CCTV services and Yeovil Recreation Ground could be protected as Somerset Council explores all options to limit the impact of its financial emergency.
Earlier this month it was announced the Council would need to consider “unprecedented” and “heart-breaking” steps to bridge a £100m funding gap, including reductions to services and an increase in Council Tax.
Papers published ahead of next week’s Executive meeting provides an update, showing important changes to two of the savings proposals. It is now hoped that support from our Town Councils will enable the CCTV service to continue, while Yeovil Recreation Ground could be devolved to Yeovil Town Council. Talks about supporting other services are continuing with our City, Town and Parish Council Partners.
Council Leader Bill Revans said: “We’ve been fully open about our financial emergency and have sought to raise awareness of the broken system of local government funding, where costs for statutory services like social care are rising much faster than our ability to raise income.
“Meanwhile we have been exploring every option and working proactively to find alternative ways to run services which we can no longer afford. I’m pleased to see the updates to proposals around CCTV and Yeovil Rec and hope many other services will be protected by working in partnership with our excellent communities and their City, Town and Parish Councils.”
Somerset Council’s Executive on 7 February will be asked to consider a plan to use reserves, significant savings, a Council Tax increase, and the sale of council assets to set a balanced budget.
This requires the Government to allow Somerset Council to raise Council Tax by 9.99% and approve a capitalisation direction, where the council is allowed to borrow money or sell assets to fund day-to-day running costs.
As reserves and capital funds can only be used once, for future years the Council will need to significantly reduce its budget through a transformation programme.
The papers also give more details of the approach to create a leaner, more productive organisation and reduce the size of the workforce. The aim will be to keep the number of compulsory redundancies to a minimum by removing vacant posts, reducing the number of agency workers, interims and consultants, and by opening a voluntary redundancy scheme.
Cllr Revans added: “This is not a position any of us would want to be in but sadly this national problem will have very real impacts on local people, including our hard-working staff. We are having to look at every option and it is clear we need to reduce our budget to ensure the council is sustainable for the long term.
“I do not believe there is an alternative. If both requests are rejected by Government then a S114 notice will be inevitable. This simply means well paid commissioners would come in and cut all non-statutory services, regardless of impact, impose a more drastic reduction in our staff numbers, while raising Council Tax and other fees even more than we are proposing. We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact on our residents by taking the responsibility here in Somerset.”
The public are encouraged to take part in the budget-setting process by attending Scrutiny Committee (2 Feb), Executive (7 Feb) and/or Full Council (20 Feb) either in person or online to gain a deeper knowledge on the issues.
For Scrutiny Committee and Full Council, The Canalside venue in Bridgwater has been booked due the high volume of interest anticipated. Meeting timings have also been extended to ensure a 45-minute Public Question Time can be accommodated. Up to nine people can speak, in person, at the meetings, having three minutes, and a maximum of three questions each. All questions and responses will be published on the Council’s website.
For those unable to attend in person, all three budget meetings will be held live on MS Teams – including Full Council on 20 February, with the recordings available on YouTube shortly afterwards.
The Council’s call for public participation follows the closure of the recent Budget Consultation, which attracted almost 6,000 comments. opens in a new windowPlease read the report on the public consultation.opens PDF file
Cllr Revans added: “The public consultation demonstrated there’s real appetite out there for people to come forward and get involved. We want people to keep talking to us so we can hear what they have to say about their priorities and where they think we could make savings. This will help us make the right decisions, no matter how difficult.”
Full details of the budget meetings, agendas and papers can be found on the opens in a new windowCouncil calendar.
The Executive papers can be found on the opens in a new windowSomerset Council website. If you wish to speak or ask a question about any matter on the agenda at our forthcoming events, please contact Democratic Services during office hours (before 5pm) three clear working days before the meeting. Email [email protected]create new email or telephone 01823 357628 including your full name, address and contact details.