Somerset County Council has today approved the budget for the first year of the new Somerset Council.
The balanced budget was tabled by the Liberal Democrat administration and was supported by members of the Labour and Green groups. The Conservative group chose to play political games by failing to support the proposals.
In a context of inflation and increasing costs to services the budget ensures key services are protected and the needs of the most vulnerable are met. From Library Services to Household Waste and Recycling to supporting the voluntary sector, the budget prioritises the health and wellbeing of Somerset’s residents.
The budget includes an increase in Council Tax for Somerset’s residents, however this is at half the rate of current inflation and is not a unique decision with nearly all similar sized councils having already passed or proposing an increase1.
Commenting on the proposed budget, Cllr Bill Revans, Leader of Somerset County Council said:
"It is disappointing that the Conservatives chose to play political games today rather than standing up for Somerset’s residents. Despite not supporting the budget, they failed to provide any alternative plans. After all, it is the actions of their government that mean we are continuing to reap the legacy cuts to preventative services leading to a surge in demand for key services.
The failure of the Tories in Westminster to provide sufficient funding and resources for local councils has left us short-changed in Somerset and their legacy is a difficult financial situation.
Whilst this budget does include an increase in Council Tax, the level proposed is half that of inflation and we have put in place a robust council tax reduction scheme and an exceptional hardship fund for those residents who are continuing to struggle through the cost of living crisis.
When the Liberal Democrats were given the responsibility of delivering the new council by Somerset’s residents, we committed to putting the heart back into Somerset and to be a council that listens. Since becoming the administration that’s what we’ve done.
Despite the difficult economic circumstances, we have been able to commit ourselves to maintaining vital services and delivering important capital projects across the County. From the Octagon in Yeovil to Firepool in Taunton to supporting the Town Deals for Glastonbury and Bridgwater, we are an administration for the whole of Somerset.
The next few years will continue to be challenging but I am confident that we are building a Council that is fit for purpose. A council that doesn’t rely on grand statements and rhetoric but instead on hard work, careful consideration, and responding to the needs of the people we are here to serve.”