Burnham-On-Sea’s former MP Tessa Munt and fellow Lib Dem county councillors have called on the chair of Somerset County Council to hold an extraordinary meeting to explain the Conservatives’ emergency budget.
Tessa Munt, pictured, says she wants to the scrutinise the budget in more detail and ensure that it is sufficiently robust to avoid Government officials stepping in and shutting down the County Council.
Jane Lock, Lib Dem councillor and Opposition Leader, said in a stinging political attack on Tuesday: “The fact that the annual budget set in February – complete with £11 million of cuts – has clearly failed to plug the gaps and they are now on another £11 million round of cuts, should be a flashing warning sign to everyone that the cabal of eight Conservative councillors making these decisions is financially incompetent.”
“On top of that £5 million of previously unacknowledged overspend has come out of the woodwork. And we still haven’t had a satisfactory answer on why another £4.9 million extra payment has been handed to an outside contractor for care services.”
“Looking at the latest statement, it appears that over £7 million of unrecorded overspend was shunted forward into this year’s budget. For a party that prides itself on its financial acumen, they are not very good at arithmetic. We have no confidence that the latest painful cuts to essential services will deliver the savings required to save the County from bankruptcy.”
“Bringing officers and councillors together at an extraordinary meeting to explain how they have reached this point, and where Somerset goes from here, is essential.”
“If this latest budget does not deliver the savings the Tories are touting, it will lead to the catastrophic situation where the Government sends in the commissioners to run our local affairs from Westminster.”
The County Council says its budget cuts will save about £13m over the rest of this financial year, and £15m in 2019/20.
We previously reported the reactions to the budget cuts from local Conservative county councillors.
The council’s leader David Fothergill said the model for funding local authorities is “broken” and it was “absolutely the most difficult set of decisions we have had to consider” in making the necessary cutbacks.
Up to 130 jobs including 80 from the GetSet programme, which provides support to vulnerable families, are being cut.
Proposals approved include reducing the winter gritting network from 23 to 16 routes – including gritting routes in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge this winter – and a removal of funding for Citizens Advice bureau services.