On the road again: How would you balance the Council’s budget?

Somerset County Council’s public engagement events are on the road again this month as the authority faces up to the challenge of rising demand and falling funding.

This is the third year the Council has run its ‘Listening, Learning, Changing’ roadshows, asking people to try their hand at balancing its budget with an over-sized set of scales and seeking their views on its priorities and other key issues.

The roadshows are due to visit 14 locations across the county in July, August and September; starting with Wells on Wednesday, 15 July, 9am to 3pm.

With demand for services rising and central Government funding for the County Council expected to fall by a further £42m by 2019/2020 at the latest, it has never been more important to hear people’s views.

“This is a great opportunity for people to come and tell us what we should be prioritising,” said Councillor John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council.

“Balancing our budget is going to be a major challenge for the coming year. We have massive funding cuts to absorb and an ageing population –the forecast is that in less than 20 years, people aged 65 and over will make up more than a quarter of the population in almost every part of the county. That people are living longer is great news, but it puts increasing demands on the help and support we provide.

“We estimate we need to save around £30m next year and the only decisions left are tough ones. I’m committed to making this a Council that listens and want to take people’s views into account when we are discussing these tough decisions.”

The details of the roadshow events are listed below:

Wednesday 15 July, Wells, Wells Farmers Market, 9am-3pm
Friday 24 July, Shepton Mallet, Town Centre Market, 8am-1pm
Saturday 25 July, Chard, Chard Outdoor Market, 8am-1pm
Tuesday 28 July, Castle Cary, Castle Cary Street Market, 9am-2pm
Friday 31 July, Minehead, Stand in Town Centre (Wellington Sq), 9am-4pm
Saturday 1 Aug, Axbridge, Axbridge Farmers Market, 9am-1pm
Saturday 15 Aug, Taunton, Taunton Farmers Market, 9am-3pm
Friday 21 Aug, Dunster, Dunster Show, 8am-6pm
Saturday 22 Aug, Bridgwater, Junction 24 General Market, 9am-2pm
Sunday 16 Aug, Shepton Mallet, Mid Somerset Show, 8am-6pm
Friday 4 Sept, Bridgwater, Bridgwater Farmers Market, 9am-3pm
Saturday 5 Sept, Wellington, Wellington Food Town event, 10am-4pm
Sunday 6 Sept, Wivelscombe, 10 Parishes Festival, 10am-5pm
Friday 11 Sept, Yeovil, Stand in Town Centre (Quedam Centre), 9am-5pm
Saturday 12 Sept, Frome, Frome Cheese Show, 8.30am-6pm

As well as the Balancing Act scales, people can show their priorities by placing coins in our ‘Think Tanks’ and complete a short questionnaire. The same questionnaire will also soon be available online at http://www.somerset.gov.uk/listening

Representatives from the Council will be on hand to answer questions and fun activities will be available to keep children entertained.