Somerset County Council is working to bridge a budget gap of approaching £30m to balance its books in the face of falling funding and increasing demand.
Council Leader, John Osman, has repeated his call for fairer funding as the authority addresses the shortfall of around £27m or more for 2016/17, caused by a drop in central Government funding plus inflation and population pressures that add millions to costs.
All Council services have been asked to look for savings, wherever possible through more efficient working. But in the coming months difficult decisions will have to be taken about what services and support the authority can continue to deliver and to what level.
“We will endeavour to prioritise frontline services and those that support the vulnerable,” said Cllr Harvey Siggs, Cabinet Member for Resources. “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.”
Between 2014/15 and 2019/20, the council’s direct funding from Government is expected to have fallen by around £63m. At the same time, inflation is pushing up costs and demand for services is increasing as Somerset’s population grows and becomes more elderly.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Osman, has repeated his call on behalf of the authority for a fairer funding deal for the county. 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.”
Please visit http://fairerfundingforsomerset.org/ for more information and to sign the petition.
The Council’s budget for 2016/17 will be agreed by Full Council in February. Between now and then, savings proposals will be developed, scrutinised and decided upon by councillors and/or officers – depending on the values involved and impacts – at various different meetings.
All decisions are supported by impact assessments and consultations where necessary. The results of the recent Listening Learning Changing roadshows will be one of the factors decision-makers consider. Council officers spoke to more than 3,000 people at 15 events across the county, seeking their views on the authority’s priorities and other key issues.
Residents can still have their say online by visiting http://www.somerset.gov.uk/listening/