Additional funding for older and younger residents, funding for improvements to the Fire and Rescue Service, road schemes, and projects to generate income in future years, are just some of the proposals being presented to a West Sussex County Council budget meeting next week.
Members will decide whether to approve next year’s budget at the Full Council meeting being held at County Hall, Chichester, on Friday 14 February. They will review the budget proposals which not only balance the budget for the coming year, but also cover the costs of an increasing demand for services.
Details will also be confirmed of a £712m five-year ‘capital programme’ investment plan, which includes almost £200m for highways schemes.
If the budget is approved, it will mean council tax will rise by 1.99% - plus an additional 2% for adult social care – making a total increase of 3.99%. This puts the County Council element of an average band D council tax bill at £1,438.74 – or just under £4 per day. This is an increase of £55.17 per year or £1.06 per week compared to last year’s bill.
The budget includes investment in services which need improvement, including £12m for improvements in Children’s Services and £2.6m for improvements in the Fire and Rescue Service.
The £712m five-year capital programme being recommended for 2020-2025 includes:
• Almost £200m for highways schemes, including £19m for improvements to the A2300 in Burgess Hill and £44m for the re-alignment of the A29 in Bognor Regis.
• £57.4m for ‘Growth Programmes’ – working with partners to improve infrastructure, create new jobs, and provide new homes - in areas including Worthing, Burgess Hill and Crawley.
• £45m for ‘Your Energy Sussex’ solar farm and battery energy storage schemes, to produce renewable energy and generate income.
• £9.6m to create new Specialist Support Centres, to increase provision in mainstream schools for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
• £6.8m for improvements to fire stations, as well as new equipment and vehicles for the Fire and Rescue Service.
• £1.7m for extra care housing to support people to remain independent in later life.
Jeremy Hunt, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We continue to see an increasing demand on our services, particularly in social care. At the same time our funding from government continues to reduce and we’re faced with uncertainty around future funding allocations.
“We’ve focused our resources on the areas which make the biggest difference to the lives of residents and the future prosperity of our county and made savings where possible. Since 2010 we have saved £240m, and have £18.4m of new savings planned for 2020/21. However, this difficult financial landscape means we have no choice but to propose an increase in council tax.
“At the same time, due to pressures we are experiencing locally, we have also had to use money in our reserves to make sure we deliver essential services and improvements. This is not a long-term solution and we have clear plans in place to rebuild our reserves in the future.
“We continue to look for ways to make efficiency savings, whilst still providing essential frontline services. Despite the challenges we face I’m please to say we continue to be able to invest in priority areas to make improvements where needed for the benefit of our residents.”
Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting which starts at 10.30am. The meeting can also be watched online at: http://www.westsussex.public-i.tv/core/portal/home.
For further information about the council’s financial position visit: www.westsussex.gov.uk/budget