In June we will again seek re-election of our Conservative County Council, enabling us to continue improving services. We pledge to work to cut Council Taxes. We would have cut taxes already if the Government had not discriminated against us and transferred money to its friends in the North.
We look to a potential Conservative Government to introduce a fairer tax system and we can successfully work with partners to increase the £40m (12%) of savings in operating costs that we have already achieved.
Our vision is for an East Sussex which delivers high quality services at the lowest possible council tax, offering rising prosperity for businesses and “fatter” wage packets. A County that creates opportunities for new skills and technologies to reduce under performance and stimulate advance, whilst respecting our unique environment.
The Audit Commission rates East Sussex County Council as a 4 Star – Excellent Council
- “East Sussex County Council is improving well. Outcomes for local people in priority areas are getting better”
- “Adult social care services have improved significantly …educational attainment is improving well”
- “Economic regeneration schemes are progressing well… partnership working is strong”
- “It achieves good value for money… improvement plans are robust and are being implemented well”
Audit Commission. 5th March 2009.
- The Independent Audit Commission now ranks East Sussex in the top rank of councils, awarding it a 4 star, Excellent rating – a 1 star Weak rating was our inheritance from the Lib Dems 8 years ago.
- Further reduced rises in council tax despite barely 1% per annum Government funding increases. Achieved by cutting £40m (12%) a year from costs.
- Supported Sussex Police to cut crime by 20% in last two years and improved road safety with more speed reactive signs and extra 30mph speed limits.
- Helped teachers raise standards, pupils achieved best ever GCSE
results in 2008.
- Eliminated social care bed blocking of local hospitals and improved
services to older people.
- Attracted over £200m of funding for key regeneration projects like the University Centre in Hastings.
- A comprehensive package to relieve the effects of Labour’s recession.
- A four year plan to deliver tax cuts from additional cost savings and a fairer deal from an incoming Conservative Government – starting with a two year tax freeze from 2011.
- Improved passenger transport services, including bus/taxi services designed by groups of towns and parishes identifying local needs. The 30mph speed limits will be rolled out to more communities; and businesses helped to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Provision for new schools (including academies/technical academies) and libraries plus funding for youth services designed by young people.
- We will entrust funding to older people to buy the services they need. Consolidate regeneration in Hastings/Bexhill e.g. by building the link road and, working with District and Parish Councils and other key partners, develop a similar programme benefiting the economy of the Eastbourne/Polegate/Hailsham area.
The Record of Achievement
Delivering consistently good services rests on professionally managed finances. We inherited financial chaos in 2001. We introduced sound management through our pioneering Reconciling Policy and Resources process. This ensures each department prioritises policy objectives and bids for the minimum cash needed to deliver its key services. This approach has already produced savings of £40m per annum (12% of total operating costs), none taken from the front line.We did not invest in Icelandic Banks.
Serving our Communities
We have built new libraries in Lewes and substantially refurbished those in Bexhill and Eastbourne.
New libraries are now planned for Hastings, Newhaven, Rye and Seaford. Automated book issuing and retrieval systems are being introduced to improve services. Working with Police and other partners, we have helped to cut crime (20% in the past two years) whilst Trading Standards has reduced scams
and supported good traders.
Learning from Older People
We supported the establishment of Older Peoples Forums across the County. We have listened and learned which services they really require. They contributed to our achieving £11m of cost savings and this money was reinvested in better services; allowing us and our health partners to:
- Massively reduce the bed blocking in local hospitals.
- Provide more care to support people to stay in their own homes.
- Open up new opportunities for people with learning and other disabilities.
“The Council have secured significant reductions on expenditure through re-provisioning and modernisation of services.” – Commission for Social Care Inspection.
Investing in our Young People
Our Conservative Administration has supported teachers, to achieve “best ever” results in East Sussex. Other key achievements have been:
- New schools built in Newhaven, Rye, Crowborough, Hailsham, Wivelsfield and Ticehurst.
- 28 childrens centres provided across the County to help families.
- The federation of three secondary schools in Hastings to raise performance.
- Extra investment in Maths and English teaching there and in Eastbourne.
- Government Inspectors rate East Sussex Children’s Services the best in the South East and the best of all English Counties. Our Fostering and Adoption Service was rated as “Outstanding”.
Tough Transport Decisions taken
Our administration has never shirked taking tough decisions. We introduced parking schemes in Hastings, Lewes and Eastbourne and can now use the surplus money to improve bus services and reduce pollution benefiting the people of those towns.
More popular have been the additional 30mph speed limits, often supported by speed reactive signs and other measures, in many towns and villages.
We delivered a comprehensive Waste Local Plan which will increase recycling significantly (already at 33% up from 24% 4 years ago). The Newhaven energy from waste plant will generate electricity for 25,000 homes.
Regenerating our Economy
Transforming East Sussex from the poorest county in England to real and sustainable prosperity will take considerable time but a strong and positive start has already been achieved through:
- The Newhaven master plan, which is delivering improvements across the town.
- The Bexhill and Hastings programme run by Seaspace. A £200m+ investment has created the University Centre, new offices and business space, a new Hastings College and, soon, the link road between the two towns.
Our Programme for the Future
Let’s beat Brown’s Recession! The UK is suffering from a worldwide recession made worse by Gordon Brown’s over-borrowing. Within its limited powers, the County Council is helping to ease the pressures on individuals and businesses by:
- Funding the Sussex Enterprise Business Link service to advise smaller businesses on how to manage their way through the recession and making it easier for them to bid for County contracts.
- Helping the East Sussex and Hastings Credit Unions raise more money and reach people in need of low cost loans – we must keep the loan sharks out of our communities.
- Providing resources (including use of County premises) to voluntary bodies advising and counselling people on how to cope with the credit crunch.
A Council Tax freeze/cuts
The election of a Conservative Government will be critical to what we can deliver on Council Tax. By combining back office functions with other councils and public services, such as police and health, we could reduce operating costs still further. Put that together with a Conservative Government which remove Labour’s discrimination against us, then we believe that we could first freeze the tax for two years and thereafter start to cut it.
Passenger Transport – a new Top Priority
Having sorted the mess in adult social care that we inherited in 2001, we have now identified passenger transport services as the public’s key priority for the next few years. Following consultation with our
towns and villages, we hope to introduce the following:
- Customised services for groups of towns and surrounding villages using mini buses, taxis and, where appropriate, ordinary buses to meet identified local demands (including individual demands e.g. for hospital/youth club visits) rather than relying on traditional bus services.
- Links with surrounding Counties/Cities to develop long distance bus routes. Work with Network rail and others to develop Parkway Stations between Bexhill/Hastings and Polegate/Eastbourne to facilitate faster links to London.
- Better mobility will improve the daily lives of people and contribute to the economic regeneration of our County.
We plan to put power back into the hands of individuals in our services for older people, by delegating funding to them to buy the care services that they need. We intend to extend support to carers, expand access to independent advisory services and create “not-for-profit” community businesses to provide real jobs for service users.
Let Young People design their Services
We have a successful Youth Parliament and Youth Cabinet in East Sussex and we want them to be our partners in the design and planning of services and activities for young people in their communities. We will underpin those services:
- Using all available sources of funding to build new schools or refurbish existing ones.
- Create Academies to provide further drive to raising standards, starting in Hastings and Eastbourne.
- Work with our partners through the Children’s Trust to safeguard young people, especially the most vulnerable.
- Further expand our network of Children’s Centres into our rural communities – in cooperation with local families.