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Preventative services hit hardest as county sets out 'core offer'

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East Sussex CC has outlined in detail its minimum ‘core offer’ of services but has admitted even this may prove unsustainable beyond 2022.

A report to its cabinet next week by chief executive Becky Shaw (pictured) admitted the scale of the financial challenge “may risk our ability to meet statutory guidance and deadlines”.

Preventative services are at the front of the queue for cuts, even though there is acknowledgment this might increase long-term costs.

Key changes proposed in the core offer are:

  • reduced training and preventative services for social workers in work with children and families;
  • a reduction in early help for families;
  • slower responses to assessments of special educational needs;
  • reduced preventative activity with schools to support children with “additional needs”;
  • an end to subsided meals in the community for adults;
  • no school clerking service;
  • less improvement support for schools and for school partnerships, federations or moves to academy status;
  • increased use of online and automated resources so residents “may not always get an individualised reply to enquiries”;
  • reduced rights of way maintenance;
  • fewer routine trading standards inspections;
  • reduced support for archive services.

Ms Shaw’s report said East Sussex had saved £129m over the last eight years and must now focus on “how best to deploy the £390m/pa funding we will have by 2021-22”.

The county faces a further funding gap of almost £46m by 2022, of which the core offer provides for £12.3m of savings leaving the remainder to be found.

Ms Shaw described the core offer as “an articulation of what officers consider the minimum outcomes a competent and efficient council could expect to be able to provide by 2020-21”.

Its content has been based on how best to drive sustainable economic growth, keep vulnerable people safe, help people to help themselves and make best use of resources. This meant the council would not just deliver a statutory minimum of services but continue to support economic development “as providing access to high quality employment is the single most important thing that can be done to reduce avoidable reliance on public services”.

There would be “some element of preventative services” where these avoided costlier interventions. However, Ms Shaw said: “We have already removed a number of early intervention and preventative services, which we know help to maintain the resilience of communities and individuals and whose removal may lead to increased costs in the long term.”

Leader Keith Glazier (Con) said: “We’d all like to provide more than a core service because none of us came into politics to make cuts, but this proposal is presented as a realistic ambition in a time of austerity.

“As an efficient and well-managed council, we’ve shown how much we can deliver for East Sussex, even in a severe financial climate. Agreeing a basic but decent core offer will help us continue that and we’ll make sure every penny spent has the greatest possible impact.”

A consultation will take place before the cabinet is asked to approve specific savings or service changes.

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  • Public right of ways must be maintained under a statutory undertaking set by central government

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