A proposed ‘core offer’ detailing what services East Sussex residents can expect to be delivered in the future has been published.
East Sussex County Council, which has already had to save £129m since 2010 due to increased demands and costs coupled with reduced Government funding, may need to find a further £46m over the next three years.
The core offer does include a number of cuts, but would see a number of non-statutory alongside the statutory services being maintained.
In her report chief executive Becky Shaw described how the core offer ‘is not the ideal that we would wish to be able to provide but seeks to capture what is most appropriate and possible in a time of austerity’.
But she warned that it was unlikely even the core offer would be sustainable by the end of the three-year period.
For example adult social care and children’s services will continue to be provided, roads and highway infrastructure will still be maintained, a library services will be provided and waste sites will continue to operate in the county.
But monitoring of school performance could change to a ‘light touch approach’, the subsidy of the meals on wheels services could be scrapped, the number of household waste recycling sites may be reduced, while the level of preventative activity could be reduced.
Core offer providing a ‘clear picture’
Keith Glazier, leader of the county council, said: “This is about planning for the next three years but this is the basic core offer. Should austerity end as the Chancellor has indicated post Brexit and resources become more plentiful we would want to build on this.
“Until then this is a clear picture for both Government and the people of East Sussex about what they can expect.”
He hoped the Government’s comprehensive spending review, the fair funding review and its forthcoming green paper on social care would all establish the fact that funding levels should be based on the needs of local populations rather than the sizes and prices of houses.
Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget made available some extra one-off money for councils to fill potholes, deal with winter pressures and help pay for adult social care.
While Cllr Glazier welcomed this one off funding, it would not have any effect on the council’s financial position from 2020/21 onwards.
Summing up the core offer, he said: “This is about what we think is a decent aspirational offer that we think is right for the people of East Sussex and the second point is about planning as we always have, in my opinion as one of the best prepared councils in this country, to use the budget that we have wisely. I really do not want to be considered in the same breath as colleagues that have not been that forward thinking.”
The core offer is due to discussed by the council’s cabinet next Tuesday (November 13) and public engagement would then be held on the proposals.
At the same time the council has published £12.3m of proposed savings over the next three years, but would need to identify another £33.4m under a worst-case scenario.
Any budget decisions for the next financial year 2019/20 would be made in February by all councillors.
Ms Shaw’s report on the core offer added: “In drawing it up and considering the resources required to deliver it, chief officers have aimed to be realistic but ambitious about the level of service that can be maintained with minimum resources.
“It will however rely on a huge effort by our already reduced workforce, continued creativity and innovation working with our partners and may risk our ability to meet statutory guidance and deadlines.”