Tory leadership hopefuls called on to properly fund West Sussex services if they become Prime Minister

County Hall in Chichester
County Hall in Chichester

The leader of West Sussex County Council has written to the Tory leadership candidates and asked how much money they would give to local authorities if they became Prime Minister.

Louise Goldsmith, who recently survived calls for a vote of no confidence in her own leadership, sent a letter to the ten Downing Street hopefuls on Tuesday (June 11).

In it, she described the ‘severe financial restrictions’ faced by councils across the country and pointed out that, by the end of 2021/22, West Sussex would have streamlined its budget by a massive £338m.

The figure includes £239m of cuts since 2010 with an estimated £99m to be found over the next three financial years.

Referring to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which predicted a £4.8bn funding gap for local authorities this financial year, Mrs Goldsmith said: “This analysis points to a lack of funding and lack of clarity on policy. This needs to be addressed by the next Prime Minister as a priority.

“We all appreciate the Brexit matter must be resolved quickly, but it is imperative that the issue of local government funding, and in particular, funding for social care is addressed.”

The PwC report highlighted adults’ social care, children’s social care, environmental and regulatory services, education services and public health as the most costly services for local councils.

The social care elements, including special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) funding, have been a huge concern for authorities all over the country.

Mrs Goldsmith asked the leadership hopefuls how they would put funding for the three on a sustainable footing over the next five years.

She also asked when the long-awaited Green Paper on social care would be published and if the government would be looking for cross-party approval of its contents.

The controversial paper, which was due to be published in 2017, looks at the future of adult social care in England – such as who should be responsible for paying for care in old age, the individual or the state.

The government now has it listed to be published ‘at the earliest opportunity’.

Mrs Goldsmith also asked the candidates about their plans to put more services in the hands of local authorities and, most importantly, by how much would central government funding increase to help councils tackle the ‘severe financial restrictions’ they faced.

She added: “Local authorities play a major role across the country in supporting people and growing our economy. The potential of such a strategic role should not be underestimated.

“I want to help and support our residents providing value for money services, however without a clear policy and a three to five-year financial settlement this is becoming extremely difficult.

“As a nation we are judged by how we care for our elderly and vulnerable and I think adhering to true conservative values we would want to be judged well.”