Somerset Council declares ‘financial emergency’ amid £10m funding gap forecast

Somerset Council is grappling with financial challenges, having declared an emergency in response to escalating costs and service demands.

To tackle the anticipated £100m funding gap for 2024/25, the council is implementing various measures.

These include divesting commercial investments, ramping up discussions with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and addressing the significant portion of the gap attributed to an expected £70m rise in adult social care expenses.

Without prompt action, Somerset faces the possibility of resorting to an S114 notice, similar to the situations in Birmingham and Woking councils.

Council Leader Bill Revans has reached out to city, town, and parish councils in Somerset, urging them to consider taking on more responsibility for local community assets and services.

Somerset Council has been in talks with local parishes about devolution, with progress made on a draft framework and a prioritised devolution program.

In his letter, Cllr Revans notes that while no decisions have been finalised, the financial emergency could impact future local service delivery.

The letter outlines potential assets and services that local councils could support, ranging from public toilets, theatres, and libraries to bus services, flood prevention, grass and hedge cutting, and carnival clear-ups.

Cllr Revans said: “We will need to review all our assets and services as we take action to address this financial emergency. Many city, town and parish councils have already expressed an interest in devolution and we recognise that some may wish to consider taking on community functions which could be at risk if we can no longer afford them.

“Transferring ownership and management of services at a local level means communities can tailor them to meet the specific needs and preferences of their neighbourhoods. Local councils also have access to funding sources not available to the larger authorities. And they’re great at tapping into their networks to mobilise volunteers and partners.

“We’re committed to working with our city, town and parish councils to achieve the best outcomes for our communities. It’s time to move forward together, and take advantage of the many opportunities that lie ahead.”

Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...