County pushes Government for better funding

An attempt to get a better deal for West Sussex was made by the county council last week.

Council Leader Louise Goldsmith and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources Michael Brown met with Government Minister Brandon Lewis last week, lobbying for a fairer funding deal for the residents of West Sussex.

Brandon Lewis MP is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Mrs Goldsmith said: “Our clear message was that West Sussex County Council does support the Government’s necessary deficit reduction measures, being undertaken to reduce the massive debt our country is in. We are doing all we can locally to ensure that budget reductions are delivered while protecting those most reliant on our services.

“However, we made it clear that as a county we have suffered from the last Government’s redirection of funding away from the South East, in particular West Sussex. We have endured a decade of low funding and we want to ensure that West Sussex residents get a fairer deal from Westminster.”

Mr Brown added: “It was a positive meeting, and I am hopeful that Brandon Lewis took our comments on board. The Government is developing a new system for the awarding of the local government grant settlement, and I hope our comments will make a difference to that work.

“West Sussex has a strong record of being a low cost, yet high performing council. We are well on track to achieve our three-year £79 million savings programme, and I am pleased that the majority of these savings have come from smarter and more collaborative working methods wherever possible.

“Despite cuts in Government grants, thanks to the hard work of the Council and its staff, service levels are being maintained. The Council is confronting the difficult financial landscape by driving up its efficiency.

“But, the fact is that we continue to be very low funded, in fact, the third lowest among County Councils on a like-with-like basis. The best funded county area receives around twice the sum we do, and the average funded Metropolitan Authority and London Boroughs receive almost three times the sum.”

Other issues raised by the county council representatives at the meeting included on-going concerns over how the Government’s Area Cost Adjustment is calculated, the need for the Government to provide adequate funding to meet the rising demand for adult social care, and the need for the Government to introduce financial safeguards with the introduction of the new Business Rate Pool system.

Mrs Goldsmith added: “This was an ideal opportunity for us to have a frank discussion with the Government Minister and we now wait to see if our lobbying has any effect in producing a fairer allocation of funds.”