Somerset gets £7m to spend
Somerset has been allocated a total of £7.26m of new funding. This is provided by Whitehall under the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). It is available to invest in the area between 2022 and 2025.
Somerset Council expect the funding to be made available as follows:
Year 1 (2022/23): £88k Capital / £793k Revenue
Year 2 (2023/24): £229k Capital / £1.5m Revenue
Year 3 (2024/25): £924k Capital / £3.7m Revenue
Somerset Council is now inviting residents to have their say on how the money is spent. A questionnaire is now live, and can be found on the UKSPF page on the Somerset County Council website: UK Shared Prosperity Fund (somerset.gov.uk).
The primary goal for the fund is to build pride in place and increase life chances for residents. The fund is intended to improve the place people live in, and support individuals and business. Residents are now invited to fill in the questionnaire. This will help to inform the high level investment priorities for the Action Plan.
Councillor Val Keitch is the Somerset County Council Executive Lead Member for Local Government Reorganisation. So this falls within her brief. She notes: “Somerset County Council is committed to being a Council that listens to its residents, and your input can help shape the Local Investment Plan for this funding. I would urge everyone to have their say in this consultation to help ensure that this money is channelled into projects that will make a real difference in Somerset.”
So far all good. The problem is, arguably with the questionnaire. You are invited to answer 33 questions with a priority of between 1 and 10. The questions are largely platitudinous. It is really hard to give any question a score of less than 10.
How would you score “improving access to services by rural and coastal communities by strengthening public transport infrastructure? Or “boosting productivity and increasing the value of the tourism sector through a focus on sustainable and cultural tourism“? Maybe 2 out of 10? Probably not.
It is good to have the money. It is good to be asked how we want to spend it. It is much harder to complete the questionnaire by deprioritising any of all the perfectly sensible things that are on it.
A typical moaning negative response from Clr Val Keitch,
How about, “Thank you, now lets work hard to improve towns and villages in Somerset ” ?
I think you’ve misread the article. Cllr Val Keitch is encouraging residents to have their say. The journalist is bemoaning the format of that survey. All perfectly valid. Surely a survey which asks for prioritisation would be better, e.g we have some money should we prioritise public transport above boosting tourism, or vice versa. Maybe a list of options where the money could be spent and an opportunity to rank them in order. So I guess I’m saying that the journalist has a valid point if this excercise is going to be useful in determining what we, the residents of Somerset, want.
A list of things that all sound good and asking us to rate how much we agree if they are a good idea sounds like a survey designed to give the council the maximum amount of space to decide on the priorities, rather than taking their lead from the wider public…
The survey is ridiculous. The first question starts ‘Growing the cultural offer of town centres, and rural and coastal areas…’ That is, growing the cultural offer everywhere!
They don’t even ask for any personal details, so have no idea why I am completing the survey.
I expect a sizeable amount of this money will pay for local authority staff time. And meetings. Lots of meetings.