Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Please tell us what matters to you

With the Autumn almost with us this is the time when we start seriously planning the County Council’s budget for the year ahead.

It is never an easy time and there are many demands on our income. And bearing in mind that the funding we receive in grants from the Government is being reduced, each year becomes even more challenging.

Over the last 4 years we have made more than £100 million pounds of savings, which is no mean feat, at the same time as keeping our share of the council tax the same. But we now have to find a further £124 million pounds worth of savings.

These are big numbers, but the basic principles of good money management remain the same -  you have to live within your means. Often that means looking at how and what we spend our money on – and continually looking to see if there is another way of doing what we do which will provide the savings we need to make.

West Sussex County Council has 3 key priorities; The Start of Life, The Economy, and Later Life and these are very much our focus.  We will make sure that we give children the very best start in life and help them achieve their potential, we will support the economy so that there are jobs for our young people today, tomorrow and in the future and we will work to ensure our older residents live as independently as possible in later life.

We know that residents have welcomed our freeze on Council Tax over the last four years and, wherever possible, we want to keep the burden of taxation to a minimum. That’s all part of our big Autumn Challenge.

But West Sussex County Council provides around 80% of the public services across the county. Many of these services are statutory which means we have to fund them. Our services range from libraries, registering a birth, death or marriage, historic records, trading standards, roads, street lighting, pavements, Children’s’ Services -  which includes fostering and adoption -  to school transport and care for the frail elderly and weak and vulnerable including safeguarding our young and old. We also provide the fire and rescue service which is there for you in an emergency be it fire, flood or road traffic accident to support our communities.

Then there is public health, planning, rights of way and school transport as well! So although we have a budget of more than £500 million, as you can see there are a lot of demands on the money. And with a growing elderly population we know more will be asked of us in the coming years.

However, I am very conscious that the money we spend is taxpayers’ money and the services provided are for our residents, which is why we have just launched our residents’ survey ‘What Matters To You?’ as we really want to hear your views.

It’s not a long survey and it’s easy to complete. Please take just a few minutes to fill it out and help ensure that our 2015/6 budget is one that reflects what matters most to you, your family and your community.

There are several ways of completing the survey, on line www.westsussex.gov.uk/whatmatters ,
or paper based forms available from our libraries, county council buildings and children and family centres.

Having to find £120 million of savings over the next three years is going to be very tough and we will do our very best to minimise any impacts from making these savings, but what will be really helpful is to hear from you about what matters – so please do make your views known.

Thank you

Best wishes,

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Lest we forget

A couple of years ago we set out planning how the County Council would commemorate the start of the Great War 1914-1918.

We started a project to produce a book, drawing on all the information stored in the County Records Office, which would represent a portrayal of West Sussex and how the lives of all the residents were affected one way or another, whether at home or ‘on the Front’.

 With the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund we were able to get the project underway with the County Records Office and the Library Service working with the dedicated support of 150 heritage volunteers.

These volunteers were split into three groups: a digital camera team, case study researchers and indexers. The digital camera team captured 19,000 pages of records. The indexers listed 10,000  events and 14,000 people from local newspapers between 1914-18.

The case study researchers wrote nearly 100 original pieces of work, mainly of individual servicemen, but also of conscientious objectors and nurses and covered home front topics such as airships, coastal defences, rationing and treatment of enemy aliens. It really was an enormous project.

Every volunteer and author was affected by what they had discovered and the stories told.

The West Sussex Record Office staff provided a high level of support and provided access to the Royal Sussex Regiment (RSR) archive for the volunteers. 

A little known fact but the RSR Archive is one of the most extensive County regimental collections in the UK and includes lists of soldiers, battalion diaries describing the fighting day by day, personal diaries and letters written by servicemen, and photographs.

Having looked at some of the entries it is compelling but very often sad reading.

Twelve highly talented and specialist authors contributed a chapter each from the mobilisation, Royal Sussex Regiment, Home Front to the peace and celebrations.

On the 4th August I attended the launch of the book ‘West Sussex Remembering 1914-1918’ and was privileged to listen to a presentation on the book. It made for a fascinating morning and a real insight on how the Great War affected each and every one of the residents in West Sussex.

Every resident played a part and many paid a very big price indeed. Life changed in so many ways during and after this War, which is why we should and never will forget all the lives that were lost fighting for King and Country.

So I am very proud that West Sussex County Council has played a part in this terrific project. It is a fitting tribute to the enormous contribution every resident played in West Sussex during the 1914 – 1918 Great War. Lest we forget – this book will ensure we never will. The book is available from all West Sussex libraries.


Best wishes,