Budget 2020/21

Find out more about WSCC's budget setting process for 2020/21.

Budget 2020/21

Our budget challenge

Our budget challenge

West Sussex County Council, like many other local authorities across the country, continues to face unprecedented financial pressures mainly due to:
• Increasing demand on social care services
• Significant reduction in government funding
• Uncertainty around future funding.

We have made almost £240m of savings since 2010 and in the same period our funding has been cut by more than £155m by Government. But we still have a gross budget gap of £127m (before council tax rises) to close over the next four years.

Have a look at this short animation explaining our budget situation and the challenges we face:

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West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet met in public in July to consider savings options to take forward in the 2020/21 budget to meet this funding gap.

The budget process started earlier than usual this summer to allow plenty of time for options to be fully worked out and considered before any decisions are taken. Full details of the budget options proposed can be found in the Cabinet papers. Cabinet decided to pursue 12 of the 18 options and they will now be developed in more detail.

The national picture

The national picture

West Sussex County Council faces uncertainty over the level of funding it will receive in the future.

Central Government is carrying out a review of the total amount of funding provided to local government as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, and also looking to reform how this funding is allocated via the Fair Funding Review.

The long awaited and much delayed Social Care Green Paper is also supposed to consult on options for making social care funding sustainable for the long term. West Sussex County Council is working with its MPs to press Government to ensure we get adequate funding for our residents.

However, given the current political uncertainty and the focus on Brexit, it is unclear when these key pieces of work will be complete.

Analysis of local government finance shows the funding gap for all councils stands at £4.8 billion in the current financial year. This rises significantly to £9.3 billion in 2022/23 and £12.4 billion in 2024/25. As you can see, the financial picture for local authorities is stark.

The local picture

The local picture

To date we have been able to achieve our savings targets largely by changing the way we do things, making us more efficient and freeing up money to protect front line services.

However, the demand for social care services is increasing in West Sussex, as are the overall number of households. Our number of elderly residents is increasing faster than in most other areas of the country and we have more children who we need to look after and keep safe. For example, the number of West Sussex children with special educational needs has risen from 3,898 in 2016 to 5,297 this year.

We cannot assume any further funding from Government when planning our 2020/21 budget and given the scale of spending pressures facing us, we are no longer in a position to balance our budget through efficiency savings alone.

This leaves us, along with more than 99% of social care authorities, with the unavoidable option of having to rely on raising more revenue from council tax as a key funding stream, which we know passes financial pressure on to you, our residents. However, even with council tax we are limited in the revenue we can raise. For example, despite the pressure on next year’s budget, we expect we will only be able to increase council tax by 2% without triggering a local referendum.

We now have the challenge of needing to deliver a budget with significantly less funding, yet an increasing demand on services. Regrettably, we have to look at making cuts to services that we know you, our residents, value.

Next steps

Next steps

We are currently working up more detail around the savings options and their impacts and mitigations. Those more detailed options will be scrutinised by the Council’s select committees during their autumn meetings before the savings programme is agreed at December’s County Council meeting.

Full details of the savings options can be found in the Cabinet papers and the Forward Plan. You can also find out more in a press release issued after July’s Cabinet meeting.

The Environment, Communities and Fire Select Committee will meet on Friday 20 September to discuss revisions to recycling credit payments and a review of the library offer.

In January 2020 Cabinet will formally recommend the 2020/21 budget to the County Council, which meets in February.

Keep visiting this page as we will provide updates on the timeline and next steps as they are agreed.

Further information

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