IF Somerset Council spending on care continues at the same level, the viability of the authority could be at risk within two years, it has warned.

It needs to raid its reserves for the second successive year to fund the rising cost of adult and children’s social care.

Papers published ahead the council’s executive next Wednesday (September 6) label the council’s financial position “stark and challenging”.

The papers reveal the council drew £18million from reserves last year to fund spending beyond the 2022/23 budgets in adult and children’s care services.

It is legally obliged to fund these services, which have seen an unprecedented rise in demand and complexity of need since the pandemic.

The two services are projected to overspend by £21million in the current financial year - despite significant increases in budgets in the two previous years.

Other challenging costs include processing an increasing in household waste and refinancing loans.

Cllr Liz Leyshon, lead member for resources and performance and deputy council leader, said: “Obviously repeatedly using the council’s reserves to fund day to day care services cannot continue without putting the financial viability of the council at risk.

“The national problems we warned about last year have not improved. If anything they are worse.

"The demand on social care continues to grow and inflation and interest rates have continued to rise.

"We now have a clear picture of the financial legacies of the five predecessor councils, although there is much work still to be completed by the external auditors.

“The current and next two years will be particularly challenging until the benefits of transformation of services at the new council can be realised.

"After a decade of neglect, the Government has to address the future of council funding and how pressures, particularly on councils with social care responsibilities, are pushing many well-run councils towards a Section 114 notice.

“Having already taken savings from the move from five councils to one council, we now have a transformation programme that will start to produce saving in two to three years. We are working well with the local NHS on integrating our care services.

“Somerset looks poised to become Britain’s green energy powerhouse with Hinkley Point C coming on stream and the proposed new gigafactory, but the next two years will be very, very difficult. The council’s challenge will be to make sure we are in a the right place to make the most of these opportunities, while taking care of those most in need.”

Cllr Leyshon said some services will be reduced to no more than statutory levels, but pledged the council will review its capital programme to ensure Somerset Council is "sustainable in the longer term".