Somerset Council pleads for support

The Leader of Somerset County Council (SCC), Bill Revans, has written to all towns and parishes in Somerset asking for help. The letter is initially a reminder to local councils to set their precept and send in the details. This is something all town and parish councils must do every year. But this year there is more to it.

There’s some good news for towns and parishes too. This year for the first time their share of the council tax (the precept) will be paid in one lump sum. In the past it has been two payments which is not always helpful where spending is skewed. So if a council has most of its spending in the first 6 months, two equal payments of the precept could leave them short of cashflow for 6 months.

However the underlying purpose of the letter appears to be top ask for financial support. Cllr Revans points out that SCC is likely to overspend by £22m this year. This is mainly due to large overspends in Adult Social Care and Children’s Services.

Cllr Revans is also encouraging towns and parishes to take on more. He says “The new Somerset Council will create opportunities for (town and parish) councils to take control of more assets, such as buildings and green spaces, where they wish to.”

The unwritten message, is clear (but unwritten). We want you to take on more. But you will need to fund it. Anything that can take the pressure off SCC will be welcome. But the definite undercurrent is that as towns and parishes take on more, they’ll need to raise the precept to pay for it. For now towns and parish precepts are not capped to the same degree as the county council.

So overall, local taxes may rise, but you would be paying that tax to your town and parish council rather than SCC.

Several times local councils are urged to consider taking on new responsibilities. But where they do, the message seems to us to be clear, they’ll have to raise the tax to pay for it.

Effectively, SCC is trying to push spending and raising taxes to cover that spend, down to parishes and towns (and of course are one City Council too).

And there is arguably nothing wrong with that. As long as the council is open and honest with the public about what it is doing. SCC has been underfunded for years. Something needs to be done. It is looking increasingly unlikely that central government funding won’t be the answer.

One comment

Leave a Reply