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Leaders consider unitary split from beleaguered county

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Lewes DC and Eastbourne BC are currently considering a potential split from East Sussex CC to form their own unitary council, council leaders have confirmed.

In a statement, Lewes DC leader Andy Smith (Con) and Eastbourne BC leader David Tutt (Lib Dem) said they felt it was “incumbent on us to explore all potential options and opportunities”.

“Naturally, one of the potential ways forward is exploring the feasibility of unitary status authorities in East Sussex,” they said.

East Sussex CC declined to comment on the joint statement.

Three local MPs - Maria Caulfield (Con), Stephen Lloyd (Lib Dem) and Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Lab) - have also publicly announced their support for a possible new unitary authority, the leaders said.

In describing their conversations on the subject as “informal”, the two leaders said they were already using “new and innovative ways of working” which had helped maintain frontline services. The two councils currently share services under joint chief executive Robert Cottrill, but the two areas are geographically divided by Wealden DC.

East Sussex voted in August to cut its services to a “core offer” which would focus on people in the “most urgent need” of support.

Citing “significant reductions” in government funding and a “soaring” demand for social care services, chief executive Becky Shaw said the council could not meet its financial challenges through locally sourced income alone.

The county reported that it expects to report a ‘worst-case’ budget deficit of £46m by 2021-22.

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