protest over proposed cuts on Wednesday

Emergency talks were held on Wednesday by Northamptonshire County Council, which has said it must save up to £70m by March.

The Conservative-led authority there has been forced to impose spending controls twice in six months.

Angry residents gathered outside the meeting, with one public speaker describing the situation in Northamptonshire as a "shambles".

In October, ESCC warned of "real hardship" if the needs of its residents were not taken into account by the government and launched an online video campaign entitled 'Stand Up for East Sussex' seeking "fairer government funding".

Image caption East Sussex County Council launches Stand Up campaign