Report Back by County Councillor Sarah Osborne
For residents in Ouse Valley West and Downs county division: (North: – Ditchling; Plumpton; Streat; Westmeston; South: – Falmer; St Ann Without; Iford; Kingston; Rodmell; Southease; Piddinghoe and Newhaven
Sadly the news from County is grim. The Conservative administration put up council tax by almost 6% and there will be cuts of over £17m this year and even bigger cuts in the following 2 years at least. The Chief Executive (Becky Shaw) summed up the challenges: “The reductions being put forward for 2018/19 and beyond will increase the longer- term demand and costs facing the East Sussex public sector. They are, therefore, not those Chief Officers would choose to make; If there are no new resources from Government, by 2021/22 the Council will be left with a minimum service offer”
This means that central services will be reduced to a democratic core with minimum support for departments and more self-service. County will not be able to fund early intervention or prevention services in Adult and Children’s Social Care or support schools to improve attainment. Also, management in highways will be towards more reactive maintenance, leading to long-term deterioration of condition.
My grave concerns
I am really worried about the proposed major cuts to community-based support services, refuges for those experiencing domestic abuse and to the Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme, which supports the very poorest residents. I fear the enormous cuts will not only increase the suffering of those residents in our area that need our help most but will result in a false economy as many people will instead need help from other higher cost services (such as the health and adult social care and children’s services sectors) These vital community support services currently enable people to continue to live independently and without them many will not be able to manage.
Examples of cuts already decided or being consulted on presently or in the near future:
- Library Closures: ESCC are to close 7 libraries
- Cuts in funding for The Stroke Association.
- Cuts in Day Centres: We are awaiting decisions on cutting or closing 4 day centres for the elderly and disabled including The Phoenix Centre in Lewes.
- Cuts to support services for carers.
- Cuts in funding for the Home Works service by 50%: Home Works is a crisis support service for people and families in East Sussex, aged 16 to 64, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
- Cuts in funding for STEPS: This service plays a key role reducing demand support with many of our customers continuing to live independently despite significant health problems rather than requiring care.
- Cuts of 70% proposed for the Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme (DESSS): The main cause of homelessness is the termination of private tenancies with most people becoming homeless through no fault of their own. A large number of those who become homeless do not have the savings required to meet the demands for rent in advance and deposits and are completely reliant on the loan schemes supported by the DESSS.
- Cuts to East Sussex Music Service, which will close the music instrumental service by 2019. If you are concerned about the cuts to the music service please CLICK HERE to sign the petition my group support.
Given that the Centre for Public Scrutiny considers it ‘best practice’ for Scrutiny Committees to be Chaired by members of the opposition I proposed a motion to Council that ESCC should follow the advice. Unfortunately, even though the Conservatives have a large majority and Scrutiny recommendations are only advisory, they still voted it down.
In my role on The Health Overview Scrutiny Committee, I have raised the difficulties we are experiencing locally in retaining and recruiting staff in the health and care sectors because of Brexit.
I have continued to raise and successfully resolve problems for residents faced with problems with Adult Social Care, got the restoration of school bus transport for several families and lost count of the number of highways problems I have reported!