Pot holes priority as a big axe falls

East Sussex County Council members voted in favour of the 1.95 per cent increase to its section of Council Tax – equating to around an extra 43p a week for Band D properties.

A controversial budget was approved by 26 votes to 18, with three abstentions during a three-hour debate earlier this week. And despite the extra revenue which will be created by the Council Tax increase, councillors agree to widespread cuts across a range of services.

These include a seven per cent cut in both adult social care (down to £158.4m) and children’s services (down to £66.2m). Elsewhere, the council’s community, economy and transport department will suffer an eight per cent cut (down to £61.5m).

Spending on business service will drop 12 per cent to £23.2m and governance service nine per cent to £7.2million. The only department to see an increase in its budget under the plans for 2014-15 is public health, which would be afforded a modest three per cent rise to £24.4m. Around 150 jobs are also said to be a risk as the council attempts to balance its books amid a drastic cut in funding from central Government.

The authority needs to address a mammoth £110m in budget cuts before 2020 which started taking effect back in 2010. In the four years since, county hall has resisted the temptation to increase its section of Council Tax but during Tuesday’s meeting councillors gave the penny-pinching budget their approval.

The budget did include provisions for more than £57m in additional funding for highways – including £2.25m for fixing the county’s potholes. A further £339m has been committed to funding long-term projects, including funding school places, improving broadband capacity and major improvements to libraries.

Cllr Keith Glazier, council leader, said, “This is a budget which offers a pragmatic, sensible and long-term approach to the extremely difficult financial situation we have to deal with.

“We’ve had to balance the need to meet our obligations to help with the Government’s budget deficit reduction with the need to protect frontline services, and that hasn’t been an easy balancing act.

“This budget is about ensuring we have greater control over our own destiny.