Published: November 20, 2013
Highbridge councillor attacks County Council over £40k website costs

A Highbridge councillor has this week attacked Somerset County Council for spending £40,000 on a new website that aims to promote how it is saving money.

District councillor Helen Groves, right, submitted a Freedom of Information request to the County Council to reveal its costs of launching the 'Balancing Act' website.

She says she was "shocked" to learn the total cost for tax payers has been over £40,000 at a time when the County Council plans to shut vital services such as Burnham-On-Sea's Octopus Children's Centre, as first reported here last week.

"There is an awful irony to spending so excessively on a consultation about saving money. We are losing services that are vital in maintaining the health and wellbeing of people in Somerset," Helen told

"Support of the elderly and disabled in their homes has been reduced, support for special educational needs and youth services has been cut, while public transport cutbacks have left many in the Burnham area unable to access services such as colleges in the evenings or even Musgrove Park Hospital without extreme difficulty."

"The £40,000+ which has been spent here would not pay for all of the costs to retain these services, but in such difficult economic circumstances it is obscene to waste money in this way and if a more prudent approach were taken across all spending decisions we wouldn't need to see such losses in public service."

The Freedom of Information request revealed the website costs include contracted staffing (£10,115), promotional roadshows across the county (£15,671), and design and build of the physical game plus advertising and agency fees (£15,000).

However, a spokesman for Somerset County Council has defended the spend, and explained: "The 'Balancing Act' website is not a scheme aimed at saving money, it was designed to collect as many views from the public as possible as we face up to very challenging financial decisions over the coming months with our income reduced and our costs increasing."

"Roadshows in Burnham, Bridgwater and across Somerset were enthusiastically taken up by many thousands of residents, giving the Council a clear idea of which services the public value most, and where the Council could bring in charges or hand over to communities to run."

"We would like to thank all those who have taken part – their views have already been used to shape the Council’s high level County Plan strategic document and also influenced spending decisions as councillors set this year’s budget. The entire exercise was warmly welcomed by politicians of all parties and we believe it has been the most successful engagement and consultation exercise the Council has ever carried out."

The County Council's Balancing Act website is available online here.


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