Consultation a ‘smokescreen to push through massive cuts’ at county council

2/5/13- East Sussex Election count, Hastings in 2013 Trevor Webb ENGSUS00120130305014418
2/5/13- East Sussex Election count, Hastings in 2013 Trevor Webb ENGSUS00120130305014418

Consultation on the future of county council services is a ‘total sham’ and a ‘smokescreen to push through massive cuts’ - according to the Labour Group.

The Tory-led East Sussex County Council has already made £64m of savings in the last three years and is looking at making another £70 to 90m in the next three years.

David Tutt

David Tutt

As part of this process the authority is looking to hear the thoughts and ideas of residents and business about how services should be delivered in the future.

But the Lib Dem Opposition Group argued that without more information on where current spending occurs it would be ‘almost impossible’ for the public to make meaningful contributions.

Meanwhile Trevor Webb, leader of ESCC’s Labour Group, said: “We all know what a ‘Have your say’ consultation event really is when led by a political party whose government is determined to shrink local government - regardless of the consequences.

“The Conservative political leadership of ESCC is using this ‘consultation’ as a smokescreen to push through massive cuts to services.

The whole thing is a total sham and I think the public need to know this

Trevor Webb, leader of ESCC’s Labour Group

“Rather than show determined and decisive leadership, they’re passing the buck. ‘Let the public decide’ is the oldest trick in the book.

“It’s only credible if the public can choose for services to remain as they are. That will never be on the table as long as the Tories rule County Hall.

“We on the Labour benches think enough is enough. The county council is already run on a skeleton service. The council leader should be telling George Osborne that this degree of spending cuts is unsustainable and is hurting those in the community who rely on us.

“The whole thing is a total sham and I think the public need to know this.”

Meanwhile David Tutt, leader of the Lib Dem Opposition Group at ESCC, added: “With regard to the county council cuts programme it is the view of my group that this will have a devastating impact upon the lives of many within East Sussex, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

“It is of course admirable that the are asking people for their opinions but the press releases I have seen provide very little in the way of information about how East Sussex spends money or on the services that are provided for this, so it makes it almost impossible for people to make meaningful contributions to the challenge.

“The Liberal Democrat Group have for years been advocating a different approach both to the way in which the council is run and the way that budgets are set, advocating a zero based budget approach which allows you to see what services you get for every pound spent.

“This would identify where the council is failing to obtain real value for money. If the amendments we have submitted to past budgets had been adopted we would not be facing such a difficult challenge now. Due to the reduction in Government grants some cuts are inevitable but we will be working to minimise these and look for areas of least impact.”

Earlier this week David Elkin, deputy leader and lead member for resources, said, “Our ambition is to deliver the same with less money and where possible improve what we deliver and we have achieved that in a number of areas.”

This could be the done either through technology or through working in partnership with other organisations.

He added: “However, the continued funding squeeze, at a time when our ageing population places more demand than ever on our services, means more tough choices have to be made. The reality is we will have to look closely at everything we do and change the way some services are delivered, while some will have to be reduced or even stopped altogether.”

He explained that there were no ‘red lines’ and everything was ‘in the pot’ when they looked at ‘some really difficult and challenging decisions’.

The council’s Cabinet will discuss the first draft of the budget in October, and will be awaiting the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on November 25 to see how far its grant will be cut.

The budget would then come back to Cabinet in January and would be agreed by Full Council in February.

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