Release date: 24 November 2020
A decision to carry out further work on potential savings has been agreed by West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet as work continues to bridge a £43.6million budget gap for 2021/22.
The gap represents the difference between the funding the council assumes it will receive, versus what it expects it will need to spend over the next financial year.
The list of potential savings which will now be worked up in more detail includes:
- reviewing day services
- review of management layers in the Children’s Services Department
- redesigning IT services
- review of council-owned buildings
- measures to reduce the amount of DIY waste presented at Household Waste Recycling Sites (HWRS) and review of the HWRS network
- reduction in additional bus pass access for specific groups including companion passes or users with a registered disability - there would be no change to the statutory scheme
- ending small local (community) highway schemes and reallocating the capital budget to highways maintenance
- working with parish councils in specific areas to review the library service offer available in the communities
- not reopening the public café at County Hall, Chichester.
The decision made today means further detailed planning will now be carried out for each saving option before formal decisions to proceed on each item are considered by Cabinet Members early next year.
The decision means the Council has so far identified a possible £20.2m in efficiencies and savings for the next financial year, leaving a further £23.4m to find.
For the following three years the Council anticipates budget gaps of £44m, £17m and £5.9m; a total budget gap of £110m over the next four years, before savings options are considered.
Councillor Paul Marshall, Leader of the Council, said: “I know that some of the options we’ve looked at today feel unwelcome, not least as we continue to battle a global pandemic. But the stark reality is that we have to make difficult decisions in order to protect vital services including those for our most vulnerable children and adults.
“We have faced a difficult financial position for a while now, but the pandemic we are all facing has only made this worse. We continue to lobby government, alongside our local MPs, in the hope that further funding can be found, and we await news of the Comprehensive Spending Review later this week and the Local Government Settlement later this year. However, despite these efforts we know further savings will need to be found and we are working hard to ensure that the impact of any changes are mitigated as much as possible.”
The work to balance the budget is being supported through the development of Our Council Plan – the council’s new corporate plan. The plan ensures the Council’s priorities are aligned to the budget and that it is accountable for delivering them.
The Cabinet approved the progress made so far on the Our Council Plan, which will now be discussed further at Full Council in December. A final version of the Our Council Plan is expected to be approved at February’s Full Council meeting, along with the final budget.
Cabinet also agreed to adopt an Economy Reset Plan – the Council’s response to the economic impact of COVID-19.
The Economy Reset Plan recognises that many businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic and focuses on how to help the West Sussex economy recover.
Priority areas identified in the plan include:
- Focusing on skills and employment reflecting the significant impact COVID-19 is having on jobs, the self-employed and those seeking to enter the labour market
- Maximising opportunities to support businesses and residents through government initiatives
- Focusing on Crawley, the wider Gatwick Diamond economy and the businesses and people severely impacted by the aviation crisis and current position with Gatwick Airport
- Accelerating the adoption and application of digital technology and installing new infrastructure
- Addressing the needs of particular sectors, including tourism
- Exploring opportunities to support the aims of the County Council’s Climate Change Strategy through our approach to economic recovery
During the meeting Cabinet also heard about the work of the Youth Cabinet, including campaigns they have run recently focusing on the environment, mental health, tackling racial inequality and COVID-19 support.