RISHI Sunak has told Somerset Council to 'get on and deliver for people' amid its ongoing financial crisis.

The Prime Minister spoke to BBC Radio Somerset this morning (Friday, February 9) and addressed the unitary council's £100m budget gap which threatens the loss of key services across the county, although these services have now been delegated to town, city, and parish councils instead.

He also noted Somerset Council's plans for an 'incredibly high council tax rise' of 9.99%, which was recently vetoed by the central government.

Speaking on the situation, Sunak said: "We have increased the funding for local councils across the country by about £600 million recently, which will mean on average councils will have about 7.5% more money to spend this next year than they did last year.

“Some of that money is dedicated specifically for rural counties like Somerset, where it’s harder to provide services in rural areas, which we acknowledge.

“But it’s also important that councils manage the cost of living for their residents, and councils that are asking the Government to just allow them to whack in incredibly high council tax rises is not right.

“And that’s why we have referendum precepts. If councils want to do that they can obviously ask their residents to give them the authority to put in excessive council tax rises, but we strike the balance between councils raising the money they need, but making sure they don’t unnecessarily burden people, and that’s what we’ve done.”

He added: “Ultimately they should manage the finances – we put £600 million more in, and it’s right that they get on and deliver for people.”

In response to the proposed council tax hike being blocked, Cllr Bill Revans, leader of Somerset Council, said the government's lack of funding to local councils was down to a 'broken system'.

“This is a disappointing decision which will impact on the long-term viability of our council," he said.

"While no one wanted to raise council tax, it was the only option we had to address a broken system where our costs are rising faster than our income.

"We have been prepared to take difficult decisions locally to minimise the impact on our communities. However, we are now reliant on the Government granting a capitalisation direction."

Also in the interview with BBC Radio Somerset, the Prime Minister refused to apologise for his transgender joke in the Commons this week in which he accused Sir Keir Starmer of being incapable of 'defining a woman' in an attack on Labour U-turns in the Commons, while the mother of murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey visited Parliament.

Mr Sunak rejected the idea he had been making a joke during the interview on BBC Radio Somerset, as he sought to blame Sir Keir instead.

“That is not what I did, it is wrong to say that,” he told the station.

“What happened was a tragedy and using that to try and detract from the completely separate and very clear point I was making about Keir Starmer and his proven track record of U-turning on multiple policy issues because he doesn’t have a plan.”

He added: “To drag someone’s family in the face of tragedy into politics like this, I don’t think it’s right. I think it’s sad and it’s wrong.”