Wednesday, 03 February 2016 12:19

Elderly a 'priority' as funding cuts bite

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Elderly a 'priority' as funding cuts bite

Somerset County Council says it is prioritising the elderly as it considers its first council tax increase for six years amid falling government funding.

Proposals being discussed by the local authority aim to balance the budget while protecting essential services and care for the county's ageing population.

The most recent funding settlement confirmed the continued reduction of Government funding for Somerset, with a further £20m being removed for 2016/17.

At the same time, the settlement gave local councils permission to aise an additional 2% Council Tax to fund adult social care.

Somerset says a 2% rise would see band D households pay an extra £20 a year towards caring for older people.

The council is considering a 1.99% increase to Council Tax for other essential services, making its share of Council Tax bills rise by 3.99% in total.

If agreed, the two rises would be the first increases in the Council's share of Council Tax for six years - adding about £40 a year to bills.

Council leader John Osman said: "We are prioritising services for the vulnerable."

"With more than £100m taken from our budget over the last five years, very difficult decisions have to be made and will be being made by local authorities across the country.

"We will continue to lobby for fairer funding for Somerset, pushing for a funding formula that properly takes account of the challenges and costs of providing services in a rural county like ours."

This year there is also a proposal for an additional 1.25% increase to the County Council element of council tax, on behalf of the Somerset Rivers Authority.

This would fund the flood prevention work of the rivers authority which has received no central government funding for 2016/17.

The County Council's cabinet is meeting on Monday (8 February) and will decide whether to recommend the budget proposals, which also include savings of around £8m, to full council which meets on 17 February.

"This is a truly challenging budget," said Councillor Harvey Siggs, cabinet member with responsibility for resources.

"Reductions in funding have been drastic while demand increases and factors like inflation and the introduction of the national living wage also have to be met.

"We would still have one of the lowest Council Tax levels in the country, but our element of Council Tax would go up by around £52 a year for the average household, including around £12 for the SRA.

I know that's not easy for many hard-working families, but it does mean less than £1 per week extra to protect some incredibly important services at a time of unprecedented pressure on our resources."

The savings plans for 2016/17 would see some 90 posts lost from various parts of the council

It plan also includes a £200,000 reduction in costs achieved through changes in library services and a £500,000 reduction in subsidies for bus services.

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