Conservatives respond on Somerset finances
The political recriminations around Somerset Council’s impending bankruptcy are already beginning.
Yesterday we published an open letter to Somerset residents from LibDem Council Leader Bill Revans.
Today Conservative Group Leader David Fothergill has issued a riposte.
As with the letter from Cllr Revans we publish this without further comment:
As Conservatives, we believe that taxpayers are the best judges of how their money should be spent. This means only collecting taxes that are essential to delivering public services and not a penny more. Between 2009 and 2022 (when Conservatives ran the County Council) we gratefully accepted the additional funding from the LibDem/Conservative coalition government which replaced the need to increase council tax. We were able to deliver a balanced budget with minimal tax rises for our residents for our remaining time looking after the county’s finances – a record for which I am proud.
As a leader, I have always addressed the challenges that present themselves, rather than wistful reminiscing of what has gone before – otherwise the distraction of the staggering Lib Dem £350 million debt chalked up by their previous administration and its mind-blowing interest payments, could have derailed our effective delivery of the services Somerset needed!
Since taking the reins in May 2022, this administration has dithered and delayed in taking action to address the challenges we have seen coming for a number of years. We left the council reserves in a comfortable position to face these challenges, but it is wrong to suggest that hundreds of millions of pounds, that were surplus to requirements, should have been taken from Somerset residents in unnecessary taxes.
The move to a Unitary model, which was actually supported in the alternative Lib-Dem led business case, presented a fantastic opportunity but unfortunately has been squandered by a lack of focus, momentum and willingness to take difficult decisions. What is important now is that the current administration take a grip of the situation rather than just talking, blaming and avoiding decisions. Somerset deserves better.