Cash-strapped Somerset County Council has this week agreed major cuts to services including highways and social care in a bid to balance its books.
The Conservative-run council cabinet unanimously approved the action at a meeting on Wednesday (September 12th).
There were protests outside Shire Hall by members of the Unison union and The People’s Assembly.
The cuts will have “a huge impact” and “affect the most vulnerable”, opponents have claimed.
The council leader’s David Fothergill, pictured, said the model for funding local authorities was “broken” and it was “absolutely the most difficult set of decisions we have had to consider”.
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.
Up to 130 jobs including 80 from the GetSet programme, which provides support to vulnerable families, will also be cut.
The council said the cuts would save about £13m over the rest of this financial year, and £15m in 2019/20.
Plans to cut funding for the Young Carers Project, which supports children and teenagers, have been deferred until the new year.
Councillor Simon Coles said the authority was “gambling with people’s lives”.
There were cries of “shame” and a clapping protest during the early stages of the meeting.
Independent councillor Mike Rigby suggested Conservative councillors should resign and claimed they had been “hung out to dry” by the government.
Two councillors and the Unison union called for an emergency full council meeting to discuss the cuts.
Bob Ashford, from a foodbank provider, said that the cuts were “all to those providing services for the most vulnerable”.
The savings include:
Compulsory two days’ unpaid for all staff and councillors for the next two years (subject to consultation). (approx. £1m)
Reducing the winter gritting network from 23 to 16 routes (£120,000)
Suspending the County Council’s funding for Taunton’s two Taunton Park and Ride services. (£170,000). These will now be funded by Taunton Deane Borough Council until September 2019.
Removal of administration funding from the four district Citizens Advice Bureau services, protecting the grant (£469,000)
Reduction in the Council’s early help support, including getset services and Youth Services (£2.2m)
Reduced contribution to reserves (£1.9m)
Changes to Learning Disability contract (£770,000)
Cancelling and reducing ICT contracts and licences (£129,000)