Balanced budget with major investment in Adult Social Care and Children’s Services. Boost for climate change action.
Somerset County Council has published its last draft proposed budget ahead of the creation of a new unitary Somerset Council in April 2023.
The council is proposing major increases in investment in care services, with an increase for Adult Social Care of £18m (13%), and over £12m (also 13%) for Children’s Services. After three years of “sound financial management” the council describes its reserves as robust.
The increase in funding for Adult Social Care in part reflects the council’s recent decision to support an increase in carers pay and to provide a retention bonus for care staff in Somerset. This is intended to support the recruitment and retention of staff in a challenging job market for care services.
The council is also proposing to allocate £48 million for capital spending in the coming year. This includes substantial investment in measures to tackle climate change, building on the council’s successful Climate Emergency Community Fund. The council has allocated £1 million in new match funding to support the “decarbonisation” of schools – on top of the existing £7.8 million investment in decarbonising the council’s buildings, including libraries. A further £1 million has been allocated for electric fleet vehicles and charging infrastructure. A new investment of £1 million has been allocated to local transport schemes.
Council Tax is proposed to rise by a two per cent with a further one per cent rise under the social care precept. This compares to UK inflation in December running at over four percent. This will mean that Somerset County Council continues to set one of the lowest County Council Tax rates in the UK.
Councillor Mandy Chilcott, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “As the report makes clear, at a time of unprecedented pressures on council services, the hard work of officers and members of the council has created a sound financial plan, replenished reserves and outlined substantial capital investment in our county’s future.
“We have enabled an environment that allows for increased investment in supporting our most vulnerable residents and preparing this county for the challenges of climate change; all while setting one of the lowest County Council Tax rates in the country.
“This Council starts its journey towards the new unitary Somerset Council in excellent financial health and with robust reserves.”