With Brighton and Hove City Council choosing to hold a referendum on raising council tax, East Sussex recommending a 1.95 per cent increase, and both Surrey and Kent considering similar tax hikes, why is West Sussex County Council freezing Council tax for the fourth year in a row when money is needed to fund vital care for the vulnerable and other services?
There are parallels in the economic situations faced by Brighton and Hove and West Sussex councils.
Both have suffered funding cuts from central government, and both run vital public services that the disabled and elderly rely on. But while Brighton and Hove is letting the public decide with a referendum, leaders in West Sussex are attempting to shut down any public debate on council tax.
Louise Goldsmith, leader of WSCC, has said there is no room for a nanny state in West Sussex, and is hell-bent on slashing budgets by £141 million, cutting the safety net that supports the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged.
She has refused to join us in public debate or even consult the public in any meaningful way. Mrs Goldsmith is forcing through political ideology and ignoring reality, and it is the vulnerable that will be paying the price.
Brighton and Hove have already instituted a council tax reduction scheme to protect those on low incomes from paying more.
We should do the same in West Sussex. Even a small council tax increase, adding 45p per week to the average home, would have a beneficial effect on reducing the draconian cuts planned for West Sussex.
Instead, pensioners will be called on to fund essential care paid for previously by the council, the disabled must rely on credit to meet the rising cost of eating and heating, and more and more families will be forced to turn to charity food-banks for help.
Mrs Goldsmith suggests that at a time of low interest rates, people are better served by an extended freeze on council tax, but for people already on the poverty line, low interest rates are the least of their problems.
The Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign has never claimed that a small increase in council tax would meet the funding gap for care. What it will do is spread the cost of austerity faced disproportionally by vulnerable residents, more fairly across the whole electorate.
The campaign is also calling on councillors to be open and transparent in spelling out the real impact these £141 million of cuts will have on us all.
West Sussex County Council is due to rubber stamp these budget cuts on February 14.
Don’t Cut Us Out Campaigners will be out in force urging councillors to vote down this Valentine’s Day Massacre and are urging all who share concerns about the damage these cuts will have, to join them outside County Hall at 9.30am and make their voices heard.
Chairman of Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign, The Street, Walberton, Arundel