Somerset’s extravagant Tories keep hitting the news this week. First it was Sedgemoor Tories giving themselves higher pay rises than their staff and now it’s County Tories allocating new spend on their offices while 100 of their staff face redundancy. Labour Councillors have been quick to condemn ‘Tory priorities’ as ‘wrong priorities’.
Sedgemoor Labour Leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater,Victoria) said: “Many residents in Bridgwater and the 79 Families affected in Sedgemoor will be wondering why is the Somerset County Council reducing GetSet Level 2 services, at a time when there is extra funding and why is 10 million be spent on a building. This surely must be a Council who is out of touch with the needs of young people, families and communities. In terms of the GetSet consultation the Council has agreed that out of the number of Parenting support groups on offer 4 will be cut in Sydenham, Hamp and Highbridge. SCC admits that private providers, the Health Service, Sedgemoor District Council and Community Centres, will run other Support Groups. For example at the Victoria Park Community Centre, Bridgwater, support is offered to young people in Dance, Digital Inclusion, Young Mothers and Babies, which is provided by the Health service, the pre school Dance provider and a combination of Sedgemoor District Council, EDF and the Community Centre. During a previous consultation with SCC there was an indication that GetSet level 2 activities could be introduced at the Victoria Park Community Centre, this option will now be cut”
£10 Million on Office Upgrade
The announcement yesterday that Somerset County Council is going to receive extra Business rates which would equate to extra income of 1 Million, sounded like a welcome relief for the hard pressed Tory administration, yet at the same time it was reported in the news that 10 million will be spent on upgrading County Hall, at a time of job losses, estimated at 100 redundancies and a decline in Council services.
Cllr Lerry continued “The controlling Tory leadership at Somerset County Council is now losing direction and credibility, regarding the Council’s decision-making and priorities. At a time when Housing support services, Libraries and children services are being cut, the Council prefers to spend money on County Hall. Somerset County Council should now say with the extra funding available, which services are not going to be cut”.
Up to 100 ‘Redundancies’
Labour Opposition Leader on Somerset County Council Cllr Leigh Redman (Labour, Bridgwater South) said “From a Somerset County Council perspective and through my eyes, the local government financial settlement may not be the great thing people were hoping for, as with most government deals, the ‘devil will be in the detail’. On the surface it looks like SCC will be a little better off. With Somerset being part of the next round of Business Rates Retention (BRR) pilot should bring in £6.8 Million with SCC gaining £1m, consultation on this provisional settlement will close on 10th January 2019, so we will have final details after then. The Government have confirmed that the Council tax referendum limits for 2019/20 will be: 3% for general council tax and 1% for social care precept. We hope there will be clarity over the next few days, but the settlement documents are silent on funding beyond 2019/20, except for the BRR consultation where there is reference to implementation of the revised operating system as part of the “upcoming spending review”. As I said at the start, the picture is still developing, the devil will be in the detail as it becomes clearer, we will know more, with an eye on balancing the books on 31st March let’s see what 2019 brings.”
Executive Pay up by 36%
Meanwhile in Bridgwater the breaking story about the Sedgemoor Tories (backed by UKIP) voting through their 36% increase in expenses for ‘top councillors’ and the opposition Labour Group (and solitary Lib Dem) voting against and speaking out in the press, has led to remarkable exchanges on Social Media calling for ‘yellow vest’ action against the Sedgemoor Council offices in the style of France.
Leader of Labour controlled Bridgwater Town Council, Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) pointed out “If you don’t want Tories in power making these sort of decisions, you can always vote them out next May. That’d stop them.”