News

17.07.18

No section 114 for Somerset CC despite funding issues

A struggling south west authority will not issue a rare section 114 notice in spite of severe funding pressures.

Somerset County Council, who were close to issuing the notice earlier this month – which would impose strict spending restrictions and bring into effect an emergency budget – have said they are “not in that territory” whilst managing acute demand for sectors such as children’s services.

A revenue report released last week showed an overall net projected overspend of £12m, a considerable proportion of which is dedicated to children’s services due to the cost of external residential and foster care placement for children in care.

In June the council pledged to boost the children’s services and children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) budget.

The decision was made by the authority to transfer £5m from contingency spending to the Children and Families operations budget.

Leader of the council, councillor David Fothergill, made it clear that while there are big pressures, work is underway to make sure the authority lives within its means.

“It’s a difficult position and one that is getting a proportionate and immediate response,” he said. “We have to reduce overspends and make savings and we are getting to grips with this.

“We are not poised to issue a 114 notice, we are not in that territory.

“Let’s not forget, this report looks at projections for a whole year based on just two months and these figures always fall, but it is an additional spur for us to make sure we achieve what we need to achieve.

He added later: “Achieving financial stability is our overriding priority and it has never been harder. As I’ve said before, I believe the way in which local government is funding is broken – there just isn’t the money in the system to provide everything the public expects or that we want to deliver.”

In May the Conservative-controlled council called on the government to sort out its “broken” funding system and claimed it was not going to go down the same route as Northamptonshire council.

Last month MPs suggested that Somerset CC should form three unitary authorities to create savings, MPs suggested.

Former council leader and Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Crossley said: “Our Council Leader has said that Bath and North East Somerset should be part of the conversation about the future shape of local government in Somerset.

“I agree that we should be at the table, but I believe it’s absolutely vital that this conversation happens in the open with no closed-door discussions or hasty decisions.

“Changes in Somerset will affect us one way or another. It’s possible there could be benefits for residents and businesses in B&NES but we would need incontrovertible evidence and we must be cautious.

“Local people won’t tolerate a shake-up for the sake of it.”

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Image credit: Somerset County Council

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