Full Council today approved a budget worth over £310m to fund vital services – with a further £107m planned for investment in schools, roads and key infrastructure projects.
Councillors also agreed a Council Tax increase of 1.99 per cent, along with a further 2 per cent ring-fenced for Adult Social Care, meaning Somerset’s residents face one of the smallest council tax bills in the country.
Somerset County Council leader, John Osman, said: “I’m delighted we have agreed more than £300m of spending plans for our services that are so valued in Somerset, continuing to provide quality services whilst still having one of the lowest Council Tax bills in the country.
“In these tight financial times it is great that we are also able to keep investing in Somerset with another £107m to spend building schools, improving roads, bringing broadband to homes and businesses and doing everything we can to generate jobs within our county.”
Local Government continues to face the largest decrease in funds across public services, with a reduction in funding of £16m this year alone and an ageing population adding to the increasing social care bill.
Cllr John Osman, added: “It is getting harder and tougher to balance our budget. Setting a budget and setting Council Tax is always difficult as you have the competing needs of those vulnerable residents who need our services and those hard working residents who don’t need our services. The Council Tax set today I hope resets this balance.
“We have looked at our costs and found that in some areas we are significantly more expensive than some of our neighbours and against national benchmarks. Bringing us back into line with other good performing councils will save us most of the £18m savings we have now identified, but there is still more to be done.
“All Council services are urged to identify new ways of delivering services in order to find ways of making further savings and we continue to pursue working collaboratively with our partners and communities.
“I am meeting the Secretary of State next week and as always will continue to campaign for fairer funding for Somerset from central Government.”
The savings planned for 2017/18 include:
• £1.6m from negotiating better contracts.
• £1.5m from the return of South West One services to the authority.
• £400,000 from reduced spend on temporary or agency staff.
• £10m from redesigning services and bringing spend in some key areas -such as care placements for children and adults – into line with good performing authorities.