Release date: 19 December 2018
Members of the West Sussex Council Cabinet have approved a number of measures to deliver a balanced budget for 2019/2020.
Like many local authorities across the country, the council faces unprecedented financial pressures. In the last eight years it has saved almost £200m and in the same period, government funding has been cut by £145m.
The council still faces a huge financial challenge going forward. The county has an aging population and people are living longer with more complex health conditions. At the same time, the complexity and vulnerability of the children the council supports continues to increase. As a result, the authority faces an increasing demand for children’s and adults’ social care services and special educational needs support - services which the county council alone is responsible for providing.
Over the next four years, covering the period 2019/20 to 2022/23 the council faces a further gross budget gap of £145m. The gross budget gap faced in 2019/20 stood at £50.9m alone.
The council are looking at innovative ways to generate income and do more with the money they have, but making savings is inevitable and necessary given the financial challenges faced through continued reduction in central government funding.
For 2019/2020, the savings include the following:-
Housing Related Support (HRS): The council continues to invest £4.6m in 2019/20 in housing related support, making savings of £1.7m, with a proposed further reduction of £2.3m in 2020/21.
Local Assistance Network (LAN): The council are investing £200,000 in 2019/2020 which will include maintaining contributions to foodbanks and practical assistance through the children and family centres, but with a reduced level of funding to several local social enterprises and the Citizens Advice network.
Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG): The council are reducing the MIG to the statutory minimum provision.
Subsidised bus services: The council have adopted a revised Bus Strategy, 2018 to 2026. They continue to invest £2.27m in subsidising the bus services across West Sussex, with a reduction of £300,564 in 2019/20. Discussions are now underway with bus operators, other local councils, and community organisations to try to keep the impact of funding changes to a minimum.
The Integrated Prevention and Earliest Help (IPEH) service: In 2019/20 the council will see funding for the national Troubled Families programme cut by £560k. To continue this programme we will need to make changes to the way some other services are funded, including the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, National Citizen Service and the Purple Bus.
Commenting on all the savings decisions, council Leader Louise Goldsmith said: “We have a really good track record of taking care of our residents’ money and keeping our finances solid. However now, even for us, the financial situation is becoming so tough that we are being forced to take some very difficult decisions.
“I want to reassure our residents that we have not taken any decision to reduce services lightly and we will do all we can to work with our partners in other authorities and the voluntary sector to make sure any impact is kept to a minimum and we continue to protect the most vulnerable people in West Sussex.”
All decisions are subject to the statutory call-in period of seven working days.