£30m cash gap means ‘tough choices’ ahead
PUBLISHED: 14:03 18 October 2015
COUNCIL leaders in Somerset warn they face ‘tough decisions’ as they look to juggle increasing demands on services with a budget gap of almost £30million.
Somerset County Council is experiencing further reductions in Government funding at the same time as inflation and population pressures are adding millions to costs.
The Mercury reported last year how the South West is underfunded by tens of millions of pounds across council, police, health and eduction services compared to other parts of the country.
Now, Somerset leader John Osman has repeated a call for fairer funding for Somerset from Westminster, and warns the council is facing some difficult choices in the months ahead.
He said: “This difficult budget is another stark reminder of the need for this county to be better funded by Government and I encourage everyone who has an interest in our services to sign our petition calling for fairer funding.
“I do not believe the current formula for allocating funds properly reflects the challenges and extra costs of providing services in a sparsely populated rural setting, especially one where the population is becoming increasingly elderly.”
Between 2014 and 2020, the council’s cash settlement from central Government is expected to have fallen by around £63million.
All council services have been asked to look for savings, but councillors will soon be forced to weigh up which services and support the authority can continue to deliver and to what level.
Savings proposals will be developed and scrutinised between now and February, when the authority will confirm its spending plans for 2016-17.
Cabinet member for resources, Harvey Siggs, said: “We will endeavour to prioritise frontline services and those that support the vulnerable.
“But being realistic, faced with such financial pressures we, like all other authorities, have to look at what we can and can’t do and do more to help people to help themselves where possible.”
A series of consultation roadshows have already been held around the county, with around 3,000 people said to have attended the 15 events to share their views.
However, there is still time to make your views count, and you can have your say online by visiting www.somerset.gov.uk/listening/
You can also visit http://fairerfundingforsomerset.org/ to sign Somerset’s fairer funding petition.