The Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council has called on the government for ‘urgent help’ to avoid the failure of frontline public services and increased risks to life during the winter months.

Councillor Stephen Holt was speaking during a Cabinet meeting (13 December) about council finances and the unprecedented pressures created by the cost of living crisis, inflation and rapidly rising levels of homelessness and the use of temporary accommodation.

The council’s budget for temporary accommodation placements was increased to £2.2m in 2023/24, but with the number of placements more than doubling to over 300 during the last two years , the cost is expected to increase to £4.9m by the end of this financial year.

Councillor Holt said:

“We will soon find out about the government’s provisional finance settlement and if it falls short of what is needed as the Autumn Statement did, then vulnerable lives are at greater risk over the winter.

“And I’m not just speaking for Eastbourne, following an emergency summit I hosted, a cross party group of 119 council leaders signed my letter to the chancellor asking for urgent help, but we didn’t get it.

“It is inevitable that these national issues will result in stark and difficult decisions for all councils, including Eastbourne. Increasingly, councils are having to issue section 114 notices. We’ve been saying for a long time that the way local government is funded is broken – and we need government to step up to support councils supporting their communities.”

Eastbourne Borough Council used to receive a £10.4 million grant from the government for local services over a decade ago, but that has been reduced to zero.  Council services in Eastbourne now rely ostensibly on funding from the council tax and business rates. 

The council is continuing its savings and efficiencies programme and it is planning to deliver over £2.5m of savings in 2024/25. The council has already made over £6m in savings since 2021. Eastbourne Borough Council has a net budget of just over £14 million.

Councillor Holt added:

“In addition to savings, with the increase in borrowing costs caused by inflation, a direct result of the disastrous mini-budget ,we are also reviewing our capital programme to reduce our spending. 

“Having navigated our way through the covid pandemic and the unprecedented impact it had on our finances, it is very tough to now face another social and financial crisis that is not of our making, and one that any government should realise is a national crisis. No family should be living in temporary accommodation this Christmas – and the government must act now, to fund councils in the short term and work with us to develop long term solutions.   

“Council leaders representing every political party are saying the same thing: the government’s under-funding of local authorities is now at a tipping point and the most vulnerable in society will suffer most.”