Council calls on Whitehall to fix ‘broken’ funding system, rejects claims of bankruptcy

A Conservative-controlled council has called on the government to sort out its “broken” funding system, and claimed it was not going to go down the same path as Northamptonshire council after reports claimed the authority was at risk of going bust.

A fall in government funding alongside rising costs to social overheads such as children’s services —found in a formal peer review earlier in the year — have led to claims from The Guardian that a failure to balance the books could lead to Somerset County Council to collapse.

Reports have said that the council plans to close two-thirds of its ‘Sure Start’ children’s centres in an effort to meet savings targets as part of a wider goal of reaching £17m in cuts to children’s social care this year.

Yet the council have said they will continue to provide support to Somerset’s children’s services by foregoing the larger Sure Start centres in favour of smaller, community-based venues which are easier for people to travel to.

Responding to reports from the Bristol Post that the authority will close more than half of its libraries, Somerset council have said a consultation is still ongoing and no definitive decision has been made yet, including the potential to introduce more community-run libraries with council funding and support.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced of plans to scrap all six Somerset councils an a major merger that could save the county £28m a year. Yet council leaders have dubbed the merger as “unrealistic” and argued a unitary authority to protect district council services is “misplaced and just plain wrong.”

A spokesperson for Somerset County Council said there are “clearly pressures” on budgets, as there are on all local authority budgets up and down the country as Government funding falls and demand grows.

“Despite this pressure we are delivering improved children’s services and trail-blazing work in adult social care; and our closing financial report will show slightly increased levels of reserves compared to last year.”

Somerset Council have also said they will not suffer the same fate as the failing Northamptonshire County Council, who are now being run by government-appointed commissioners after repeated failures in balancing books and meeting budget targets.

“The recent Peer Review report found many positives and areas of success. It also concluded that we understand the financial challenges we face and that we can meet them. We believe the system by which local government is funding is broken and call on the government to address this as a priority as part of its Fairer Funding Review,” the spokesperson added.

The council noted that all budgets are being reviewed to source further savings and said are still on course to meet its 2018/19 financial budget set in February this year.

Image credit: credit ValeryEgorov via iStock 


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