Somerset County Council Leader John Osman says he is “deeply disappointed” by the Government’s “unfair” funding settlement for Somerset’s key services.
Cllr Osman has also criticised what he describes as the Government’s failure to redress the balance between the South West and England’s other regions, calling for “Somerset pounds for Somerset people.”
His comments follow this week’s announcement of the Local Government Finance Settlement. The County Council estimates it will receive £1million less than predicted in Government support as a result.
This is on top of a stark £21million drop in the Government’s County Council funding for 2015/16 – from £63million in 2014/15 down to £42.3million – in the face of rising demand and significant pressure on Somerset’s key services.
Cllr Osman said: “I am deeply disappointed with the settlement. Not only has the Government failed to redress its unfair funding across the rural South West authorities, in its bias towards England’s South East and North it is effectively acting to send what is much-needed Somerset taxpayer’s money to elsewhere in the country.
“What’s more, while the settlement is roughly £1m less than we had anticipated – which some might argue is not vast in the grand scheme – it hides a much bigger issue. It takes no account of the rising cost of delivering services, nor the relentlessly increasing demand for services, particularly those that support our elderly residents and children.”
The preferred measure used by Central Government, that of councils’ “spending power”, which appears to paint a positive picture for the County Council, is no true indicator of the scale of the challenges the Council faces, he added.
“No matter what measure is used, the funding for Somerset fails to keep pace with rising cost and demand, and that means that we, like other authorities, have more savings to make with all the extremely difficult decisions that come with that,” he said. “Now, more so than ever, we need Somerset pounds for Somerset people.”