County Council backs investment programme

Investment of more than £224m in highways, schools, other capital projects over the next four years was agreed by Somerset County Council today.

The capital investment programme approved at the Full Council’s budget-setting meeting today will see £89m invested in the county next year alone. This includes £13.5m for secondary and primary schools, £700,000 for Special Educational Needs facilities and more than £6m for economic development projects. These include the Council’s programme of enterprise centres for small businesses to expand and provide new jobs, such as a planned new facility in Bruton and a potential innovation centre in Taunton.

Highways, traffic management and engineering projects will see investment of £57m for projects including Bridgwater’s Colley Lane (£3.8m), Junction 25 of the M5 (£1m), the Taunton Toneway Corridor (£1.5m), as well as the ongoing work filling potholes across the County.

School projects for 2019/20 include a new 14-class primary school for Somerton to replace the two existing schools at capacity and an expansion at Bishop Fox’s school in Taunton creating nearly 300 extra secondary places.

Capital funding, such as the grants from Government for highways work, is money that can only be spent on fixed assets such as buildings and roads. It cannot be spent on the day-to-day running costs of council services which have to be met from the Council’s revenue budget.

The Council considers carefully all capital projects to ensure that they will have the desired effect of improving lives, reducing costs or generating income to merit this significant investment.

Councillors also approved the development of an investment strategy which could see a further £100m invested to generate revenue income.

The strategy will now be developed, establishing criteria for selecting investments and processes for decision-making and appraising them. Options for investment will include further assets such as property and land; businesses and investment funds.

Leader of the Council, Councillor David Fothergill said: “We are committed to investing in Somerset and its future which is why we continue to invest in the schools, infrastructure and economic development needed to make sure the County continues to thrive.

“Like other councils in Somerset, we have a successful track record with our current investments, earning funds that help support our frontline services.

“The decline in central government funding means that we have to find other ways of being more self-reliant, and I am pleased to say that we will be developing a significant investment strategy to help us do just that”.