16 January 2023Prosecution for road disruption

Virgin Media Ltd has been handed fines totalling more than £56k after being found guilty of five offences relating to roadworks which included failing to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

16 January 2023Single rate bus fares

Bus users in Somerset can now travel on most routes in the county for just £2 from January. The major fare cut is part of an initiative funded by the Government aimed at boosting bus use while helping passengers to save money as the cost of living crisis continues to bite, fuelled in part by higher petrol and diesel prices. The £2 single fare is available from all participating operators from 1 January to 31 March. The initiative will apply to most routes in Somerset. The six operators involved are:
• Faresaver Buses
• First South West (Buses of Somerset)
• First West of England
• Hatch Green Coaches
• South West Coaches

16 January 2023Primary School Places: Somerset County Council

Somerset County Council

Applications for Primary School intake places for September 2023 close on 15th January 2023. Placements will be confirmed by the 17th April 2023 with any appeals needing to be received by 16th May2023.

16 January 2023Consultation opens into new single Somerset Council budget. New Council targets support for key services and vulnerable residents

The proposed budget for the new unitary Somerset Council is published today.

The proposals, set to be discussed by the Council’s Executive on Wednesday 18 January, will be the first time the services and costs from all four District Councils and the County Council have been brought together. Consultation into the proposed budget runs until 10 February.

Liz Leyshon, Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources, said: “This is an incredibly challenging time for most council budgets in the country but particularly so in Somerset, where we have been bringing together five council budgets into one. However, without the saving and efficiencies a new unitary council will bring, it would have been even more difficult to set a balanced budget for the next financial year.”

The Council is proposing to increase Council Tax by just under 5 percent, less than half of the current rate of inflation. This is made up of a basic rise of 2.99 per cent in Council Tax and the 2 per cent social care levy. As a result of these proposals, the council tax proposed for a Band D property will increase by £78.24 each year, or £1.50 per week.

The total budget for new Council will be £491.37 million, a rise of £36 million over the budgets of the five councils the new Somerset Council replaces. The Council agreed a new Council Tax Reduction Scheme last November, and will be bringing forward an Exceptional Hardship Fund to support households in need of further support.

The Council has said it has faced three significant challenges is setting budgets this year: the impact of inflation on the cost of providing services; the rising demand for care services post-pandemic and the need, in a very competitive labour market, to use agency staff to cover statutory services.

Cllr Leyshon said: ”Post-Covid, the rise in demand for care services, and the rising cost of meeting that demand, has been striking. The new Somerset Council will, of course, protect the services that touch most lives in Somerset and will continue to prioritise support for our most vulnerable residents. We have rejected options to close some of our household waste recycling centres and all of our libraries will remain open with unchanged hours. That won’t be the case elsewhere in the country.

“We have also protected the grants that go to the voluntary sector and will take the opportunity of working more closely with representatives of the sector. But pressure on care services dominates all budget setting in local government this year. We are increasing funding for both Adult Social Care and Children’s Services by almost a fifth, but that doesn’t really cover the rising costs of those services and we will still need to find savings in these services.”

Several of the savings in the new proposed budget relate to the move to a single council, with £2.9million saved from senior manager costs and a £600,000 annual saving from reducing the number of council members.

Cllr Leyshon concluded: “We know that reform of social care services depends on effective forward planning by Government, enabling local councils to also plan further ahead. Until that planning comes forward from the Government in a coherent form, councils, including Somerset Council, will continue to experience huge challenges in setting balanced budgets.”

Budget papers are available here: Somerset County Council

The consultation is available here: https://somerset.inconsult.uk/budget/consultationHome

06 January 2023Somerset County Council Finances

The latest budget monitoring figures for Somerset County Council show a projected overspend of £22.5m including a £12.7m overspend in Adults and £16.8m in Children’s. Some savings have been made in ECI (Highways etc). Next year’s revenue budget currently shows a gap of £44.5m.

21 November 2022Somerset Councils launch countywide Business Survey 2022

Somerset’s five Local Authorities are jointly undertaking a survey to better understand and support local businesses, now and in the future.

The Somerset Business Survey 2022 is live and can be completed here.

Businesses are encouraged to take part and share the link with their networks. The more responses there are, the more accurate the data.

Now in its third year, the survey has been developed with input from respected representative business organisations such as the Somerset Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses. It will give valuable insight into current business challenges, such as inflationary pressures, supply chain issues, higher borrowing costs, ongoing recruitment and skills concerns, and the journey to net zero carbon emissions.

In addition to providing much-needed intelligence about the position of the Somerset economy, the responses will be used to inform future targeted business support programmes.

The 2022 launch is a shared initiative between Somerset County Council, Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset West & Taunton Council, and South Somerset District Council.  On 1st April 2023, a new unitary Somerset Council will replace the County Council and the four district councils. From that date there will be a number of benefits, including greater joint working and consistency across the county to ensure businesses are supported and the local Somerset economy prospers.

Cllr Val Keitch, Somerset County Council Executive Lead Member for Local Government Organisation and Prosperity, said: “By completing this survey, you can help us shape Somerset Councils’ joint approach to backing businesses. It only takes 10 minutes but can make a real difference. The survey is anonymous and no personal data will be shared with anyone outside of Somerset’s Local Authorities.”

Here’s the link again: https://somerset.inconsult.uk/AnnualBusinessSurvey2022/answerQuestionnaire?qid=8297763

If you have questions or wish to provide additional feedback, please email: somerseteconomicdevelopment@somerset.gov.uk

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