Spending plans on track to avoid more savings

NO NEW savings are being planned at this stage for next year’s council budget despite the unprecedented financial pressures of the Covid-19 response.

A report to East Sussex County Council’s Cabinet explains how careful financial planning and partnership working means that, for the first time in more than a decade, no additional cuts are currently being considered beyond those already set out at last year’s budget meeting.

Provided Government funding for 2021/22 reflects the financial pressures experienced in East Sussex, and full council approves the budget in February, the county council does not expect to drop below its core offer this year – a minimum level of service it says residents should be able to expect.

Council leader Cllr Keith Glazier said: “With every corner of our county experiencing the devastating effects of Covid-19, we have seen more residents relying on the services we provide – whether that’s care for the elderly and vulnerable, support for businesses trying to recover or help for schools trying to get our children’s learning back on track.

“While there will always be more that we would like to do, being able to propose no further reductions to services at this time, when more people are in greater need of support, is a huge achievement.”

As it currently stands the authority proposes to spend more than £380 million on council services, with any decisions based on its key priorities of keeping the vulnerable safe, making best use of resources, driving economic growth and helping people help themselves.

Since 2010, East Sussex County Council has had to make savings of £138 million and last year launched its core offer which set out what residents could expect from the council in the coming years if more sustainable funding was not agreed by central Government. Previously-planned savings of £2.8 million will be delivered during 2021/22, including the remodelling of the Early Help Service.

Cllr Glazier added: We are in a period of significant uncertainty and the continuing Covid-19 crisis, along with no Government budget, spending review or other detail on future funding, is affecting our ability to plan for the longer term. As it stands, we can only maintain our core offer for next year.

“We will continue to highlight the challenges East Sussex is facing to the Government, call for fairer, more sustainable funding and lobby for additional funding to cover the financial impact of response to the global pandemic.”

At its meeting on October 2, Cabinet will consider the latest financial report and will consider changes to the wording of its four key priorities to take into account the additional pressures created by the Covid-19 crisis.