Somerset to set balanced budget?
The cabinet of Somerset County Council met today to finalise a budget for 2020/21. The budget proposals will be put to full council on 19th February for approval and adoption.
The highlights of the proposals will spending of £775m on services. In addition there will be a capital investment programme of £319m to include school building – across 2020 to 2023 – with £133m planned for the next financial year.
Eyebrows will be raised with talk of taking “on board the challenge of rising Adult Social Care demand and costs – achieved without additional service cuts, but instead through efficiencies and service transformation.”
After a report into the financial mismanagement of the merger between Taunton Deane and West Somerset councils, “transformation” has become a bit of a dirty word.
Another area that deserves close attention is the reserves position. the budgeted outcome will see reserves “well within what is considered an appropriate level for an authority the size of Somerset“. We have also been given an update that the authority’s General Fund reserves are expected to be £19.69m by the end of the current financial year.
It may be within accepted norms, but it will be interesting to see how it compares with other authorities. As SCC’s auditors pointed out in their 2019 year end report, our county had the second lowest level of reserves of all the county councils in the country.
So what is the cost of all this for the taxpayer? The era of Conservative administration tax freezes has gone. David Fothergill’s administration will ask for an increase of 1.99% for SCC’s element of the Council Tax, along with a further 2% which will be ring-fence for Adult Social Care.
That equates to Just under £50 more per annum for a band D house.