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Issue 314 – £43million cuts and more to come

Cuts totalling more than £43m were agreed by Somerset county councillors on Wednesday 10th November.

But there was a warning that more would be needed before the council could balance its books.
A six hour long council meeting debated high profile cuts ranging from reducing arts grants and bus subsidies by half, cutting back on youth services by three quarters and ending support for ten Police Community Service Officers (PCSOs) – leaving a total of around 150 PCSOs operated by the police in Somerset.
Chief executive Sheila Wheeler told the council that the level of funding from government has been dramatically cut back. She said, “We are in unprecedented times. Councillors are having to make the biggest series of savings for a generation. This is very difficult and councillors are facing decisions that no-one wants to make but the council’s budget has to be balanced.”
She warned that even taking £43.6m cuts at council would not be the end of the process as the authority still faces a black hole in its finances of up to £30m.
Cllr Ken Maddock, leader of Somerset County Council said, “Never has a full council been so difficult or so challenging. We were given a difficult task to reduce the deficit and balance the books and at the meeting on 10th November saw us take a step in the right direction. However, I stress that it isn’t over yet. We still have a long way to go and further hard decisions will have to be taken.”
Members of the public raised a series of questions before the budget was put to a vote. Residents lobbied on behalf of the arts, ramblers and voluntary groups.
The savings put forward were agreed by a majority of seven. The council also agreed to carry out public consultation over plans to make significant cuts in the library service.
Further consultation will also be carried out with care providers and vulnerable people about a proposal to change the level of need required before the council will provide care. At present anyone with an assessed ‘moderate’ level of need receives support, the consultation proposal looks at changing that to a ‘substantial’ level of need.