Council’s future budget plans given Cabinet’s official stamp of approval

Somerset County Council’s critical future budget proposals – laying out over £57m of investment, £300m of spending and £16m of savings – has been approved by Cabinet.

Cabinet Members today unanimously backed the authority’s plans for investing in buildings and structures and essential spending for its key services, recommending them for agreement by Full Council.

This marks the next step along in the yearly budget-making process.

County Council Leader John Osman also welcomed a last-minute £600,000 Central Government grant, confirmed last week.

The unexpected windfall has enabled Cabinet to agree to withdraw this year’s savings proposals relating to the Pathways For Adults (P4A) programme, which works with adults at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

The County Council will now continue working closely and consulting with district council colleagues and other organisations, in the hope of reaching alternative funding arrangements by the end of the 2015/16 financial year.

A portion of this “surprise” Government grant, along with renegotiations with bus service operators, also means the Council will now likely be able to retain its funding for seven Saturday bus routes. This will include the 161 service, serving Wells – Shepton Mallet – Frome.

A final decision on the bus savings will be taken on Monday 16 February, when Cllr Harvey Siggs, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, agrees the details of this reduced savings package.

Among other major decisions taken by Cabinet today, were:
• Continuing to lobby Central Government for fairer funding for Somerset
• Agreeing plans to reshape the way in which Somerset residents receive their health and social care services, including by working more closely with partners
• Agreeing to introduce more regular reviews of individuals using residential care in the County, to ensure they get the care that best suits them, reflecting changes in circumstances.

Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “I am ever-proud of the hard work this authority does for the people of Somerset – and in the face of Central Government’s driving programme of austerity.

“The Government’s express ambition is to completely remove millions of pounds-worth of revenue funding by 2020, and maybe even before.

“Which is why these savings we are being forced to make, and explore, are not just about this coming financial year, but being realistic about the years to come.”

Somerset’s 55 elected County Councillors, and the public, are invited to attend the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 18 February at Taunton’s Shire Hall.

This will be the next, possibly final, step in agreeing the action plan for the Council’s financial future.

To read the documents, visit www1.somerset.gov.uk/council/meetings/ and search for ‘County Council’. Or for a hard copy version of the agenda and papers, phone the Community Governance Group on 01823 357628.