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West Sussex County Council saves £9.7m
Civic leaders claim they are “well on target” to find nearly £80 million of savings over three years – despite thousands of vulnerable people having their care criteria changed.
As Government cuts worsen, West Sussex County Council has reported an underspend of £9.7 million in the last financial year.
Its annual accounts for 2011/12 also show it has £176 million in reserves – an increase of £61 million from its February forecast.
Despite thousands of people appealing to council bosses to reduce the cuts to care services for the disabled and most vulnerable, the local authority has said it will stick with its policy of saving to fund its long-term commitments.
Yet campaigners have urged the local authority to think again and help those who have no voice.
Barry Pickthall, of campaign group Don’t Cut Us Out, said: “That they have taken £31 million out of adult social care and put millions in reserves just shows they’re living in a different world.
“That is money they have taken out of the pocket of the taxpayer and it is sitting doing nothing. It’s so frustrating.”
Of the underspend, £4.5 million has been transferred to the infrastructure fund, to pay for improvements, such as superfast broadband across the county.
A further £4.7 million will be reallocated to budgets for the 2012/13 financial year.
Michael Brown, the council’s finance cabinet member, said: “The future is very uncertain, and we would be living in a fool’s paradise if we were to think that Government grants are suddenly going to increase again.
“Once you have excluded all the committed money in the reserves fund, we have just £18 million available in the general fund, which may sound like a large amount but, in practice, would in fact only cover the costs of running the entire county council for just 13 days.
“I know some people have asked why we don’t simply spend our reserves maintaining services, but once that money is spent it is gone, and the service is either suddenly cut or we have to seek more money from the taxpayer.”