County council receives £12.5m ‘transitional funding’ from Government

West Sussex County Council
West Sussex County Council

West Sussex County Council is set to receive £12.5m transitional funding over the next two years to help it plug large budget gaps.

The authority’s cabinet has already agreed a 3.95 per cent rise to its element of council tax as part of budget proposals for 2016/17 as the Tory administration looks to deal with a £44.2m shortfall in funding.

A final decision on spending plans will be made by Full Council next Friday, where options for using the transition grant will be debated.

Louise Goldsmith, leader of the county council, welcomed the additional funding but said the strain on services remained.

She added: “We lobbied Government and they have listened to us and we are pleased as this money goes some way to help us better manage the funding reductions this year and next.

“But this is only temporary relief and big savings still need to be made and they won’t go away because of this extra money.

“In 2016/17 we are facing a shortfall of £44.2million and will still need to make £18.6million of savings in addition to the £162million of savings we have already made since 2010. We are also faced with growing demands for our services and ever shrinking resources.

“So we continue on a cautious and responsible approach to take forward our proposed 3.95 per cent increase to council tax to Full Council next Friday (19 February). This will enable us to continue to protect critical frontline services that are so important to those in need.”

The proposed council tax increase includes the two per cent charge announced by Chancellor George Osborne to help councils meet the demands of supporting an increasingly ageing population, and the total rise equates to an extra £45.90 a year for a Band D property.

The transitional funding is £6.2m for 2016/17, and £6.3m for 2017/18, but the county council has already seen a huge reduction in its Revenue Support Grant from central Government.

This week Margaret Guest, chair of Don’t Cut Us Out, has countered the county council’s claim that the proposed tax rise will ‘safeguard critical front­line services and protect the most vulnerable’.

The group, which campaigns on behalf of vulnerable people in need of care and support in West Sussex, has previously criticised plans to reduce allowances paid to disabled people and proposals to raise additional income received from people with social care needs.

Mrs Guest added: “Vulnerable people will certainly not be protected if planned cuts such as those to care services for people in supported housing, in financial crisis or escaping domestic violence are agreed at the council’s budget meeting on 19th February.

“WSCC also says more funds need to be generated from those using its care services in order to balance the books. This will mean, among other things, increasing costs for those who can least afford them which is shameful.”

Don’t Cut us Out is asking people to share their opinions on budget proposals in an online survey prior to next Friday’s meeting.

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