This week West Sussex County Council is 125 years old.
It’s fascinating to look back on the rich history of both the council and the county to see how far we have come and what has changed. I highly recommend a visit to our Records Office which holds a wealth of information.
125 years ago the Chairman of the Council was the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. Other members of the authority included The Duke of Norfolk, Earl of March and Lord Leconfield. Our first council meeting was on April 4, 1889.
It’s a very different Council I lead today, there are no dames, dukes or duchesses in the council chamber and back then we had the job of collecting licences – 7s 6d for a dog licence, 5s for a gun license and 10s for a license to kill and sell game – now long gone.
We have come a long way and I am proud to lead a council that, in its 125th year, is still as strong and focussed as the day it was formed in 1889.
Our purpose remains the same today as it was 125 years ago. To serve the people of West Sussex and represent our Division at County Hall.
We support people from the start of life to the end of life, delivering services that touch people’s lives day in day out – often without people even realising it.
We are very clear about our three key priorities Start of Life, The Economy and Later Life, we know West Sussex is a beautiful county which people treasure and enjoy visiting – we have coast countryside and commerce – it is a great county to live rest and work all of which has to be managed.
We have to be there for our residents in an emergency and we have to focus on building strong communities - it’s all about helping people to help themselves.
With the challenging financial landscape we have to make difficult decisions to meet our ambitions in providing value for money services based on good outcomes for our residents. We continue to have to make savings. We have to spend every penny as wisely as our colleagues of more than a century ago had to.
WSCC has been through significant change in the last few years, an evolution, and we know that we continue to evolve and continually adapt and change our way of working as we forge ahead with our plans to provide good value for money services for the future.
In February we approved a £535 million budget and froze council tax for the fourth year running to ensure that we, as an authority, didn’t cost our residents any more. A significantly higher budget than our colleagues of 125 years ago I am sure but look at the challenges we face. We deliver 80% of local government services to a population of more than 800,000 people. We are with people from the start of life to the end, delivering services that touch people’s lives each and every day – a lot of the time without them ever realising.
Roads, potholes and highway maintenance, fire and rescue registration services, libraries, schools and education safeguarding children and ensuring our elderly population are cared for.
The expectations and demands on us far exceed our diminishing income.
We will ensure that we give our children the best possible start in life, that we support the local economy and ensure there are jobs for those children and their parents today, tomorrow and in the future and we will make sure that our elderly residents can enjoy independence and good health and age safely and securely in West Sussex.
We answer to our residents today just as the founders of West Sussex County Council did 125 years ago.
So this year, our 125th year, we will deliver an extra £15 million pounds’ worth of improvements to our extensive road network through our Better Roads campaign. We will invest an extra £30million pounds in education in Worthing including a new secondary school and more school places. Our 125th year will also see us invest an extra £6.25million into our adult social care services, a further £3.3million for our Think Family programme to support West Sussex’s most troubled families and we will make another million pounds available to communities to bid for to fund projects that will help protect them again flooding.
Crawley’s Queen Square will see investment of £1.25million, new and existing businesses and entrepreneurs will be invited to bid for funding from a new pot of £500,000.
Our partnership with the Sussex Energy Saving Partnership will generate 400 new jobs this year and improve energy efficiency in 17000 homes across West Sussex and West Sussex homes will be able to connect to superfast broadband this year as well.
All these investments at no extra cost to the taxpayers of West Sussex and we will still save £65million from the base budget.
So I look at the priorities set by WSCC 125 years ago and I look at the priorities we work towards now. People were at the heart of them then and they are very much at the heart of them now.
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