In a major statement East Sussex Liberal Democrat Councillors have hit hard at the Conservative minority administration of East Sussex County Council.
Liberal Democrats condemn the government for not properly tackling the funding crisis in Adult Social Care. The Conservative government has said that councils can raise their Council Tax by up to 5%, of which 3% can be used to fund Adult Social Care. This is an extra 1% on what the government had planned. It is not known if the Conservative run County Council will levy the extra 1%. The extra 1% will bring in £2.3 million but will not bridge the funding gap, which in East Sussex has been £6 million each year for the last few years. This continued gap in funding will lead to further cuts which come on top of year on year cuts suffered by Adult Social Care in East Sussex.
Among past cuts we have seen a forced cut of 30%in the cost of packages of care, with the voluntary sector budget cut to the bone, even with this there was still is a £6million black hole in the Adult Social Care budget.
Local County Councillor Rosalyn St Pierre who represents Lewes Bridge and Ringmer division has noted draft plans by ESCC to withdraw support for the Phoenix Day Centre. In recent years this much loved facility which offers care for those with dementia and of course respite for hard pressed carers for a few hours per week. Rosalyn has fought for the care of the elderly from opposing cuts the centre at Harvard Road Road Ringmer to closure of similar centres throughout the county. Rosalyn observes that the Lewes area has an ageing population who have lived and served the town and community all their lives and certainly now deserve good care.
County Councillor John Ungar, Shadow Lead Member for Adult Social Care at East Sussex County Council, said, “I am frightened for very vulnerable people living in East Sussex, they face a very uncertain time wondering if and how the Tory cuts will affect them.” He went on to say,” Part of the problem is that the Conservative administration does not understand the complexity of Social Services care provision. They have been making quick fix cuts over the years instead of providing services in a way that was resilient, this was following the effects of the uncaring cuts in funding from central government.”
County Councillor Kathryn Field, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader at East Sussex County Council, who Chairs two committees which scrutinise the plans and action of Health and Adult Social Care coming together, is worried that many of the NHS and Adult Social Care schemes are in such an early phase that it is hard to see if cash savings can be made, let alone continue to provide the care so desperately needed. She said, “The coming year is going to be a hard one“.
County Councillor David Tutt, Opposition Group Leader at East Sussex County Council, thinks many of the cuts made in recent years were unnecessary as the Conservative group, together with UKIP and Independent allies pushed through budgets which made cuts to Adult Social Care whilst continuing to spend over £1million on communications. David Tutt said, “The Tories have shown their incompetence in the formulation of budgets. These budgets made cuts to Adult Social Care services to the most vulnerable in our county. They did this whilst wasting opportunities provided to them, by the Liberal Democrats, to have budgets which would have protected more front-line services. The Lib Dems proposals would have achieved this by targeting back office services to help the County Council to work more efficiently. "The Conservatives have failed those in need of Social Care at both National and Local level, as a result many will suffer and overall the cost will hit the Health Service budget".
To tackle the crisis in the provision of Adult Social Care Liberal Democrats would, among a raft of measures, lead with investment in a range of community services, primarily through the voluntary sector. This would help relieve pressure on the statutory provided care services. The County Council must work more closely with other organisations so that services can be provided in a joined up way, so that they meet people's needs.