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Council budget cuts

Plans to cut funding support from some of the most vulnerable people in West Sussex by more than £1million have been suspended for a year – but a number of libraries are still at risk.

 

At a County Hall meeting on Thursday last week, members of the county council’s cabinet looked at 18 areas put forward for millions of pounds of possible cuts or savings.

 

Perhaps the most controversial was that of housing-related support.

 

The service offers help to homeless and vulnerable people and there was an outcry when it was announced that £4m of its £6.3m budget would be cut by April, 2020.

 

This latest proposal called for another £1.3m to be cut in 2020/21, leaving just £1m in the pot.

 

With a lot of work going on between the council and partners such as the Stonepillow and Turning Tides charities to help stretch the budget and find other funding, Amanda Jupp, cabinet member for adults and health, asked for the idea to be dropped.

 

Explaining that there were ‘many critical decisions being made’, she added: “There’s a lot of hard work going into this. We’re bringing everyone together, we’re working hard with our partners – and Rome wasn’t built in a day.

 

“I would really regret losing the trust that we have built up with our partners and providers since this decision was originally taken.

 

“In the fullness of time we will get a much better outcome which will then show that we will not have to be funding this to such a large extent.”

 

It was agreed to suspend the proposal for one year.

 

Members were given three options for the 18 areas – to put them forward for more work to find out if they would be viable, to take them off the table completely, and to pause any further work until a later stage.

 

Even if paused, a proposal could be put back on the table at a later point in the budget procedure.

 

The county council is legally required to present a balanced budget in February 2020.

 

One of the other proposals was to save up to £500,000 by making some changes to the library services – changes such as closing several branch libraries, reducing opening hours, and removing the mobile library service.

 

The libraries at risk would all be from the 13 rated as tier 6. They include: Arundel, Petworth, Southbourne, and the Witterings.

 

This proposal was put forward for further work.

 

The council is working on transforming libraries into community hubs, bringing various services under one roof, and Debbie Kennard, cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, said she thought the £500,000 could be ‘mitigated’ through that work.

 

When Dr James Walsh, leader of the opposition, asked what exactly that meant, he was told the proposal would be ‘included in the forward plan for further work to be done, looking at mitigation as the solution’.

 

Report by Karen Dunn, local democracy reporter

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