East Sussex council's basic services 'not sustainable'

Image caption,
In August the county council said it might only be able to offer services it is legally obliged to provide

A cash-strapped council has warned it will not be able to afford to provide basic services unless it receives more government money.

Conservative-led East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said it needed to save more than £45m by 2021-22.

In its Core Offer document the council sets out a list of services it could provide as a "bare minimum".

However, the chief executive said it was "unlikely" that even this reduced level of services could be sustained.

In August, ESCC set out plans to strip back services to the "legal minimum", following fellow Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council's proposed "radical service reductions" to tackle its financial crisis.

The Core Offer would result in cuts to training for social workers and doing less preventative work, saving £854,000.

Another £1.3m could be saved by doing less monitoring of school performances, the document added.

The council also said more than £500,000 could be saved by cutting library services and £884,000 cut from the road maintenance budget.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
The council said more than £500,000 could be saved by cutting library services


By Ben Weisz, BBC Sussex

A "basic but decent" offer - that's how the council leader Keith Glazier sees the Core Offer document, setting out East Sussex County Council's view of the bare minimum it should provide to residents.

It combines those services the council must provide by law - like free bus passes, or adult social care - with other services the council feels it couldn't do without.

And it sets out what the council would axe, too. So, no more funding for meals on wheels, more cuts to libraries and tips, and fewer families getting early help from social services.

This "bare minimum" would save the council £12m each year.

But unless there's a big change to its financial situation, rising demand for its services and falling government grant means it needs to save £46m by 2022. Even the core offer isn't affordable, as things stand.

Yes, it's a way of asking residents what the council's priorities should be. But it's also a political statement, aimed squarely at the government.

The message is simple: "We won't even be able to afford the bare minimum in a year or two. So either give us more money, or let us off some of our legal duties."

Becky Shaw, the council's chief executive, said: "The Core Offer will help us in our lobbying with government to set out the realistic level of funding we need to continue to serve local people adequately.

"The council is using its best endeavours to live within its means and is continuing to work to make sure it is making the best use of resources.

"It remains unlikely, however, that even the Core Offer will be sustainable by the end of the next three year planning period."

The council said the document would form part of public consultation into the authority's spending plans.

Council leader Keith Glazier said: "We'd all like to provide more than a core service because none of us came into politics to make cuts, but this proposal is presented as a realistic ambition in a time of austerity.

"We have a budget to deliver and we have to make best use of that. This is not about budget setting."

The proposals are due to be discussed by the council's full cabinet on 13 November and will be used to develop the budget for the next three years, a council spokesman said.

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