Agenda item

Update on Somerset Council's current financial position


The Lead Member for Human Resources and Transformation (Somerset Council), Cllr Theo Butt Philip provided an update the on Somerset Council (SC) current financial position.


A summarised overview of highlights of the update are below:


- SC knowingly declared a financial emergency, reflecting the level of concern increasing the pace of work.

- SC work to reduce the budget gap and the difficult decisions required to be able to continue to deliver services and set a budget in February 2024.

- The Adult and Childrens Social Care overspend.

- The Somerset services devolution opportunities.

- The local and national situation across the sector.

-The proposed capitalisation direction and programme.

- SC launched a 6 week consultation on budget 11 December 2023 for 6 weeks.


Following the update from Cllr Theo Butt Philip, a discussion was had between the Members where the following topics were raised:


-         The autumn statement and the impact on Local Government budget.

-         Whether a S114 could be avoided by devolution to City, Town and Parish (CTP) Councils and the impact on the services / assets if they are not taken on by CTP.

-         The Council Tax funding model.

-         The urgency for the facts, figures, data and assets and costs due to CTP meetings in early January to set precepts.

-         Services that could be affected i.e grass cutting.

-         The current high level detail and the requirement for clear and more detailed information on services i.e.  what is the cut to be, what is statutory, the importance to CTP, timeframe and the expected receipt of the draft SC budget (15 January 2023); 2024/25.

-         Capitalisation programme and use of reserves.

-         Concern from Parish Councils about the devolution project and raising of parish council precept.

-         Sustainable future budget setting.

Kate Hellard, Service Manager Local Community Network Development, provided information on the Highway Steward Service, via a PowerPoint presentation, a summarised overview of highlights of the presentation are below:


-         The Highway Steward scheme delivers minor works within the capability of a single operative

-         The Highway Steward is a skilled highway operative, with a branded vehicle, employed by a main contractor to deliver a defined work programme and empowered to undertake ad hoc works when identified.

-         The Parish or town Council decide on local priorities i.e.  maintenance hedgerow / verge cutting drainage / drainage maintenance / weed removal / sign cleaning.

-         The Highway steward targets discretionary parish works, any statutory or safety-relate work (potholes, damaged regulatory signs to be reported in the usual way for the Highway Authority to insect and assess.

-         The options for delivery through Somerset Councils’ Highway Maintenance Contract or self delivery through suppliers commissioned by a Parish or Parish / LCN collaboration.

-         The costs, commitment and timeframes.


Following the presentation from Kate Hellard, a discussion was had between the Members where the following topics were raised:

-         The capacity of work within the year, scope of CTP work needed.

-         The differing rural and urban demands.

-         The need for more information to factor into budgets.

-         The complicated budget setting for precepts for CTPs, including inflation and Council Tax Bills.

-         Highways works and other options for delivery.

-         What the minimum of reduced highways services looks like for the future.

-         Parishes across all LCNs related to highways not happy, highways reduced over next year, HS offer to enhance what minimum looks like in the future


The Chair summarised the discussion, and requested all information regarding the Highway Steward be circulated to the Wellington and Wiveliscombe LCN Membership, the LCN team to collate feedback, and look to establish priorities and to make informed choices for the future.



Kate Hellard to circulate the Highways Steward Scheme information and presentation.


LCN Team

Collate Highway Steward feedback from the LCN Membership.