“Don’t forget the most vulnerable in budget” Council Leaders’ plea to Chancellor

Council leaders in Somerset have highlighted the need to support care services in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement next week. 

Councillor Bill Revans, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “Jeremy Hunt was the minister who brought social care into the same department as health, so he more than anyone understands that the country can’t have a properly functioning NHS without making sure that social care is working well.

“If social care falls over, the NHS falls over. And at the moment it is universally acknowledged that social care, for both adults and young people, is not adequately funded. This should be a priority for the Chancellor.”  

Councillor Liz Leyshon, Lead Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources, said: “Council budgets throughout the country are being hit by three key nationwide challenges. Inflation is increasing many of our costs, we are struggling to hire the skilled staff we need which means we have to use contractors or external companies to deliver statutory services, and we are seeing a dramatic rise in the complexity of care needed by people presenting to adults’ and children’s social care. 

“Both services are dealing with much more complex cases than we would have expected pre-pandemic, and we’ve seen a particular rise in the need to support young people’s mental health since lockdown.  

“While the number of people with the virus may be lower than last year, it looks as if Covid-19 will have a lasting effect on public services. Covid grants from central government are coming to an end just as the long-term impact of the pandemic is becoming clear.” 

The County Council’s Executive will examine two finance papers when it meets next week (November 16), one looking at a projected overspend in the current county council and the other looking at the challenge of setting the budget for the new unitary Somerset Council.

Inflation and demand are making the setting the budget for the new council particularly challenging as the cost of delivering council services is predicted to rise by more than 18% because of inflation and rising demand for services.  

At present, according to the Executive papers, the new council has to find savings of over £70 million to set a balanced budget. Almost £30 million of savings have already been identified leaving a further budget gap of around £40 million and members and officers are examining the scope for further savings ahead of finalising the budget for the new council.  


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