Update - Somerset Council’s Financial Position
- Meeting of Local Community Network - Levels and Moors, Monday, 13th November, 2023 7.00 pm (Item 20.)
To receive an urgent update on Somerset Council’s financial position.
The full presentation used for the meeting can be found here
The Chair welcomed Kate Hellard, LCN Development Lead at Somerset Council, and Cllr Liz Leyshon, Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive member for Resources and Performance to address the Local Community Network (LCN) following the decision by Somerset Council’s Executive to declare a ‘Financial Emergency’ on the 8th November 2023 (as advised in a letter that had been sent to all parish and town councils from the Leader of the Council, Cllr Bill Revans) Cllr Leyshon explained how the decision to declare the financial emergency had been reached and the impacts on service provision. She advised that the Council was taking immediate action to significantly reduce spending and close the current in-year budget gap of £27.3m, and that it would be putting in place an action plan to reduce the £100m budget gap forecast for the year 24/25. Cllr Leyshon stressed that The Council would be doing everything it could to avoid a S114 noticed being served on Somerset Council.
The Deputy Leader of the Council invited comments and questions from those in attendance, and the following points were discussed: -
· Parish and town councils need to work collaboratively with Somerset Council to ensure any gaps in service provision within the community can be mitigated.
· Parish and town council precepts will be set in the coming weeks, all parish and town councils need to carefully consider their position on this. Parish and Town councils were advised to look at increasing precepts to enable them to ‘build a war chest’.
· The differences between how the Council’s assets are categorised and disposed of; Commercial Investment Assets Disposal, Council Occupied Assets, and Devolution of Assets to town and parish councils.
· If the Council cannot set a balanced budget and a section 114 notice is served, all non-essential service provision will cease, including Local Community Networks.
· Parish councils may wish to consider the Power of Competence.
· Local Community Networks are not a legal entity and do not hold a budget. Any money that parish/town councils have ring fenced for LCN funding is NOT payable to Somerset Council, and will be retained by the parish/town council to reallocate if necessary.
· The largest contributor to the budget shortfall is Adult Social Care, and this is a national issue due to many factors including inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, the energy crisis and crucially the impact of the abandonment of the Fair Cost of Care exercise on local authorities.
· As well as taking drastic action to reduce spending in the short term, the long-term aim is transformation of Somerset Council to create a smaller, sleeker more efficient council that is more financially sustainable for the future.
· The Council is working on a set of infographics to enable greater understanding of the ‘Financial Emergency’ declaration, and this would be shared with all parish and town councils and be made publicly available on the Councils website as soon as possible.
The Chair thanked the Deputy Leader and Executive Lead member for Resources and Performance for her attendance and it was agreed that there would be further information and opportunity for questions and discussion regarding the Councils ’Financial Emergency’ at a future meeting.