Agenda item

Update on Somerset Council's current financial position - Q&A


Theo Butt Philip gave an update on the Somerset Council financial emergency and what this meant for the communities, the role of LCNs and this Parish and Town Councils.  


He highlighted that:


·     When it became apparent that there was financial pressure of £100M, the officers put forward a number of suggestions and as a result the Executive were taking a robust approach to manage the situation.

·     The amount owed was principally owing to the increasing cost of delivering adult social care and children services – approximately 63% of the budget came from this. It was a colossal increase caused by the additional cost of placing people in care and historically this had not been high in Somerset.

·     The Executive were looking at where they could save money in all areas of what the council did, e.g. discretionary services (optional)as opposed to statutory services (legally required) this equated to £35M in savings.

·     This meant that Somerset Council would not be able to deliver all of the services the community was used to receiving.

·     An application had been made to Central Government to increase council tax by an additional 5% this year which would bring bring Somerset Council tax to just below national average for a unitary council.

·     The Executive would also look at using some of the council’s reserves to plug the gap.


Councillor Butt Philip mentioned the papers which were published last week that included a list of facilities which were being considered for cuts. Among the list were facilities such as:


·         Public toilets.  He suggested that these may be something that Town or Parish Councils may wish to take on.

·         Spend on highways would be considered.

·         The viability of continuing to provide tourist centres.

·         The number of household waste recycling centres is likely to be reduced.

·         The delivery of services to parks etc.


Councillor Roz Wyke explained that children and adult care are a statutory requirement, and it must be done. She further explained that this was indeed vital spend supporting vulnerable people and that it was being paid for from council tax, which was not a sustainable decision as this was based on property tax and a valuation which was done in the early 90’s and central government have not yet resolved it.


Councillor Matt Martin pointed out what was happening in Somerset was not an isolated incident. It had also recently happened in Birmingham and other Councils around the country.




Councillor Matt Martin asked for clarification on what would happen in the next 5 – 10 years regarding the continuation of a financial emergency.




Councillor Theo Butt-Philip explained that the next stage in the process was called “right-sizing” the organisation. This means reviewing all Council services which would inevitably mean a reduction in staffing and changes in the way in which services are delivered. 


It was mentioned that passing on the additional service costs and management to the Town and Parish Councils was not feasible and are the Council considering the knock-on effect of passing on services.


It was notes that perhaps local businesses could open up their toilet facilities to fill the void if public toilets were closed but this would have to be decided by the local community.




How many adults receive social care? 


Councillor Roz Wyke explained that there was a difference in providing services at the government level and council level. The Government nationally restricted the amount of money that local authorities can raise down to 3% plus 2% for social care which is very constrained. However, she pointed out, that Parish and Town Councils were not constrained. The fact was that the Parish and Town Councils can decide exactly what services they wish to provide and then decide how to raise the money to do this.


Councillor Roz Wyke further confirmed that the budget consultation runs until the 22nd of January and responses to the consultation will take into account in the reports and decision making and will be submitted to Scrutiny, which is a public meeting, and there will be opportunities there to make comments. It was not a tick box exercise; it is a genuine consultation exercise. More information can be found on, budget consultation.


Providing services, how to pay for them and how much this would save the Council was further debated.


The Chair confirmed that any further questions may be emailed to the LCN team who will pass them on to Councillor Roz Wyke or Councillor Theo Butt-Philip to answer.