PEOPLE will suffer as a result of East Sussex County Council’s decision to cut services back to the “legal minimum”, the Area Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Richard Jackson, has said.
The council announced last week that it would be restricting services to the most vulnerable residents only after rising costs and growing demands for social care.
It is the second Conservative-run council to be forced to announce drastic cuts in recent months, after Northamptonshire County Council’s action to try to close a £70-million black hole in its budget.
Bishop Jackson said on Wednesday of last week: “The news that East Sussex County Council are trying to strip services back to a bare legal minimum will as ever affect the poorest and least able to cope.
“Whilst I appreciate that finances are tight, it is always the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer disproportionately from cuts.
“Churches and other voluntary and faith groups will step in to some extent, but we do not have the resources to make up for the lack of provision. Make no mistake, people will suffer as a result of this decision if it is put into effect.”
East Sussex CC said that, without extra funding from the Government, the “core offer” would be all it could supply.
Its chief executive, Becky Shaw, said: “Our core offer paints an honest picture of the minimum that we realistically need to provide in the future and we want to use this as the basis for discussion with the Government, partner organisations, and residents in East Sussex.”
Speaking last Friday, Natalie Williams, who works for the Christian poverty charity Jubilee Plus and King’s Church, Hastings, said: “The cuts are clearly going to impact the most vulnerable people, those who are in poverty or in crisis. That’s why I am so concerned about them, because they will affect those who aren’t able to fight back.
“With Jubilee Plus, we are helping churches across the country to engage with the poorest and prepare them for a big financial crisis which we think is coming.”
Community organisations and churches are expected to be more heavily relied upon to support those in need.
Mrs Williams said: “At my church, King’s in Hastings, we run eight projects to help the community, including a foodbank, work on modern slavery, and we help with a debt-relief project alongside other community organisations.
“We have massively stepped up, just like other churches across the country. We are already doing quite a lot; so I do worry how our existing schemes will cope. Churches all across the country are saying that they need to do more than they currently do to help those in need.
“For individual Christians, this will hit families and friends, and force them to grow in compassion and generosity.”