Published: November 2, 2010
Somerset County Council's £43m cuts edge closer amid protests

Proposed cuts to services totalling more than £43m will go to Somerset county councillors for a formal vote later this month following a cabinet meeting held on Monday (November 1st).

More than 200 members of the public attended a meeting in Taunton where members of the council's cabinet debated the proposed cuts to services.

Public question time was dominated by arts and volunteer organisations keen to voice their concerns over potential funding cuts.

Cllr Christine Lawrence, Cabinet Member with responsibility for arts, responded: "Unfortunately, we have no choice but to reduce our arts funding. However, I am confident arts will survive. It will be different and it will be challenging and we will do what we can to help you through this difficult time."

Cllr Jill Shortland, leader of the opposition, urged the Cabinet to wait to implement cuts until central government confirmed the exact financial settlement the County Council would receive.

She also raised concerns that savings in the short-term would lead to increased costs in the long-term and used road maintenance as a prime example.

Cllr Ross Henley (Lib Dem) urged the Cabinet to "think again and listen to the people of Somerset."

Leader of Somerset County Council Cllr Ken Maddock responded simply, saying: "How am I going to balance the books?"

He added: "We are in a dreadful situation. None of us get into politics to be here but we are desperately short of funds. We have increasing demands on our services and, for the first time, we will be receiving less money from central government."

"We need to protect our most vulnerable and will have to reduce or stop a lot of what we do. Although we have identified £43m of savings, this will only take us to halfway where we need to be. More tough decisions are ahead."

The cabinet unanimously voted to recommend £43m of cuts, but the recommendations will now be taken to Full Council for a final vote on 10th November.

Our photos show Ken Maddock alongside Chief Executive Sheila Wheeler during Monday's meeting


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