LETTER: Ambitious plan for coming years

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On Friday West Sussex County Council’s plans for the next four years – and the budget that outlines how we will fund them – were approved at our annual budget meeting.

At that meeting we also became the only county council in the South East to agree freezing our share of the council tax – the fifth successive year we’ve been able to do our bit to keep money in people’s pockets.

Our Future West Sussex Plan will guide everything that this council does in the next four years - and it gives our residents a yardstick by which we should be judged.

It provides the structure which focuses on delivering to our residents real outcomes around our three key priorities of giving children the best start in life, growing our economy and helping our older residents remain independent in later life.

People will have heard me say before that we have a duty to spend every penny and every pound as if we’d earned it ourselves. I want to share with you a small snapshot of some of our achievements over the last 12 months so that people can see where their money has gone.

Helping more than 600 mums and dads back into work through the Think Family programme – the most successful programme in the country in helping parents back to work.

Nearly 33,000 under-5s and their families have been through our Children and Family Centres.

We’ve filled 15,000 potholes and replaced 1.8 million square miles of road as part of the Better Roads programme.

We’ve cleaned 77,000 gullies and replaced over 13,000 lamp columns

We’ve helped to make better, faster broadband a reality for 26,000 more homes and businesses as we continue to roll out this exciting technology across the county.

And through our Be The Business initiative we’ve helped create 88 jobs and helped to safeguard a further 170.

We’ve recycled nearly 100,000 tonnes of our residents’ waste.

6,300 adults have received adult social care from us and we’ve supported over 17,000 adults with learning disabilities.

We’ve beaten our target of 2,500 installations of assistive technology which means elderly residents are able to live at home for longer in safety.

We’ve issued 4.2m items through our library service which has been used by 283,000 of our residents.

We’ve saved 29 tonnes of CO2 through our council buildings.

We’ve completed more than 20,000 health checks for residents aged 40-74.

We’ve undertaken 300 inquests, registered 10,000 births and nearly 8000 deaths.

And on Friday I was proud to approve a budget that, despite difficult economic times, will plough an additional £138 million capital investment back into services that include:

£6.4million investment in high speed broadband capability across the county;

A further £15m in the Better Roads programme to improve many of the county’s residential and rural roads;

Significant investment in infrastructure improvements, including £20m investment in economic development, to ensure businesses can flourish;

And our revenue, the measures included in the revenue budget for next year are:

£5m to alleviate pressure on the Council’s adult services’ budget arising from the increasing number of older residents;

£900,000 in support of the Local Welfare Provision Fund which helps families and individuals in crisis.

£5m further investment in the Council’s Think Family programme, which helps get out of work parents back to work and helps those families who need a little bit more support.

£1.4m to address rising demand within the Child Disability budget.

£0.9m more to meet the rising amount of waste requiring disposal.

But, like all councils, we are facing significant budget challenges. Over the next four years the funding we receive from Central Government will continue to reduce. Our assumption is that by the end of the decade we will receive no grant at all from central government. Our funding will come just from the income we generate through council tax and business rates and from the income streams we generate ourselves.

The demands on our services however, are increasing and it’s for this reason that we’ve tried very hard to make sure we protect frontline services as much as we can in preparing the budget.

But we are ready and in a good place to meet head-on the challenges that the next few years will bring.

I would encourage all your readers to have a look at the West Sussex Plan. It offers our residents and our staff our blueprint for the county and now we have to deliver it.

It’s an ambitious plan which rightly holds us to account.

I’ve very proud of it and I’m proud that we’ll deliver it without increasing the burden of council tax our hardworking residents pay.

LOUISE GOLDSMITH

(Con, Chichester West) leader of West Sussex County Council, County Hall, Chichester