Comment: West Sussex needs fairer government funding to stop damaging council budget cuts

Through no fault of its own, times have been tough at Chichester’s County Hall over the last decade and they’re not getting any easier.

Friday, 13th November 2020, 12:55 pm
Secretary of State for Local Government Robert Jenrick (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images) SUS-201113-124347001

Through no fault of its own, times have been tough at Chichester’s County Hall over the last decade and they’re not getting any easier.

Since 2010, West Sussex County Council has had to find savings totalling far in excess of £100million.

Demand for adult social care and children’s services has gone up taking a larger and larger share of the budget each year.

Meanwhile statutory limitations to increases in council tax bills over the last five years have only gone some way to filling financial shortfalls.

This is all because central government has slashed the financial support it gives to local authorities and only recently has started to wake up to the impact this has had on front-line services.

But Government has dithered and delayed on putting in place long-term funding solutions for councils especially in the South of England.

And now we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic during which West Sussex has faced even greater pressures on its services and income.

Time is now running out before West Sussex sees substantial cuts to services residents expect and rely on.

Although efficiency savings have been identified, a total of £23million is still needed to plug the budget gap for next year and West Sussex County Council leaders are due to consider a range of options to balance the books when they meet in public later this month.

Leader Paul Marshall described how some of these proposals would be ‘unpalatable’ for many residents and ‘not decisions we want to take’.

Although firm details have not been published yet, the options range from cuts to day services, a review of the network of rubbish tips, a review of the library service offer in some areas and ending community highway schemes.

Our residents would see these as core services that many of them use frequently. Any reductions will hit our most vulnerable the hardest.

With next year’s budget having to be signed off in three months’ time, ministers are running out of time to provide extra funding to stop these cuts being necessary.

We urge West Sussex’s eight MPs, four holding ministerial positions, to let Secretary of State for Local Government Robert Jenrick know in no uncertain terms about the consequences of inaction on our county.

Being able to access day services or visit your local library are not indulgences, but necessities as part of the bedrock of our communities.

Paul Marshall and his team at the county council needs to know they have the support of us all in ensuring a fair slice of the national cash cake to underpin the services on which we all rely.

This newspaper gives him our unequivocal backing in securing the right financial settlement.