County Council Leader John Osman lobbied hard for Somerset residents during a visit from a key Government minister today (Thursday).
Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for local government, was in Wells as part of a whistle-stop visit and in a ‘positive’ meeting Councillor Osman was able to press him on key issues facing the county.
These included fairer funding for local authorities, an increase to funding for adults social care and – in his role as Chairman of the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) – for a new payments mechanism for flood prevention work.
“It was a positive meeting,” said Cllr Osman. “Although no promises were made, it was clear the Secretary of State was in listening-mode.
“I am confident there will be movement and announcements in the coming months on some of the areas where I was able to press and show that Somerset is facing huge pressures. I don’t expect a magic wand to be waved, but I know he is receptive to some of the proposals and thoughts I put forward in key areas.”
During his visit the Minister was asked about the devolution plans for Somerset and Devon local authorities and whether their success was dependent on having a Mayoral position. He answered that his “door is fully open” and that he was “happy to listen”. He also said he believed the Somerset and Devon bid was a serious proposal and his department would continue to hold talks with the south west authorities.
“I’m encouraged by the Minister’s approach,” said Cllr Osman. “There is a lot of work going on in the background and it is clear that rural areas are fighting hard to ensure that they can win appropriate concessions from the government. In his comments to me I am confident that what works in cities and urban areas, such as having a Mayor, is not the only answer being considered for devolution bids such as our own.”
In his role with the SRA, Cllr Osman said the Minister was considering the best way to levy funds for flood projects and he was hopeful there would be movement in this area later in the year.