Council raises tax and agrees £18m cuts plan

Construction of the controversial Bexhill to Hastings Link Road masterminded by East Sussex County Council, which has pledged a further �22m will be spent on transport and highways in the coming year

Construction of the controversial Bexhill to Hastings Link Road masterminded by East Sussex County Council, which has pledged a further �22m will be spent on transport and highways in the coming year

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East Sussex County Council is set to make £18m of cuts, claiming its spending plans represent ‘a sensible approach in tough times’.

At a meeting of the full council, the authority also approved a 1.95 percent rise in council tax - 44p a week for a Band D property - arguing the rise will help to protect key services.

The £18m reduction will bring to £67 million the savings ESCC has made over three years, as the squeeze on funding from central government continues.

The council agreed £366 million of net spending for 2015-16 and pledged to focus on its priorities of protecting the vulnerable, boosting economic growth and ‘helping people to help themselves’.

Cllr David Elkin, East Sussex County Council lead member for resources, said that the financially challenging climate meant the council had to have an ever sharper focus on its priorities.

He said: “We should be under no illusions that the continuing austerity we are facing means we have to cut our cloth accordingly.

“We’ve done everything we can in recent years to minimise the effect on services as much as possible, but we can’t avoid the fact that in tough times, difficult decisions have to be made.

“The budget which council has approved is evidence of the sensible and prudent approach we’ve taken, and will continue to take, with our increasingly limited resources.

“Increasing council tax will help us to protect the services which really matter to people.”

The budget comes in the wake of a cut of more than a third in the core grant the council receives from central government since 2011-12, at a time when the county’s ageing population is creating growing demand for services.

Around two thirds of the authority’s spending goes to children’s services and adult social care, including £50 million on care and support for older people, almost £45 million on learning disabilities and £35 million on supporting children and families.

The budget will also see £27 million on the environment and £22 million on transport and highways.

Meanwhile, in the new financial year, £139 million will be ploughed into one-off projects such as road improvements, schools, libraries, social care facilities and measures to stimulate the local economy.

The hike in council tax comes just a couple of weeks after Sussex Police raised its portion of the council tax by 1.98 percent - the equivalent to an additional £2.79 per household, per year on a Band D property.

Meanwhile the East Sussex Fire Authority was due to meet yesterday (Thursday) as the Observer went to press to set its annual budget for 2015/16 and its own level of council tax.

Members of the authority were due to decide on whether to raise its portion of the council tax by 1.94 percent or keep council tax levels the same and accept a freeze grant from the Government.

An increase would see council tax for a Band D property rise by £1.62 to £85.07 a year, raising £23.2 million.