It looks like we could be in for some troublous times here in Worthing, West Sussex. Our mighty county council has lost £12.9 million pounds.
That’s a sum roughly equivalent to the capital investment in roads, bridges and street lighting that the county council announced earlier this year. It’s forty-four times the size of the county’s arts budget. It’s about double the environment budget.
It’s £16.75 for every man, woman, child and baby living in the county.
West Sussex County Council boasted this year that ‘The budget for 2008/09 includes £15m in efficiency savings. These efficiencies keep the council tax increase to a minimum and protect front line services despite our low Government grant rise.’ And this week, the benefits of those efficiency savings – remember, that’s jobs lost, services cut, deliveries reduced, land sold – the benefits have been wiped out.
Meanwhile, Sussex Police has lost £6.8 million pounds.
A year ago, Brighton and Hove City Council recognised that the Icelandic banks were unsafe and moved their money. And earlier this year, Icelandic banks were identified as a risk by credit ratings agencies.
A West Sussex County Council spokesman has said, “While the turmoil in the financial markets is of considerable concern, with a revenue budget of more than £1bn, this sum of money does not impact upon the day-to-day business of the county council.”
That’s a staggeringly arrogant quote, isn’t it? A local authority that has been complaining about a shrinking budget from central government thinks that it can lose £12.9 million after ignoring the warning signs, and say it’s such a small sum that it has no impact? Let’s see how long before our overstretched services are snipped.