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West Sussex County Council to make £140 million savings over four years
Councillors are set to discuss the first stages of proposals to make £140 million worth of savings over the next four years.
West Sussex County Council has announced details of multi-million pound savings to be made by 2018 including £61 million over the next two years with £32 million coming from adult social care budgets.
Unions and campaigners have warned that there is “no more fat left to cut” following previous council budget cuts of £79 million over three years and warned services for vulnerable people would be “pared to the bone”.
Major savings include plans to reduce the amount of time residents spent in residential care facilities and more care in the home which is predicted to save £8 million.
Early childhood, youth and fostering services will also lose £5.5 million of funding as the council focuses on more “specialist and targeted intervention” while £3 million of savings will be made from fire and rescue services.
Unison said that residents should “read between the lines” of the council proposals and predicted that the level of predicted savings would only be achieved through significant closures of vital children and family centres, a reduction in qualified social workers, closure or privatisation of specialist day centres and further outsourcing and privatisation.
Councillor Michael Brown, cabinet member for finance, said the county council faces a difficult financial challenge because of government grant cuts but union speculation was “misleading” at an early stage in the process.
He added: “The budget process will be fully transparent throughout, and we will be giving details later this week of how people can take part in a consultation.
“The draft savings proposals are significant and will reduce some service budgets, but there are also many reductions we are proposing to make through internal efficiencies that will not have any impact on residents.”
UNISON West Sussex Branch Secretary Dan Sartin described the level of proposed savings as “staggering”.
He added: “The council hasn’t yet come clean with residents as to what these cuts will mean for local people.
“There is still a view held by some councillors that you can put a scythe to public services and residents won’t notice, that somehow these cuts represent ‘efficiencies’ or ‘savings’. “They don’t.
“There is no fat left to cut.”
Margaret Guest, chair of campaign group Don’t Cut Us Out, said: “Such a level of cuts to council expenditure cannot be achieved simply by ‘working more closely with partners’ and ‘making more efficiencies’.
“Instead, it will mean further devastating cuts in services for those who rely on council services the most by the very people who have already born the burden of the previous £79m of cuts implemented by the council over the last three years.”
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