Council’s budget ‘maximises health and social care investment’

County Hall Lewes, East Sussex County Council HQ SUS-150925-134850001
County Hall Lewes, East Sussex County Council HQ SUS-150925-134850001

East Sussex County Council’s latest budget ‘maximises health and social care investment’, according to the cabinet member for finance.

The Tory-led authority has to plug a £17m budget gap for 2017/18 and although this is less than the £24m estimated back in October it is still proposing a number of cuts and tax increases.

Next week the council’s Cabinet is due to discuss proposals for a 4.99 per cent rise in its council tax precept, three per cent of which would fund adult social care, meaning an extra £62.46 a year for a Band D property.

Local authorities’ budgets have been under severe pressure for years due to cuts in Government grant funding and extra demand for key services.

David Elkin, the county council’s lead member for resources, said: “It’s welcome news that councillors will now be able to debate a savings target £7million lower than was being considered at one stage.

“This is now in line with our budget planning, thanks to some very careful financial management and greater investment in social care.

“However, we are still facing considerable challenges and will have to make more tough choices which will have an impact on frontline services.

“Asking residents to pay more is not something we take lightly, but with declining funding it’s one way to protect the most vulnerable in our society and equip us to deal with the challenges ahead.

“The proposals allow us to maximise investment in health and social care – one of the areas of greatest demand – including East Sussex Better Together, our ambitious plan to improve the health and wellbeing of residents by integrating services provided by the county council and the NHS.”

Trevor Webb, leader of the Labour group, said: “ESCC Conservative Cabinet proposals again target the most vulnerable: older people, people with learning disabilities and those on low incomes.”

Meanwhile David Tutt, leader of the Lib Dem group, said: “The cuts have been reduced from those originally proposed in October but will still have a big impact upon some of the most vulnerable within our community.

“We are concerned over the cuts in adult social care and the ability of the ‘Better Together’ programme to be able to support local people.

“We also note that some of the originally proposed cuts in areas such as special educational needs and grass cutting have not been dropped but simply put back a year, until after the county council elections.”

If approved by cabinet at their meeting on Tuesday January 24, the draft budget will be discussed and put to a vote at full council on Tuesday February 7.

The draft budget also earmarks £95 million for capital projects.

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