Traditionally, new council Leaders report their findings after their first 100 days. Things are moving much faster in Somerset this year so the Liberal Democrats are sharing their view after just 50 days.
With just 192* working days before the new unitary council comes into being on 1 April 2023, the first priority has been to understand how work towards this is progressing. Not surprisingly, there are significant challenges and critical financial pressures ahead for the new Somerset Council.
Cllr Bill Revans, Leader of Somerset County Council, said:
“It’s important to understand the scale of the effects of inflation facing the whole country and every council. Pay awards, energy costs, building costs are all in the national news, and are already affecting the Council’s budget, as well as the household budget of everyone who lives and works in Somerset.
There are reasons for optimism too of course. I’ve been impressed with the way officers across the five councils are getting on with the task. They are working together and putting their hearts and souls into delivering the best for the people of Somerset. Our thanks go to every officer working in every council.”
Adding to the pressure is an urgent call from Parish, Town and City Councillors to have clarity on the options for Local Community Networks. These local Committees of the new Council are one of the most eagerly awaited parts of the unitary council plans.
“For my colleagues and me, too many questions remain unanswered about how they will be structured and how much they will cost the new Council,” said Bill Revans. “My Executive team are working at pace to give the clarity that people want, and which their Parish, Town and City Councils need.”
The Lib Dem’s Executive team includes three of the four district council leaders and Lead Members with the experience and skills needed to achieve a successful move to the new council. The elected members’ professional experience includes business, law, teaching, health, the arts and many other parts of the public and private sectors.
“This will be a hands-on administration, with elected members and staff teams working side-by-side to build a new council we can all be proud of.”
As the election was held 11 months before the five councils combine into one, the new Lib Dem team will be leading Somerset for five years, which will bring continuity and stability to their demanding roles.
Bill Revans went on to say: “The next few years will be tough as we see rising costs, Government inability to address the causes, and the biggest change in local government in Somerset for nearly 50 years.
“We’ll get through the Somerset challenges by working together, finding better ways to deliver services, and ensuring we make it possible to bring our five councils together on 1st April 2023.”