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17 January 2014, 15:15 | Updated: 17 January 2014, 15:18
Savings proposals of more than £18m have been unveiled by Somerset County Council – as the authority also confirmed it will continue to spend more than £300m on council services across the county.
Despite the proposed savings, the Council aims to freeze its share of council tax – for the fifth year in a row.
The Council’s budget – which will be decided on 19th Feb – proposes more than £160m will be spent looking after vulnerable adults – the biggest area of council spending by far. This includes looking after and supporting frail and elderly people as well as those with profound disabilities or learning difficulties.
£40m is identified for spending on social services for children including protecting children from abuse, adoption and fostering services.
And the commitment to Somerset’s roads and street lighting was also confirmed with a proposal for continuing investment of £30m per year.
Council Leader John Osman said:
“We have to make tough choices, but we are the same as any careful household. We have a reduced income, increased bills, something has to give."
His comments were backed up by Cabinet member David Huxtable:
“It is not something we want to do, but it is something we have to do – just as every council in the country is now doing. We are taking people’s views into account where we can – that’s why our council tax is frozen, but these are tough financial times. We can only highlight a few of the areas where we have worked hard to cut costs but protect frontline services as far as we can.
I understand that people want their services to remain the same, but we face such financial challenges that we have to reduce or even stop some of what we do. I do want to stress that while we have made savings to balance our budget, we are still spending more than £300m on the important frontline services that our residents need.”
Areas facing proposed savings include:
Youth and community services reduced by £936k
Sheltered housing provision will be reduced by £500k over two years
Removing management costs for AONBs saving £40k next year.
SCC staffing will reduce by up to 100.
Closure of two recycling sites with some of the savings being used to invest in increasing opening times at major sites, saving £174,000
Following overwhelming public support through the council’s “balancing act” consultation exercise, charges could be introduced in registration services (weddings), advertising on the council’s website, and increased charges for companies digging up Somerset’s roads.
More efficient ways of working will also drive savings including proposals to:
Restructure management and administration and reduce running costs of children’s centres to deliver savings of around £1.7m* over two years with a proposed extra 30 more frontline staff.
Bring in self service into libraries and other savings making savings of £300k next year.
Major policy changes could see significant changes in other areas:
Helping vulnerable elderly people stay at home for longer instead of moving into residential or nursing homes will save the Council more than £1m over four years.