Tory-run West Sussex County Council has never been in such dire straits: The most vulnerable children and babies have been let down, the fire and rescue service needs an urgent injection of funding, schools are crying out for money, youth services are virtually non-existent, the number of homeless people in every town has increased whilst the support available to them has been cut.
The elderly have lost many services and the care market is in a very fragile state. Some roads are in a desperate condition, give way lines at some junctions have eroded and the weeds across the County are taking over.
Yet, now, the Tory Cabinet proposes another round of budget cuts that will hit every West Sussex resident, whilst still expecting them to pay more in Council tax in order to receive less services.
The options put forward range from the unpalatable to the unacceptable.
West Sussex Labour Group will vigorously oppose any cuts to the library service, one of the jewels in this county’s crown. These are too valuable to close, anywhere. Reducing opening hours will make it impossible for most working people to access them except on Saturdays. Permanently ending the mobile library service would be appalling.
The council should be supporting more bus services, not less. We also won’t agree to cutting concessionary fares for disabled people out of core hours.
Halving what little is left of the Local Assistance Network – support for people on the absolute breadline – will hit foodbanks and other organisations trying to stop bad situations getting worse.
We’ll also oppose the return of charging of residents for dumping DIY waste. The last time this Tory council embarked on that folly, the amount of waste being deposited in the local tips went down and fly tipping correspondingly, went up.
I think residents would be more understanding of these savings if they knew that the council wasn’t spending millions on wholly unnecessary things like consultancy, executive salaries, relocation payments and away days. It will be a painful year ahead.
Cllr Michael Jones
Leader, WSCC Labour Group