Draft budget identifies where £24million savings will be made by County Hall next year

Savings proposals are due to be discussed at County Hall later this week
Savings proposals are due to be discussed at County Hall later this week

Detailed plans to save £24million from next year’s budget have been revealed by West Sussex County Council.

Reduced core Government funding and increased pressures in areas such as adult social care and children’s services have left the authority facing a large revenue shortfall.

Next year it is proposing a 4.99 per cent rise in its council tax precept, which includes two per cent purely for adult social care services.

The increase would see bills for homes in Band D rise by more than £65 a year from £1,317.78 to £1,383.57.

The council has already agreed to cut £600,000 from the Local Assistance Network, £1.7m in housing-related support and £300,000 to bus subsidies in 2019/20.

The entire list of budget saving proposals, totalling £24.1m, are detailed in papers due to be discussed by the council’s performance and finance select committee on Thursday (January 17).

Committee members from all three parties will be able to raise questions and give any comments which will then be considered by Cabinet at a meeting later in January ahead of presentation of the final budget to county council for approval.

Pieter Montyn, chairman of the committee said: “Like many local authorities, West Sussex County Council faces unprecedented financial pressures. Funding from central government is being cut and there is increasing demand for services, including children’s and adults’ social care.

“This draft budget proposes ways the council can make savings and generate income whilst continuing to meet the priorities and objectives as agreed in the West Sussex Plan. The committee will look carefully at the proposed budget and put forward any comments or recommendations for consideration by Cabinet.”

Other savings proposals and income generating plans for 2019/20 include:

• A review of Integrated Prevention and Earliest Help (IPEH) services for families saving £2.95million

• ‘Whole council design’ work and investment in transformation (£1.5million)

• Reducing recycling credits paid to district and borough councils (£1.2million)

• Implementing a Children Looked After commissioning strategy (£840,000)

• Reducing the amount of waste going to landfill through further variations to mechanical and biological treatment plant near Horsham (£725,000)

• Efficiencies in highways maintenance service delivery (£574,000)

• Reforming lifelong services, which supports individuals with lifelong disabilities or autism and other complex needs (£500,000)

• Using £50m earmarked in capital programme for commercial investment (£500,000)

• Reduced level of demand for concessionary bus travel (£500,000)

• Removing vacant posts in the Public Health team (£425,000)

• Cuts to fire service’s intervention and prevention team (£400,000).

• More efficient use of agency staff (£400,000)

• A comprehensive review of staff terms and conditions (£180,000).

Many of these areas would also produce savings in 2020/21.

In the last eight years the county council has saved almost £200m and in the same period, government funding has been cut by £145m.

The council says its draft budget priorities the services which make the biggest difference to the lives of residents in line with the West Sussex Plan which sets out how the authority plans to shape its services for the next five years.

According to an officers’ report: “Net revenue expenditure of £574.918m is proposed for 2019/20, an increase of £41.0m (7.7 per cent) compared with 2018/19.

“The increase reflects the expected additional sum through the successful business rate pilot of £19.1m which will be used to fund the digital infrastructure project in conjunction with the districts and boroughs.

“The budget also reflects spending pressures such as pay/prices, costs arising from the National Living Wage and the pressures faced in adults’ and children’s social care services.”

Factoring in council tax rises then WSCC is still facing a projected £46.1m budget gap over the three years from 2020/21.