Proposals to balance the budget for the coming year (2024/25) are ‘challenging but achievable’ according to the latest financial position released by West Sussex County Council.
Release date: 17 October 2023
Like many councils across the country, West Sussex County Council is facing severe financial pressures, caused by high levels of inflation, but also by:
- a growing adult and elderly population with increasingly complex needs
- a rising number of children with special educational needs and education health and care plans
- the noticeable impacts of climate change which are adding to the costs of maintaining the county’s 4,000km of roads
- continuing cost of living challenges being faced by everyone which are creating extra demand for council services
Cllr Jeremy Hunt, West Sussex Cabinet Member for Finance and Property, said: “While we are continuously working to make the best use of resources we also must invest and provide support where it’s crucially needed by our residents. That’s why next year we are proposing to spend an additional £53m for vital services, including £31.2m for vulnerable children and young people, £12.3m for adults’ social care, and £5m for highways maintenance.
“These pressures and other demands ultimately mean that, if we were not to make any budget reductions, as well as to not propose any increase in council tax, we would be left with a £44.9m budget gap which needs to be bridged for the coming year. So, we are now in the process of looking at all available options to ensure we are able to invest and fund our priority areas as set out in Our Council Plan.
“This process is challenging but achievable and we will continue to work over the coming months to ensure we are able to present a balanced budget to Full Council in February next year.”
Proposals which will begin to bridge the forecast £44.9m budget gap for the coming year were discussed at a meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday 17 October.
Cabinet agreed that the proposed approach to the budget should go out for public consultation later this month. They also agreed to continue to lobby government to recognise the funding constraints being placed on local authorities and the rising demand that is impacting local services.
The options being considered include budget reduction proposals of £11.8m. If all of the proposals being considered were to be supported, following consultation and engagement, a budget gap of £33.1m would remain for the coming year. This could decrease to £4.4m if the county council decides to increase council tax by the maximum allowable of 2.99% and the adult social care precept of 2%.
Cllr Paul Marshall, Leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “Every penny we spend must provide good value for money, be cost effective, and contribute to our council priorities. As budgets continue to be stretched and demand for our services expands it’s more important than ever to spend our money – and our residents’ council tax – wisely.”
The Cabinet is due to consider feedback from the public consultation at a meeting in January before recommending the Council Plan and budget to Full Council in February next year for a final decision.
Learn from the mistakes of the past and listen to the road user.
Prioritising the things that matter