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Page last updated at 10:02 GMT, Friday, 3 September 2010 11:02 UK
Somerset County Council announces cuts and savings

The scale of job losses and spending cuts at Somerset County Council were revealed on the morning of Friday, 3 September.

The council leader Ken Maddock said the organisation had to change over the next three years, in order to accommodate government spending cuts and make general savings across the county.

Mr Maddock said Somerset was currently in debt to the tune of £350m, with projection to reach £400m before it could come down.

"We cannot go on, change is essential," he said.

"We are bringing a new approach - we will have to stop some services and become a smaller and better run authority.

"This is not my doing but it is my responsibility."

Headlines
  • Council faces £75m deficit over three years
  • Some 1,500 jobs will be lost over three years
  • The council will have to stop almost all building projects, for example new schools, children's centre and a pedestrianisation scheme
  • Services to be cut include temporarily shortening library opening hours and closing one library
  • The council wants to boost private enterprise
  • The council needs local people to come forward to help protect services they feel are important
  • Two thirds of council-owned farms will be sold off
  • The council aims to deliver 0% council tax increase next year

Job cuts in detail
  • At present there are 6,500 workers (excluding schools) at Somerset County Council - this will fall to 5,000 over the next three years
  • Some 1,500 fewer people will be employed by the council over the next 36 months
  • Council has already trawled for voluntary redundancies and about 1,000 people have expressed an interest
  • The council has issued a recruitment freeze, already delivering £1.5m in savings
  • The council aims to keep redundancies to a minimum but "can't give exact numbers at this time"
  • Mr Maddock said the council would be "upfront and honest about the issue" as it affects so many people

What will the council stop doing?
  • The council looked at all building projects and the vast majority of planned building projects will stop
  • A £8m new school that had been planned for Yeovil - amalgamating three current ones - will not go ahead in its entirety
  • The plan to pedestrianise Taunton town centre will "disappointingly" not go ahead
  • The council had hoped to turn an old doctor's surgery in Castle Cary into a new children's centre - this is now unlikely (saving £300,000 of public money) and a decision will be made next week
  • Council will now look to voluntary groups and communities to see if they can help with the running of libraries
  • Libraries: some libraries will be temporarily reducing hours from the end of September, while a review is underway - these will be Priorswood, Minehead, Porlock, Watchet, Castle Cary and Wincanton, with Bruton closing all together
  • Arts grants: major cuts will take place in a number of arts projects, although no formal decision has yet been taken. The council said it was likely to move away from "just giving grants to groups" and would focus any help on specific projects.
  • County farms: of the 60 farms, the recommendation will be that council will retain one third, while in the other two thirds the majority of tenants have "expressed an interest in purchasing some or all of the farm holding" - Crown estate has also expressed an interest
  • The next phase of the consultation will be with farmers - the council hopes that "most county farms will remain as farms"
  • Mr Maddock said: "We have to work out what we can afford and what we can't - there is no more borrowing [and] everything the council is doing is being reviewed."
  • Mr Maddock added: "We want to put our residents at the heart of these difficult decisions"

"Good work" by the council
  • Mr Maddock said: "Despite tough times, I do not want to lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of very good people in the council who do a lot of good work."
  • The council fixes 19,000 potholes a year
  • An unannounced inspection of children's social services gave Somerset County Council an 'excellent' rating
  • This year's GCSE results were up - "a great result," said Mr Maddock
  • The council is entering its second year commitment to 0% increase in council tax bill - Mr Maddock said it was "important the council doesn't increase financial burden on residents".
  • The council aims to make Somerset as "business friendly" as possible
  • Mr Maddock said he had been at times "moved to tears by the circumstances I have seen for vulnerable people - I will shield and help the most vulnerable from the cuts that are coming".



SEE ALSO
D-day for county farms sell-off
21 Jun 10 |  People & Places
In depth: Planned authority cuts
17 Feb 10 |  People & Places
Care services budget cut by 2.4m
17 Feb 10 |  Somerset
Row over council contract inquiry
11 Nov 09 |  Somerset
Tories' first 100 days in power
02 Oct 09 |  People & Places
MP's anger over services company
26 Mar 08 |  Somerset
Firm to take on council services
02 Oct 07 |  Somerset
Two councils sign up to IBM deal
22 Mar 07 |  Somerset


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