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23 January 2013, 06:00
Somerset County Council have announced their plans for the 2013-2014 budget.
Some of the ideas being considered are A freeze on council tax for a fourth year in a row, a major £4.8 million extra investment in caring for vulnerable people, extra funding for roads, and more books for Somerset’s libraries.
The extra investment comes despite a tough settlement from Government that will see the Council having to operate with £20 million less than last year, while demand for services increases.
Among the major proposals are:
* A freeze in council tax for a fourth year running
* Spending an extra £4.8 million on vulnerable children and adults
* Millions extra spent on repairing roads damaged by the severe winter weather
* Reducing bureaucracy in the County Council
* Making libraries part of the community, keeping them open and investing in new books.
Somerset County Council still needs to find this saving from its budget.
Council Leader John Osman said:
'It is extremely difficult and challenging when our income goes down, but the number of people needing our help is going up.
'Just one example, a few years ago over 350 children were in care in Somerset. Now that figure is more than 525, and rising. Each child can cost the authority £3,000-£5,000 a week to look after. Of course we want to look after them to the best of our abilities, but it’s a very significant expense.'
The draft budget proposals will be discussed by Cabinet members at their next meeting in February.
The proposals will see services reorganised and in some areas modernised to bring significant efficiencies and savings.
* Modernising care services
* Committing to keep all 41 Children’s Centres open and reorganising and restructuring the service
* Developing more efficient working practices with schools and early years providers. “
The Council gets one third of its income from council tax, with the Government giving the other two thirds, but at the end of last year Ministers announced that its funding would be cut-back again by another 5.5 per cent – coupled with increased demand that leaves a £20 million hole in Council finances.
For more information you can go to www.somerset.gov.uk