Plans outlined as Council looks to bridge budget gap

Plans to bridge a £13m budget gap will be discussed next week as Somerset County Council seeks to protect services for the most vulnerable while Government funding falls.

The Council will continue to spend more than £300m on services to residents. The plans focus on a combination of savings and proposals to make use of the Government’s agreement to allow County Councils to increase their share of Council Tax by 5.99 per cent (including ring-fenced funding for Adult Social Care).

All councils have faced dramatic reductions in Government funding, with Somerset County Council making around £140m of savings over the last seven years. This year alone the key grant from central Government will fall by a further £10m.

At the same time, demand for services, particularly adults and children’s social care has increased, and there are additional pressures from inflation and other costs.

Some of the key areas for savings include:

  • Reviews of contracts and staff reductions.
  • Extension of the successful work to promote independence and help people stay living in their own homes for longer, with an anticipated saving of more than £3m.
  • Recruiting more foster carers to reduce spend on high cost care placements, with an anticipated saving of £700,000.
  • Introducing or increasing charges where appropriate and subject to consultation.

 

In its autumn statement the Government gave councils the freedom to raise Council Tax by up to 2.99 per cent in recognition of increasing pressures and costs of inflation. The Chancellor also said councils could raise the precept for Adult Social Care to 3 per cent (compared to 2 per cent last year).

 

To protect front-line services for the most vulnerable, the proposal is to take up both of these offers. This would mean the County Council’s share of the Council Tax bill increasing by 5.99 per cent – an extra £1.30 a week for a Band D property.

 

Together the additional 1 per cent increases in Council Tax and social care precept would generate more than £4m for services.

 

Council Leader, Councillor David Fothergill, said: “Everybody knows there are massive pressures on local authority finances and I believe councils across the country will be looking at similar proposals for Council Tax increases.

 

“It will be a decision for the Full Council to take next month but we have to protect those key services that support our most vulnerable residents.

 

“We have made savings of around £140m of savings in the last seven years. It’s a massive challenge, but more are needed and we will looking to make as much as we can by getting the most from our contracts”.

 

The Medium Term Financial Plan will be discussed by the Scrutiny Committee for Policies, Adults and Health when it meets on 24 January.