Somerset County Council today approved a budget which included a Council Tax increase of 1.99 per cent and with protestors massing outside County Hall to highlight the threats to social care, it was passed by a unanimous Conservative vote whilst all opposition parties Labour, Independent ,Lib Dem, and UKIP voted against.
Local Government continues to face the largest decrease in funds across public services, with a reduction in funding of £16m this year alone and an ageing population adding to the increasing social care bill.
Tories urge ‘further savings’
County Tory leader Cllr John Osman, added: “It is getting harder and tougher to balance our budget. Setting a budget and setting Council Tax is always difficult as you have the competing needs of those vulnerable residents who need our services and those hard working residents who don’t need our services . We have looked at our costs and found that in some areas we are significantly more expensive than some of our neighbours and against national benchmarks. Bringing us back into line with other good performing councils will save us most of the £18m savings we have now identified, but there is still more to be done. All Council services are urged to identify new ways of delivering services in order to find ways of making further savings.”
Labour warns of ‘impact on Community’
Cllr Leigh Redman (Bridgwater South) Leader of the Labour Group, attacked the Tory budget saying “‘What a shame this budget hides where the £18 million will be saved, as a local councillor it is important that I read and understand the papers put in front of me, these were not easy reading, they indicate a massive saving on top of the millions already cut from the councils budget but do not show where the savings will be made, i was not able to support this budget as the impact on my community was unclear, despite many questions to the cabinet from many fronts, councillor and public, the Tory cabinet were unable (or more than likely unwilling with everyone of them up for re election in May) to add detail. In the named vote that followed the debate every single Tory present voted in favour, with the remaining opposition councillors from all parties voting against the budget. I also joined protesters in front of County hall before the meeting who were objecting to the proposed cuts in Learning disabilities, when the proposal to outsource this service came to council we were assured that both jobs and the service delivered to users would be protected, now workers are being told that the new provider will not be protecting terms and conditions and services may be threatened, this is an appalling way to treat staff and the point was made during full council.”