County council to study Spending Review
West Sussex County Council has started the task of analysing the mass of detail behind the headlines from today’s Spending Review statement by the Chancellor George Osborne.
Leader Louise Goldsmith (Con) said: “I want to make it clear that we support the Government’s determination to reduce the national deficit, and build a more sustainable economy for the long term.
“No one has ever pretended this will be easy, and that local government is immune.
“Today is not the time for knee-jerk reactions. That is not the way we operate in West Sussex.
“We do need time to study the mass of detail that always follows a major announcement such as this.
“There will be as full a report as possible to the full Council meeting in December. This will be followed by the Select Committee scrutiny process of what is being proposed, before we set our budget and council tax for 2011/2012 in February.
“We have already made it clear that we aim to make budget savings of £75 million over the next three years of which a part will be reducing bureaucracy.
“We are determined to protect front-line services as far as possible, and continue striving to do more with less.
“I want to assure people that the very weak and vulnerable in society will be a priority and we will also do all we can to mitigate any cuts by working with our partners to support our communities.
“Today is just part of a complicated jigsaw. First, we need time to properly analyse the full details of the Chancellor’s announcement. Then we have to wait for the Department for Communities and Local Government to tell us exactly how much grant towards our services West Sussex will be getting over the next three years. The final settlement details are not expected until late in November or early December.
“We have already shown that we are very successful in driving down costs because our review of services has so far led savings of £150 million over the last four years.
“We will also be actively pursuing the ‘Big Society’ agenda because we are truly all in this together. We want to work co-operatively with our local communities, town and parish councils, the voluntary and charity sectors, and other interested groups, to help get things done.
“We welcome the announcement that the Government is moving away from ring fencing almost all grants for specific purposes from next April.
“It will give us much more freedom and flexibility to decide our own priorities with our local communities.”
On a freeze in council tax, she said: “We have been steadily reducing the percentage increase in council tax during recent years. We fully support reducing the burden on taxpayers even further during these very difficult times for all households. We will be working to deliver a budget that will mean a zero tax rise.”
Louise also welcomed the increased spending on schools with reduced ring fencing.
She said: “I believe that schools will also welcome the greater freedom to spend money where they believe it is essential.”