Green shoots as Somerset recovers

A series of environmentally-friendly initiatives and an end to cuts to frontline services were among the plans outlined in a speech at Somerset County Council’s annual meeting.

Council Leader David Fothergill set out a series of “bold and ambitious” ideas and proposals at County Hall which also included bringing new life to discussions about the potential for a unitary council or councils in Somerset.

In his speech he outlined how a new tight financial grip was turning the authority’s finances around – highlighting a four-fold increase in the Council’s General Fund – its ‘rainy day savings account’ – for particular mention.

“We have taken active steps, taken difficult decisions,” Councillor Fothergill told the meeting. “We are now able to say that we are coming through the hard times, through the financial challenges, and we are rebuilding the foundations for a strong and healthy financial position”.

Cllr Fothergill made a series of announcements looking ahead to the next three financial years outlining a number of major initiatives:

  • A review of the purchase of all Council cars, vans, buses and other vehicles to move towards a “green” fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles following the Council signing up to the Climate Emergency declaration.
  • A similar “green” review of new council buildings such as schools to ensure sustainable and renewable energy is a first option.
  • A commitment to restart discussions with newly elected leaders in the county’s district councils about options for a unitary council or councils to deliver potential multi-million-pound savings for council tax-payers across Somerset.
  • A pledge to deliver all savings already proposed for the coming three years – but no new proposals for cuts to frontline services would be brought forward.

In the meeting, Cllr Fothergill said: “We have to keep a tight grip on our finances. We are not funded to the level we should be and will continue to lobby and to fight for fair funding for our council.

“We have in place nationally recognised programmes to support our growing elderly population to remain independent for as long as possible, but the numbers game alone will show that there is only so much we can do before we reach a tipping point. Government has to step in and sort out how it will fund social care into the future”.