THE funding situation Somerset County Council faces has brought into stark relief the urgent need for a fairer funding deal for rural counties like ours, with a population spread over a large area where delivering services is much more costly than in urban areas.

For example, the average cost of getting a child to school in an urban area is £9, whereas in Somerset it is £120.

In addition Somerset faces an escalating aging population, with over 75s set to double in the next decade bringing growing demands on adult services and the care budgets.

While Somerset has received from Government a 3.8% increase in core spending; an additional £2bn for adult social care and £28m in infrastructure grants, there is no doubt a great deal more needs to be done and I will continue to make the case to Government through the ongoing Fairer Funding Review and through inputting to the Care Green Paper on rural health issues.

I have made it clear to Secretary of State James Brokenshire that Somerset must be allowed to retain its Business Rates so that money raised here from hard working businesses is spent here. And I’ve stressed to three separate DCLG Ministers that the SCC/TDBC/Sedgemoor bid for £80m for essential infrastructure must come our way.

I am also exploring other possible funding sources across other Gov departments.

SCC has to concentrate on its core responsibilities of adult social care, childrens services and learning disability (taking up 70% of the budget).

Paying £100,000 per day on the debt run up by a previous Lib Dem council doesn’t help but it is clear a re-think on how to deliver the services society wants and needs is essential.

I am pleased to have played my part in keeping the park & rides open locally (albeit temporarily), an example of how situations might be resolved, but a much more needs to be done and I shall continue my fight.


MP for Taunton Deane