Release date: 30 January 2024
Following a public consultation, the Cabinet has confirmed its commitment to four key priority areas, underpinned by a cross cutting theme of ‘protecting the environment’. The priorities are:
- Keeping people safe in vulnerable situations
- A sustainable and prosperous economy
- Helping people and communities fulfil their potential
- Making best use of resources
Leader of West Sussex County Council, Cllr Paul Marshall said: “We asked residents how they felt about our priorities, and we were reassured to see more than two thirds strongly agreed or tended to agree with our approach. We are therefore confident that our priorities are right, and they will continue to inform our decisions about how we use resources in the coming year.
“Following the consultation, we are also proposing to continue with additional investment to areas our residents have told us are important, such as roads and highways and education and skills.”
The council reported in July last year that it was looking at ways to close a £45m budget gap for the coming year (2024/25). Balancing the budget for the year ahead has been made even more challenging with the publication of the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement from central government.
Cllr Jeremy Hunt, Cabinet Member for Finance and Property, said: “Whilst the funding offered to us by government is welcome, unfortunately it remains a long way short of what we need in order to cover the cost of vital services for our residents.
“A spiralling increase in demand and cost of services, particularly in social care, home to school transport, and funding the National Living Wage, has made preparing next year’s budget even more challenging.
“In order to balance our budget, we have proposed budget reductions of £15.7m, a one off use of reserves, and an increase in core council tax of 2.99%, plus an additional adult social care precept of 2%.
“We don’t put forward these proposals lightly, but our priority is to make best use of our limited resources and do all we can to protect essential front line services.
“Our reserves are vital for managing the many risks and uncertainties we are facing next year, as well as our financial stability over the longer term. That is why we have plans in place to replenish any use of our Budget Management Reserve.
“However, the lobbying we, and others, have undertaken over the last few weeks has resulted in government recognising the pressures we and others are facing and the additional funding they announced only last week is most welcome. We await the final settlement for confirmation, but it may mean we no longer need to rely on our reserves to balance next year’s budget.”
The revised council plan and the proposed budget will now go before a meeting of the Full Council on Friday 16 February for a final decision. At Full Council, the proposals and any amendments put forward will be debated, followed by a vote.
The budget proposals set out how the County Council is expected to spend £2 billion during 2024/25 on day-to-day services and £131.6m through capital investment into areas such as schools, highways, and the environment. After taking account of grants, fees and charges and other contributions, net revenue expenditure of £761.4m is expected.
Part of the budget proposes to include an extra £81.9m in revenue spending on vital services including:
- an additional £31.2m for vulnerable children and young people,
- £18.3m more for adults’ social care,
- an extra £4m to maintain the county’s 4,000km of roads
- and £27.8m to manage increased costs as inflation levels remains high
Cllr Paul Marshall added: “We know people in our communities, especially the most vulnerable, rely on our services and we will continue to do all we can to protect those services and invest in our county.
“Alongside our MPs, we are committed to continuing to apply pressure to government to properly fund local government so we can deliver the vital services our residents, businesses, and local communities need and deserve.”
You can find the agenda for Full Council and watch a live webcast of the meeting, or watch again at a later date, via our website www.westsussex.gov.uk.
For latest news and information on the budget visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/Budget.