Are £61m cuts a fit Christmas present for the people of West Sussex? asks angry councillor

Protesters outside County Hall
Protesters outside County Hall

An angry county councillor demanded to know if proposed £61.7m cuts were a ‘fit Christmas present for the people of West Sussex’.

During a West Sussex County Council meeting on Friday December 13 Sue Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green & Ifield East) was told to sit down by the chairman as she remonstrated with the authority’s leadership.

Councillors were questioning specific cabinet members’ proposals to cut £61.7m over the next two years as part of £141m total savings.

Mrs Mullins said: “My question is do you think this is a fit Christmas present for the people of West Sussex?”

The biggest planned cuts are £32m to the adult social care and health department. These include £16.5m cuts replaced with a share of the Integration Transformation Fund provided by central Government to ‘sustain current levels of social care services’, and a £7.9m cut from residential stays due to a new care and support at home strategy.

Starting the meeting Louise Goldsmith (Con, Chichester West), leader of WSCC, explained that while the figure of £141m was ‘eye watering’ they were only dealing with the problems inherited from 13 years of Labour’s ‘financial mismanagement’.

She explained: “People expect us to treat every pound as carefuly as it was earned. This is a traditional Conservative council that believes in small government, low taxes, a vibrant economy and the freedom of the individual.

“There is no room for the nanny state here.”

Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate & Crawley Central) asked why Mrs Goldsmith was ‘meekly’ accepting the massive funding reductions from central Government.

He added: “Why won’t she stand up for West Sussex? Why is she showing all the compassion of Mrs Guillotine?”

Mrs Goldsmith replied that Labour was showing amnesia in denying the current financial situation had anything to do with them.

Meanwhile Brenda Smith (Lab, Langley Green & West Green) questioned the level of information on adult social care cuts which would ‘decimate’ services.

Peter Catchpole (Con, Holbrook), cabinet member for adult social care and health, said the £16.5m cut was ‘new money coming along to support social care in a new way’.

He added: “I think Brenda this is good news actually and helps us to look at what are difficult circumstances and the demands of an ageing population.”

However James Walsh (LDem, Littlehampton East) agreed with Mrs Smith and thought there was not a shred of information to allow opposition members to understand what was going on.

Dr Walsh said: “I have seen smoke and mirrors but this defies belief.”

On the same day Michael Brown (Con, Fernhurst), cabinet member for finance, revealed the county council’s intention to freeze its element of council tax for 2014/15.

However this announcement sparked criticism from UNISON, Britain’s largest union, who claimed the decision was ‘reckless’.

What do you think of the cuts? Comment below or email