As West Sussex County Council (WSCC) will soon start to scrutinize its 2014 / 15 budget, and in particular this year’s
planned efficiency savings, I feel compelled to comment on several key issues.
For all the political credit that administrations on all authorities claim regarding zero council tax increases, when this is done in successive years the cumulative impact is that council tax then needs to be raised significantly in order to make up the difference and get things to where they should be – perhaps as much as 8% in 2015/16.
Another main impact of efficiency savings, is where this is achieved by taking on less staff and redundancies, and assigning one officer three or three different job responsibilities; this, through no fault of the officer means that the level of the service provided can be seriously compromised, and thereby far less efficient to the people who surely matter in all of this - the residents.
Whichever way the WSCC administration choose to dress up this year’s planned efficiency savings it will mean a bloodbath for the services that the residents of West Sussex rely on. When set against the backdrop of three years of saving£79million, youth services, for example, cannot have much left to be cut.
I am mindful of the withdrawal of funding to local authorities from central government and yes, that does mean that local authorities need to look at what they do and how they do it, however I have also always believed that people do actually look at what they get for their council tax.
Cllr Louise Goldsmith has publicly stated that she is not prepared to inflict higher council tax on West Sussex residents in these tough times, but taken down to its bare bones, what she and the rest of her administration is saying is that in return for not raising council tax, they will severely compromise many of the services residents receive and in many cases rely on.
As any council tax increase over 1.9% would need to go to referendum, I feel it would be a really good example of a
council working in the interests of its residents for WSCC to
seriously consider the option of raising council tax in order
to save services.
If residents were made aware of what they are losing, in return for the zero council tax increase, then I
think most would agree with me. But either way at least we
as residents would be having some say in whether we pay
increased council tax, and keep valuable services, or stay with
a lower tax but lose these services.
Such a decision would require political courage of a magnitude yet unknown in this country but perhaps that time