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East Sussex council plan for 10% budget cut - and council tax freeze
Council officials plan to cut a tenth of the budget over the next three years to balance the books.
East Sussex County Council intends to make savings of £71.5 million – £10 million more than had been forecast as necessary.
A reduction in central funding and changes in the way academy schools are funded means the council anticipates its budget gap by 2016 excluding service pressures will be more than £60 million.
The authority has already made savings of £37 million between 2010/11 and 2012/13.
In this year’s budget, the council announced an estimated 300 jobs were likely to go in the next year with more to follow before 2015.
Opposition councillors criticised the council’s insistence to freeze council tax and said the decision was made with next year’s elections in mind.
Council tax is set to remain at its current levels up to 2013/14 but then could rise by as much as 3% after that.
Council officials say that all efforts will be made to limit the impact on frontline services to try to protect the most vulnerable.
The authority is staggering the level of savings it needs to make, meaning that £29 million of savings will have to be found in 2014/15 alone.
It is forecast that the council’s income from grants and council tax will drop by £34 million over the next four years.
Godfrey Daniel, the deputy leader of the Labour group on the council, said the decision for a council tax freeze “compounded” the cuts made by central government.
Coun Daniel added: “If people want good services, then these services have to be paid for.
“What are we going to do with the most vulnerable, are we going to neglect them completely?
“Making more and more council staff unemployed doesn’t help anyone and is not the way forward we would like to see.”
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said proposals for greater savings than the budget gap were necessary to allow a choice of which saving proposals to take forward and because of uncertainty around Government funding from next year.
He added: “There is a real drive across the council to focus on the outcome for service users and to bring together in the most efficient way all services supporting those users.
“The council is required to prepare impact assessments against each proposed change in its services, showing consideration of the impact on specific groups and on equalities.”