Somerset Council replies to MPs remarks

Last week we reported remarks made by Ian Liddell Grainger in Parliament. In those remarks he accused Somerset County Council in strident terms saying: “Somerset County Council has been given huge grants but has then diverted much of the money to balance its books, which is not what it was for. These cowboys want to become a new unitary authority. It is a con trick to use that cash, which was meant to fight covid. The Prime Minister is Somerset born and bred. I urge him to put a stop to this, so that the money goes to the people who need it most—the people of Somerset.

After we pointed out that this attack was made in Parliament, Mr Liddell Grainger repeated the remarks on his blog. However it is notable that he changed the wording significantly. There might be a reason for that! This is what he had to say without the protection of Parliament “Millions of pounds was given to Somerset County Council to help alleviate the Covid crisis. Many people are now seriously concerned that substantial sums may have been quietly siphoned off to help the county balance its books in time to make a credible bid for unitary status. I call it a con trick.

But what do Somerset County Council have to say. A letter has now been written to the prime Minister setting out their point of view in detail. It is worth putting on the record. Not least to check against what happens next….

Dear Prime Minister

I was extremely disappointed to hear the comments made in the Commons yesterday by Ian Liddell-Grainger MP concerning Somerset County Council’s alleged use of Covid-19 funding and felt compelled to write directly to you to ‘set the record straight’.

Firstly, I wish to state that we are extremely grateful for the funding support received from your Government and the further funding announced by the Chancellor as part of the provisional finance settlement.

I can confirm to you that Somerset County Council is spending all of the Covid-19 funding it has (and will) received in full compliance of the requirements of the various grants and is being used as your Government intended – to help residents, communities and businesses in Somerset. I can appreciate however that the Covid-19 funding framework for Councils is complex and for the uninformed can be very confusing.

Covid-19 funding has enabled Somerset to help keep infection rates among the lowest in the country. To date we have received just under £32m of emergency funding which has been used in line with Government guidelines to cover additional costs such as PPE, supporting Districts with housing the homeless, supporting our community sector, dealing with extra demands particularly in areas such as Social Care, supporting our care providers, funding for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, LA Emergency Assistance Grants for Food & Essential supplies, Schools & College Transport capacity, the Covid-19 Winter Grant scheme and the Contain Outbreak Management Fund.

The further £10.8m of Covid-19 funding that was announced as part of the 2021/22 provisional finance settlement will also continue to be used in this appropriate way.

I can confirm to you that we have fully completed the returns and claims that have been required of us by your Whitehall Departments and we will continue to comply in full.

Finally and very sadly, can I say how much I regret that you and your team’s focus on leadership at this critical time should have been diverted by a lack of understanding from an MP who has failed to attend any briefing with myself or the Chief Executive for a significant number of months.

With kind regards

Cllr David Fothergill
Leader of Somerset County Council

7 comments

  • Your article contains a significant factual inaccuracy, namely: only an individual can be defamed, impugned, slandered or libelled. Organisations and public bodies such as local authorities are considered reasonable targets in law. Thus no protection of Parliamentary privelege is required.

    • OK Ed adjusted. By the way, surely ILG knows that the Prime Minister was not born in Somerset.

      • Born and bred is nothing more than a friendly colloquialism. The PM’s precise birthplace is irrelevant. He probably has no recollection of the event. But many people in this part of West Somerset regard him as “one of ours”. The use of the phrase was not meant to be taken as an exact historical reference. As they used to say in Private Eye: “Surely, enough pedantry. Ed”

      • Well I’m all for both pedantry and colloquialisms. Born and bred even as a colloquialism usually implies at least a passing acquaintance with an area. I accept that my source on Johnson has been wikipedia that is not what it could be. But if the account of his early years is correct, he may have spent as much as 12 months, if not less, in Winsford during 1969 and bits of 1970. Still you may call us on pedantry, but still not my idea of born and bred.

  • Let it lie, Andrew. There are far too many important matters that should be grabbing your attention.

    • I’d suggest that it is you that is the pedant and out of order. As a Somerset resident of some considerable number of years- although not born and bred, I can assure you that we do not all consider Johnson as “one of ours” – anything but.

  • Good piece Andrew. ILG has form for make stupid statements and needs to be called out for them.

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