A CONSULTATION has been launched by West Sussex County Council to find out how residents want their hard earned cash spent.
West Sussex County Council launched its county-wide What Matters To You consultation today (August 26), and residents are being encouraged to fill it in because the answers will help the authority shape its 2015/16 budget.
Council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “Despite the difficult financial situation, over the last year we’ve been able to invest in some of the things that people have told us are important. In 2013, after seriously heavy flooding the year before, we invested £8m in Operation Watershed which improved drainage systems across the county as well as giving community groups money for local flood schemes.
“This year we are investing more than £15m in our Better Roads programme which is improving many of the county’s rural and minor residential roads. We’ll also invest the same sum in the programme next year. We’ve also invested significantly in our Think Family programme which helps those families and children in need of the most support.
“The population of West Sussex is growing which increases demand on our services.
“Our growing elderly population in particular need greater support and we need to ensure they are cared for with respect and dignity. So we have an increasing demand for services and a reducing grant from government which means that the gap between what we need to provide and the money we have to pay for it grows ever wider.
“We anticipate that we’ll need to make further savings again of more than £124m in the next four years as a result of this. But we’re also very aware that household incomes have remained relatively flat while the cost of feeding, clothing and housing a family has increased so we want to do everything we can to reduce the burden on household income. We would like to hear what you think and there are questions in this survey about the level of council tax contributions you’re happy to pay.”
West Sussex County Council provides more than £500m worth of services to more than 800,000 residents in the county.
Among those services – delivered 24 hours a day, seven days a week – are those that support the elderly, protect children in care, maintain the county’s road network and provide the county’s fire service.
Over the last four years the authority has seen a 28 per cent reduction in the money it gets from central government and has made savings of £120m without any increases in council tax.
West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for finance Michael Brown, said: “Is there a more important question for people than where they want to see their hard earned money spent?
“We’re the gatekeepers and guardians of residents’ money and I’m well aware that when it comes to council tax, people have no choice but to pay it. There is no other option. It’s our responsibility to ensure that this money is spent delivering the services our residents say are most important to them and that we develop a budget that reflects what matters most to our residents, their families and their communities.
“The survey’s not complicated or long. We’ve made it as easy as possible for people to complete. It can be done online, or on a smartphone or tablet if that’s how people want to do it. And we’ve made paper copies available for people who prefer to fill it in that way.
“Please take the time to complete it so that we can consider as many views as possible.”
The survey is available here.
Paper copies can be collected from all WSCC libraries, council receptions and children and family centres.
The What Matters to You consultation runs until October 12.