13.09.18

Somerset County Council approves major cuts to services in £13m savings bid

Cash-strapped Somerset County Council has agreed to £13m in cuts to services in order to balance its books.

The council unanimously approved the “most difficult savings proposals it has had to consider” in a meeting yesterday, despite protests outside Shire Hall in Taunton by members of the Unison union and The People’s Assembly.

The cabinet also agreed to delay a decision on proposed savings for its Young Carers Service.

The proposals aim to save £13m over the remainder of the financial year, addressing a £11.4m projected overspend and “laying the foundations for longer term financial sustainability.”

Last month, the council announced plans to cut up to 130 jobs in a bid to tackle their deficit.

Somerset CC has made more saving and efficiencies of around £130m in the past eight years, but like councils across the country they have struggled financially with reductions in funding and increasing costs and demand.

Council leader Cllr David Fothergill said: “This is not the biggest set of saving Somerset has faced. But it is absolutely the most difficult set of decisions we have had to consider.

“The government model for funding local authorities is broken. Rural councils like ours don’t get the funding they need or deserve.”

He added: “Resigning would be a great disservice. We have to show leadership.

“I get sleepless nights over it. But the alternative to the cuts, or resigning and walking away, would be catastrophic.”

Proposed cuts to young carers has been much debated in recent weeks, with plans to redesign the whole service in cuts one councillor called the “most brutal of all the cuts.”

In the meeting, the decision over these cuts were taken out of the overall proposals in order for “further discussions to take place,” with a decision now likely in February 2019.

But Somerset said they were “left with no choice” but to cut major services across the council and up to 130 jobs earlier this month.

Oxfordshire County Council announced a “complete overhaul” last month in order to make £33m in savings, including cutting jobs.

Similarly, facing a potential budget shortfall of up to £70m, Northamptonshire County Council has issued its second section 114 notice which bans spending until further notice.

It will now likely be split into two unitary authorities as part of reform proposals set to be considered by central government.

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Image credit - Andrew Matthews/PA Archive/PA Images

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