Cuts to funding for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme in East Sussex have been dropped.
The county council is looking to make £17m of cuts in its 2017/18 budget and originally proposed to cease acting as the licensing organisation for the DofE programme in the county.
More than 6,000 people signed a petition to keep the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in East Sussex as it ‘provides an enjoyable and fun way for students from all backgrounds to do something new and get out into the countryside’.
The petition argued that the cost to run the scheme for the council is ‘minimal, but the reward is monumental’.
But today (Tuesday January 24) the Tory Cabinet agreed funding of £29,000 so the county council could continue to co-ordinate the DofE scheme in East Sussex.
Sylvia Tidy, lead member for children and families, said: “I think the training our young people get through Duke of Edinburgh fits them for life ahead, it keeps them healthy, and it helps them understand they can volunteer and by volunteering they take some of the pressure off work that the county council has to do.”
She explained they was having conversations about the scheme being self-financing in the future, with the county council still remaining the co-ordinating body.
Other Tory amendments to the draft budget included continuing to run East Sussex’s Youth Cabinet and elections, an extra £300,000 for improving pavements, an additional £1m for highways drainage, £750,000 for transitional funding for schools in 2017/18, alongside investment in three areas of children’s services: mobile outreach youth work programmes to target antisocial behaviour hotspots, activity sessions for children with autism, and drop-in group work provision in targeted communities.
The Tory-led council is proposing a 4.99 per cent council tax rise for 2017/18, which includes the three per cent adult social care levy.
David Tutt (LDem, Eastbourne - St Anthony’s), leader of the Lib Dem group, said: “Local government is the victim of a relentless systemic attack on our finances from national Government.”
He added: “These are not savings these are cuts. They are cuts to frontline services. Let’s not try to muddy the waters, these are cuts and people are going to be impacted by them.”
Godfrey Daniel (Lab, Hastings - Braybrooke and Castle) added: “I have some sympathy with the administration because it’s the Government who have shafted them.
“They are seeking to destroy local government and the victims will be the people of East Sussex.”
David Elkin (Con, Eastbourne - Sovereign), lead member for resources, said: “We have thought long and hard and believe that the proposals we are putting forward to full council achieve the right balance for East Sussex residents, businesses and communities.
“This remains, without doubt, one of the most challenging budgets we have faced in East Sussex.
“But we are confident that we have something deliverable and sustainable, which makes the best use of our limited resources.”
A final decision on the budget will be made by full council on Tuesday February 7.
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