£124m to be shaved off West Sussex budget

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DAYS of austerity are set to continue until 2021 in West Sussex, according to the man holding the council’s purse strings.

Michael Brown told the county council’s performance and finance select committee to expect £124m to be cut from the budget for the next four years, following the chancellor’s announcement the national deficit would not be cleared until 2019, rather than 2015 as was originally predicted.

George Osborne told the Conservative party conference public expenditure would be restricted to help clear the deficit, something with which cabinet member for finance Cllr Brown agreed.

“I think in macroeconomics terms that’s a very sensible and prudent thing to do,” he said.

“Unfortunately, on a local economy level, it does mean the austerity programme will continue to 2021.”

According to a report presented by Cllr Brown, more than 60 per cent of councils are considering service reductions for 2015/16 to meet their budget gap.

However, the report said at the moment that seemed ‘unlikely to be the case here in West Sussex’.

“I can promise you that this administration will do everything it possibly can not to join that club of 60,” he said.

Nevertheless, the council still needs to make up the £124m and Cllr Brown said he would not see the council resorting to borrowing to balance the books. However, he said it would try not to reduce services any further.

The current financial strategy is still in its early stages and will be discussed further.

The report added: “While a considerable focus of discussion is on the funding gap, it is important to recognise that the council will have £483m to spend on services in 2018/19, compared with £536m in 2014/15.”