Move to balance West Somerset Council's books under fire

Somerset County Gazette: Move to balance West Somerset Council's books under fire Move to balance West Somerset Council's books under fire

PROPOSALS to turn West Somerset Council into a ‘commissioning authority’ in a bid to secure its long-term viability have been condemned as ‘nonsense’.

The move is part of a strategy designed to ensure the council’s survival after a report the published by the Local Government Association (LGA) last month called for drastic changes to balance the books.

Members will be asked to approve the idea at a special meeting next Wednesday, which would see the council pay external organisations to provide services rather than do so itself.

As part of the plans, which will be presented to full council by leader Cllr Tim Taylor, councillors will also be asked to back the creation of a £25,000 temporary job to provide advice during the process.

Cllr Ian Melhuish, the Independent leader of the democratic alliance, understands that several members will vote against the recommendations.

He said: “They have come up with this cobbled idea of a commissioning council, which was not mentioned in the LGA report. Given the timescale and the likelihood of it happening, it is absolute nonsense.

“We understand that if it goes ahead, staff numbers could be cut down to ten [from 82] while services would be commissioned to other councils, which would be Sedgemoor and Taunton

Deane. We don’t see how we can save money by doing this.

“I think it is a non-runner but there is nothing apart from the commissioning authority idea on the table.

“Employing someone to try and reduce costs, which we have been trying to do since 2007, doesn’t make any sense.

“The feeling among the democratic alliance is that someone has to stand up and say that we are not viable unless we get more money from the government.

"They want us to survive but are not going to give us any money to do so.

“The one thing that seems to have been forgotten here is the people we are supposed to be elected to serve.”

Council leader Cllr Tim Taylor declined to comment at the time of going to print.

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