COUNCIL leaders in the county will meet next week to discuss proposals for service changes and funding across East Sussex next year, in the context of uncertainty and a difficult financial outlook over the next three years.
The proposals, to be considered by Cabinet on Tuesday, January 22, include decisions about spending £375 million on vital services and proposals to make savings of £5.13 million to deliver a balanced budget in 2019/20, and also look ahead to 2020/21 and 2021/22.
Councillors will also be asked to consider an increase in council tax for next year of 2.99 per cent, the equivalent of 80p extra per week for the average household in East Sussex.
Good financial management and successful lobbying of central Government, which has resulted in some additional one-off funding, means the savings requirement for the next financial year, from service changes, is lower than first estimated.
Councillor David Elkin, lead member for resources, said: “We’ve worked hard to ensure central Government understands the specific financial challenges we face in East Sussex, and we welcome the additional funding which we will use carefully as we plan the next three years.
“We still have to make some difficult decisions to deliver a balanced budget in 2019/20 with a careful eye on our planning for the following two years which will be a time of uncertainty and continued financial challenge.
"We know there’s a real strain on many people in East Sussex and this additional money, and our own careful management, gives us the opportunity to minimise cuts to services and the impact on our residents next year.”
Among the additional funding to have an effect on plans for 2019/20, is money from the 75 per cent business rates retention pilot, and an additional £4.4 million for social care.
Cllr Elkin added: “While this additional money eases the pressure on our finances, it is only one-off funding and it is vital that we continue to lobby Government for a permanent and sustainable funding solution that takes into account our particular demography and the challenges that presents.
“Having already made savings of £129 million between 2010 and 2019, we need a fairer funding deal which does not place the whole funding burden on local taxpayers and businesses and allows us to deliver more of the services people rely upon.”
While savings of £5.1 million are required this year, latest estimates for the next two years to 2021/22 continue to show a deficit of £21.2 million.
The Cabinet meeting takes place at 10am on Tuesday, January 22 and papers can be viewed at https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=133&MId=3359&Ver=4
Cabinet will recommend a 2019/20 budget for decision by full council at its meeting on Tuesday, February 5, 2019.