SOMERSET Council's balanced budget has been met with some backlash from some councillors.

At the meeting on Tuesday in Bridgwater there were even protestors outside the venue, and on top of that, the meeting was a fractious affair, with Conservative opposition councillors being heckled for the perceived inaction of the party at a national level.

The Tories and Lib Dems clashed furiously after the budget report was introduced.

Conservative David Fothergill – who led the county council between 2017 and 2022 – said the Lib Dems were setting the budget “on a wing and a prayer” and claimed Mr Revans and his team had ignored both advice and support since they won the local elections.

He said: “I woke from a nightmare that a proud council handed over with five years of balanced budget and growing reserves had been completely wrecked within two years.

“We have been through months of finding excuses – what we need is a touch of reality from the other side. They have failed to listen, failed to involve, failed to focus on real issues, failed to take decisive actions early, and failed to remember who we are here to serve.

“The two people that wrote the unitary business case are in this room – we have never been asked how it could be delivered. You have been paralysed in the headlines for 18 months until it is too late.

“Two years of incompetence and mismanagement have brought us to this point. It’s about time you took responsibility for this.”

Lib Dem council leader Bill Revans responded by attacking the Conservatives’ record in government and their decision to freeze council tax for six years while in charge of the county council.

He said: “The government must act now if local authorities are to survive. That’s the opinion of the cross-party levelling up select committee.

“A national problem needs a national solution. We were upfront – we declared a financial emergency in November. This was because we had a spiralling cost of social care and we didn’t have the ability to raise our income to meet that.

“This crisis is not of our making, but it is our responsibility to find a way through it.

“Your council tax freeze is the reason we are closer to the edge than other councils. That is a legacy of 13 years of Conservative control of the county council.

“If you can’t take responsibility, then by all means abstain from the vote and don’t get in our way. It’s not that we’ve taken our eye off the ball; it’s the goalposts that have been moved by this government.”

Numerous opposition councillors said there was little choice but to approve the budget, while expressing concerns about what would happen 12 months down the line.

Independent Councillor Gwilym Wren said: “Things are pretty parlous, and we are relying on the letter from DLUHC [regarding the capitalisation directive], which seems pretty tenuous.

“We’re teetering on the precipice, and DLUHC’s decision to refuse the council tax rise was perverse.

“There is a lack of political will in government to support local government delivering local services for local people.”

Labour group leader Leigh Redman said: “These savings are only good news if they can be met. Much of the assurance for the savings rely on our own staff doing more.

“It breaks my heart to be talking about these job cuts. Transformation will result in fewer staff and will erode the standard of service delivery.”

Green group leader Dave Mansell added: “It looks to me like the government has created a black hole for Somerset Council, that the black hole is getting bigger, and that there is no way out of it.

“The problems come from years of austerity and underfunding of public services. If you can’t see that – dear oh dear.”

After hours of discussion and debate, the budget was passed by 52 votes to nine, with 31 abstentions.