Economic development ‘top priority’ for Eastbourne council in challenging financial times

The economic development of Eastbourne remains the borough council’s top priority in challenging financial times, cabinet members heard this week.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 4:07 pm
Eastbourne has successfully attracted significant investment into the town in recent years
Eastbourne has successfully attracted significant investment into the town in recent years

On Wednesday night, senior council leaders supported the authority’s draft budget for 2020/21, including a two per cent rise in its share of council tax.

This would add £4.94 a year on to the bill for a Band D property and would mean an extra £176,000 for the council’s coffers.

This would be on top of the 3.99 per cent rise being proposed by East Sussex County Council, the £10 extra on a Band D bill planned by Sussex Police and any increase put forward by East Sussex Fire and Rescue.

Stephen Holt, cabinet member for financial services, said the biggest budget challenge was homelessness, but they were continuing to invest in housing and new homes ‘both because it’s the right thing to do, but also financially it makes sense’.

On the wider financial picture, he said: “We are not underestimating the size of the challenge for everybody, but I’m confident that we will meet those challenges as they come.”

For Alan Shuttleworth, cabinet member for direct assistance services, the major problem was the lack of affordable housing in Eastbourne, both in the private rented and public sectors.

He described how there were currently around 160 households in temporary accommodation and alongside building more homes the council was also introducing preventative measures to stop people becoming homeless in the first place.

He added: “It’s a good budget for investing in the future of our town.”

David Tutt, leader of the council, highlighted the cuts to Government funding councils like his had suffered in the past few years, but cautioned against authorities of different tiers competing for extra cash.

He said: “My concern is that the different levels of local government will fight each other for an ever reducing cake. I do not think that should happen.”

On this year’s budget, he added: “Economic development remains the top priority for this authority. If we get that right then other good things flow from that including our ability to build homes.”

The budget will now be discussed at full council on Wednesday February 19.