Somerset County Council Labour leader Cllr Leigh Redman (Bridgwater South) has launched a major attack on the years of Tory control as 130 jobs are threatened asking ‘Why are we in this position?’ and ‘How do we get out of this hole?’ The full text of his speech is below.
“What a way for our staff to start a bank holiday weekend! “Following a week of rumours and gossip around the financial position the council finds itself in, as members of staff started to leave work for the bank holiday weekend they all received an email outlining a summary of areas where savings proposals are being developed for consideration by Cabinet on Wednesday, September 12.
“The first thing that hit me when I read the list, was whatever the justification, how wrong these further cuts are, and how the list appeared to impact hardest, those most vulnerable amongst us, the ones that need our help most.
“The outcomes from these short lines are not very clear, it is purely an indicative list that needs to be explained fully before the meeting, where the Tory cabinet will take the decisions.
Tories are to blame
“Surely there are two things we need to consider: 1. Why are we in this position? and 2. How do we get out of this hole?
“So why are we here? The blame has to sit somewhere, and in my opinion, still being a new councillor, the previous two Tory-led administrations started the decline.
“There were massive cuts to services which started in 2010, led by then-leader Ken Maddock.
“The following administration’s choice to freeze council tax for seven years, which combined with the government’s austerity agenda increased the pain.
“Children’s services received an inadequate Ofsted rating – a consequence of the first round of cuts – while the increased demand for adult services all added to the problem.
“Each element has had its own impact, and the three councils on the edge of the financial precipice are all Conservative-led (Northamptonshire, East Sussex and Somerset), and they all were some of the first to start the austerity cuts to local services.
“In turn, these were all compounded by cuts to our government grants – so we have Tory councils under a Tory government out of a coalition government.
Big Fix Needed
“There is no quick fix, we need to realise that this position will require a big fix.
“It needs to be something that can be applied nationally as the councils mentioned above are just the start.
“We need to find the appropriate level of services in each council, establish what that will cost, then figure out how we are going to pay for it.
“This is a base level of services that protect those most vulnerable and in need, at the same time maintain a reasonable level of service on the roads and in County Hall.
A National problem
“I wish I could have the solution but that is outside of my influence, I am a local councillor working hard to get the best for my community – this is a national problem!
“We are a long way from getting this sorted.
“It has been said by the leader of Somerset County Council ‘we must find more in year savings’, and how the axe may fall will become clearer over the next few weeks.
“You will have seen that in order to try and balance its currently severely-constrained budget, Somerset County Council is looking to make another £14m of cuts within the year 2018/19 on top of the £14m already announced.
“Further cuts are wrong. I will do everything I can to fight for those most in need in our communities, but we need a national solution not just another sticking plaster.
“Over the next few weeks please feel for the staff, the majority of whom are only doing as they are told while trying to maintain a service that is already over-stretched and under resourced.”
Summary of Tory Cutbacks
Here is the summary of areas where savings proposals are being developed for consideration by Cabinet next month:
2018/2019 Revenue Budget Monitoring – August 24, 2018
- Proposals for the alteration of arrangements for specialist housing and support for adults with social care needs.
- Proposals for reduction in the support given to the Citizens Advice Bureaux for the administration of a benefit for individuals.
- Proposals for the alteration and/or reduction of early help services provided to children and their families.
- Proposals for the alteration and/or reduction of services to support vulnerable pupils.
- Proposals for alteration and/or reduction of support arrangements for the democratic process and for elected members.
- Proposals for the alteration of members allowances for recommendation to Council.
- Proposals to alter the arrangements for, provision of, and funding solutions for the maintenance of highways, rights of way and associated infrastructure.
- Proposals for altering the financial support and arrangements for public transport and for special educational needs (SEN) transport.
- Proposals to alter the funding arrangements and service level for road safety.
- Proposals to alter the provision of park and ride services in the Taunton area.
- Proposals for altering staffing structures and levels in teams within Adult Services, Children and Family Services, Corporate Services and ECI Services.
- Proposals to alter the provision of corporate support services and / or reduce corporate and directorate overheads.
- Proposals to secure additional funding and / or recover costs within Children and Family Services, ICT and ECI Services.
- Proposals for the alteration of customer access arrangements.