“The County Councils finances are in a dire situation.”
The Conservative Cabinet running Somerset County Council have been discussing the possibility of declaring the Authority bankrupt. In the Revenue Outturn report the County Finance Director has informed the Cabinet that he may have to invoke Section 114 – which will mean that they have to bring in immediate savings to rectify the dire financial situation. The Government would also be advised that the County Council may not be able to pay all its bills!
At today’s Cabinet meeting Sam Crabb, the lead for the Liberal Democrats on Resources said “This financial crisis has been directly caused by the crass decisions made by the Tory Cabinet and the two Tory Leaders over the past 7 years.
“The Conservatives have slashed all preventative services, which has led to a crisis in the Children’s Services. With this service still rated as “inadequate” by Ofsted and we are still paying £1 million a month to agency staff.”
“They have not increased Council Tax for 6 years, so that our base budget is £24m less a year than it could be. Their dogma of not borrowing any money, has meant that the Tories have borrowed no money and therefore have not invested in the extra infrastructure that is so vitally needed in Somerset.”
“They have made Somerset County Council into a commissioning council, which has outsourced over £1 billion of contracts, with no real political control over the costs or the outcomes. The Tories have tied us into contracts for services we longer need. Indeed, far too many contracts, which gives the Council no flexibility on finance at all.”
“The Conservative Cabinet have had no long term thinking nor have they acted strategically, but have introduced damaging cuts in a salami slicing way, that have badly damaged valuable and useful services, causing the death of the Council by a thousand cuts.”
“This situation has not been helped by a ruthless centralising Conservative Government cutting the County’s Rate Support Grant year on year, which should be helping to pay for essential services. They are as blinkered as the local Conservative administration.”
“There is no urgency seen at all in this Somerset Tory Cabinet. They are sleepwalking the County Council and people of Somerset to disaster.”
“The Section 151 Officer has raised the spectre of Section 114 and the need for the Cabinet to now make further drastic cuts. And they are doing nothing to increase income generation within the Council, nor are they developing our good services into winning services across the South West.”
Sam’s questions to the Leader – John Osman were – “where has all the money gone John?” and “What are YOU John Osman going to do, to do to get the Council out of this serious financial mess, you have got us in?”
Jane Lock, Leader of the County Liberal Democrat Group said “almost every department of the County Council is shown to be overspending. The finances are out of control; the Cabinet are not able to achieve more than 62% of the cuts imposed only this February. And we are even seeing an overspend of £4.5 million in Central Services, which is a disgrace; the Children’s Services and Adults Services are under enormous pressures and there does not seem to be any political plan from the Tories to recover the situation.
Jane called upon John Osman and asked “Is it not time for you John to create a cross party cabinet in Somerset to tackle the issues that you cannot?”
She added “this report shows that the people of Somerset cannot trust the Conservatives to run the County Council any more. John Osman must stop hiding in his office and needs to attend every Audit Committee and every Scrutiny Committee meeting so that he can hear the advice that all the back benchers are giving to him. He also needs to take on board the good advice from the Liberal Democrats, and the officers, and even some of his cabinet and back benchers.”
She ended by saying “We have had enough of you. It is too expensive to have a Conservative run Council, outsourcing almost every service and mismanaging what is left.”