Somerset County Council, which was gained by the Conservatives last year, has announced a Council Tax freeze. Unusually they have only announced spending plans for one year rather than three years – on the reasonable grounds that planning for future years is pretty irrelevant as we have no idea what the level of central Government grant will be.
To achieve this freeze the budget is being reduced overall by £19 million. There is a recruitment freeze at County Hall. However extra money is still be found for priorities – such as the election pledge to reduce potholes on the roads.
Savingsinclude those on procurement of £3,205,900 – a very impressive saving. This is an efficiency saving (or presumably accumulations of savings) with "minimal impact on outcomes." Other savings include £442,000 "reduction of 30 residential spot purchased beds for older people" and another £143,000 from a general reduction in care beds capacity. Very limited impact is anticipated as it is not expected they will be needed. A saving of £382,000 by switching Looked After Children from residential Children's Homes to foster placements sounds like very good news – for the children concerned as well as the Council Taxpayers in Somerset.
There are reductions in policy officers, strategy officers, Committee support officers. youth workers, lawyers, HR and the training budget. Staff communications will cost less through using the website more to cut printing costs. One important saving is £72,000 on councillors expenses and allowances. Apart from the sum itself being a help this must also be a psychological advantage to the leader, Cllr Ken Maddock, as he looks the officers in the face and makes some tough demands of them.