Heavy cutbacks to save Somerset £13 million

Somerset County Council has announced a range of proposals to to tackle spending pressures and secure its long-term financial sustainability.

The council, like many local authorities across the country, has witnessed its finances struggle against a wave of large reductions in funding and increases in costs and demand, especially in services for vulnerable children and adults.

More than 70 proposals have been put forward for the council’s cabinet to consider when it meets later this month. If agreed, the suggestions would save approximately £13 million over the remainder of this financial year, and £15 million including 2019/20.

 

Having made £130 million of savings and efficiencies over the last eight years, David Fothergill, leader of the council, said that the authority had now reached the ‘very sharp end’ of continued austerity and stated that the council had ‘to live within our means’.

The proposals include: compulsory two days unpaid for all staff and councillors for the next two years; suspending Taunton’s two Taunton Park and Ride services; a reduction in the council’s early help support; reduced contribution to reserves; and cancelling and reducing ICT contracts and licences.

If approved, the changes would see 130 jobs lost.

 

Fothergill said: “Despite the huge pressures, until this point we have managed to maintain – and in key areas improve – services, but the funding we receive falls far short of the cost of the services we provide and that has to have an impact.

“We’ve tried hard to avoid this, looked at every option open to us in terms of financial flexibility, but have been left with no choice. These proposals will be hard to deliver and difficult to stomach for anyone who works for or with this authority. This is the very sharp end of austerity, but the consequences of not taking this action, of not bringing ourselves to financial sustainability, would be even harder on our residents and that has to be avoided.

“Nobody comes into politics to make decisions like this, but local government’s continuous lobbying for more funding simply hasn’t been heard. We have fantastic staff doing great work that improves the lives of residents every day, and it hurts that they will be affected by this and we will do everything we can to minimise the impacts.”

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