Council takes on the Big Society concept

THE COUNCIL has committed itself to Big Society ideals, pledging to cut back on ‘in-house’ services.

Eastbourne Borough Council chiefs said reductions in central government grants and a vision for the future have spurred them into setting a course of devolution.

The council will look at ways to work with private companies and combine with the voluntary sector and other councils in a bid to save money.

Cabinet approved the council’s long-term strategy plans at a meeting last week.

Leader of the council councillor David Tutt said, “The next step is to say let’s make sure we’re getting best value for money.

“It’s not about cutting the quality of services, it’s about working with public, private and volunteer partners to try and drive out efficiencies and improve the quality of services.”

Last week the council announced its Government grant has been slashed by £1.33 million over the next financial year – a 12.8 per cent reduction. But it also promised no cuts to frontline services.

The council is in discussion with other public bodies in East Sussex and further afield to see if they can work together to sustain services for less.

r The council has already combined its building control services with Wealden District Council in its offices in Hailsham. The council claims it will save £36,000 a year.

r The YMCA agreed to take over a yearly council grant of £40,000 for youth sports development in the borough in October. The council used to employ a member of staff to do this.

r The council will release control of the Royal Hippodrome Theatre to a trust.

Stephen Lloyd MP said, “In general terms I’m all for it if there can be cost efficiencies.

“The council has managed to keep all our frontline services and what’s going to be the lowest number of redundancies in the south east which is tremendously impressive.”

He added he expected the council to make single figure redundancies.

“What the public want is a good service, I don’t think they’re fussed about who provides it so long as the quality is high and the costs are as low as humanly possible.

“If the council do that local residents are going to be positive about it.

“If Big Society is about the council working with voluntary groups and other councils then hey, I’m signed up.

“I don’t struggle with the concept and I don’t know the guy (David Cameron) but my understanding is the Big Society is about people working together to find better ways for their community,” said Mr Lloyd.