A £52 INCREASE in council tax, £518,000 reduction in providing leisure services, £200,000 reduction on library spending and a £762,000 cut in funding for adult services and just under £1 million being cut from mental health services.

That is how Somerset County Council’s “challenging” budget proposals for 2016/17, which will be discussed at a cabinet meeting next week, will affect you.

It includes making more than £8 million pounds worth of cuts and savings, which the council said are to protect vital services as it faces falling government funding and an increase in demand for services.

For the first time in six years, the amount of money residents pay for the county council element of council tax could be increasing - by more than five per cent. 

Households across the county could potentially pay a further £52 per year to help fund adult social care, the Somerset Rivers Authority and other services.

The council says it faces challenging times, as the most recent funding settlement confirmed a further £20m reduction in funding from the government.

At the same time, the settlement gave permission for the county to raise an additional two per cent council tax to fund adult social care, which would see band D households pay an extra £20 a year towards caring for Somerset’s elderly population.

The council is also considering a 1.99 per cent increase in council tax for other services, as well as a proposal for an additional 1.25 per cent increase on behalf of the Somerset Rivers Authority.

This would fund the flood prevention work of the SRA which has received no central Government funding for 2016/17.

“This is a truly challenging budget,” said councillor Harvey Siggs, cabinet member with responsibility for resources.

“Reductions in funding have been drastic while demand increases and factors like inflation and the introduction of the national living wage also have to be met.

“We would still have one of the lowest council tax levels in the country, but our element of council tax would go up by around £52 a year for the average household, including around £12 for the SRA.

"I know that’s not easy for many hard-working families, but it does mean less than £1 per week extra to protect some incredibly important services at a time of unprecedented pressure on our resources.”

The savings plans for 2016/17 going before cabinet total £7.8 million and include:
• Approximately 90 posts to be lost from various parts of the council
• A £200,000 reduction in costs through changes in library services
• A £518,000 reduction in the provision of leisure services - a 50 per cent cut 
• A £762,000 reduction in funding for Pathways for Adults (P4A Services) – a 35 per cent cut
• £136,000 of extra savings from the Somerset waste Partnership Board
• £956,000 reduction in the management of mental health services including the discontinuation of Learning Disabilities Development 

Related articles

“We are prioritising services for the vulnerable,” added leader of the council, John Osman. 

“And with more than £100m taken from our budget over the last five years, very difficult decisions have to be made and will be being made by local authorities across the country.

“We will continue to lobby for fairer funding for Somerset, pushing for a funding formula that properly takes account of the challenges and costs of providing services in a rural county like ours.”

Somerset County Gazette: County Hall A Block.

The county council's cabinet will meet on February 8 to debate the budget

The authority’s cabinet meets on February 8, and will decide whether to recommend the budget proposals to full council which meets on February 17.

For information about the Council’s Fairer Funding for Somerset campaign and to sign the petition, visit www.somerset.gov.uk/fairerfunding.

  • What do you think of the budget plans? Are they too severe - or necessary in a time of austerity?

Whatever your view, use the comment form below to let us know, or let us know on Twitter and Facebook