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Somerset County Council propose devastating cuts hitting the most vulnerable, Green councillors warn

Children, older people, young people and the  disadvantaged will suffer most from proposed Somerset budget cuts, Green Party county councillors are warning.

Early help for vulnerable children (£2.5m), learning disability services (£4m)  and specialist housing support for older people are among the services that will be hardest hit under the proposals.

Green Party county councillor Martin Dimery said, “We will see devastating cuts to services. The council’s own assessment states that these cuts will impact badly on vulnerable and disadvantaged people.”

Green Party county councillor John Clarke said, “ This is an escalation of cuts to services which as always will hit those most vulnerable and at risk. It will not end here, with continued cuts in 2019/20 and beyond until services have been cut to the bare minimum. Once these cuts have been made, the likelihood of regaining these services will be very slim. Once gone, gone forever.”

Somerset County Council (SCC) needs to find £13m to balance the books this year. It has now put forward proposals to find this money by cutting 130 jobs and reducing services across the board, including the young carers service, citizen advice bureaux (CABs) and the youth service, as well as services for older people. 

John Clarke said, “This is the response to continued austerity supported by the Conservative-led council resulting in cuts of £73m since 2013/14 and set to continue.”

SCC has been warned by the auditor that it cannot draw on its financial reserves which are down to £2.8m from £57m in 2015. The auditor has warned that Somerset risks financial collapse within two to three years because of falling cash reserves and overspending. Last month the county council in Northamptonshire voted to abolish district councils and become a unitary authority in a bid to keep services running in the face of a lack of money.

John Clarke said, “Somerset could become a unitary authority within three years, but, by that time, as has happened in Northampton, services would be cut to the bone and communities would suffer. As always the least able to manage, such as those reliant on social care or children’s services, will suffer the most.”

John Clarke and Martin Dimery say the government must end austerity and stop cutting funding for local authorities to avert the crisis. John Clarke said, “Give local authorities the money to provide services for the health and wellbeing of all people in our communities and sufficient to protect the most vulnerable.”

They are also calling for a range of measures aimed at improving local government finances. They want a review of council tax, an end to the cap on council tax, and have called for a consultation on the proposal that those who can most afford it, pay a voluntary additional council tax payment.

Reports within SCC’s proposals warn that some could harm vulnerable groups. For example, council officers state that any reduction in residential provision for people living with dementia could lead to “inappropriate care or placement.” Proposed cuts to CABs (£465k) will, they warn, impact most those on low income, women, and people with mental health needs. They say how it could also lead to the closure of some advice centres with possible increasing demand on care services.

 John Clarke said, “Now is the time to be honest and declare to government Somerset County Council is no longer able to be financially viable and serve the people of Somerset. The wellbeing of our communities is seriously threatened.”

If you wish to respond to the proposals please write to John Clarke, Martin Dimery or David Fothergill leader of the council.

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