…. and they are complaining that they will have to use the city’s “public” car parks that might be “full of druggies”!
“‘Twisted political ideology’ to blame for 130 job losses at Somerset County Council, opposition leader claims” (many parallels to our district)
“Twisted political ideology” is to blame for a potential 130 redundancies at Somerset County Council, an opposition leader has claimed.
Liberal Democrat councillor Jane Lock said the ruling Tories should “hang their heads in shame” over decisions which she says led to the latest round of redundancies at the authority.
In an email sent out on Wednesday (August 29), council chief executive Pat Flaherty thanked staff for their hard work over the summer before announcing that 130 jobs could be on the line as the council looked to balance its books.
“I am keenly aware that for those affected this will be a very difficult time, indeed for the whole authority this will be a tough process,” Mr Flaherty said.
“The relevant managers have been asked to speak to their teams in advance of the information being published, but in some cases it may not be possible, and for that I apologise.”
A consultation has begun and a final decision will be made by the council’s cabinet on Wednesday, September 12, Mr Flaherty said.
Council leader David Fothergill said the authority faced a “huge financial challenge” after losing 40 per cent of its budget over the past eight years.
The news will come as blow but not a shock to authority staff, who have been on the receiving end of redundancies for several years.
Liberal Democrat opposition leader on Somerset County Council, Jane Lock, laid the blame firmly at the feet of the Conservatives.
“It’s clearly devastating for the staff members involved,” she said.
“It’s a twisted political ideology that is backfiring on them badly now. They froze council tax for seven years and they’re now reaping the rewards of that. If they’d put it up 1.99 per cent we’d have had an extra £29M each year.
“The situation that Somerset is in is down solely to those decisions.
“It’s a disgrace, they should hang their heads in shame.”
[This is exactly what EDDC has done]
She also suggested Somerset could soon follow Northamptonshire County Council.
Council leaders there issued a Section 114 notice, which put a blanket ban on all unnecessary spending, before announcing they would be reducing services down to a bare legal minimum.
On Tuesday, a majority of councillors on Northamptonshire County Council voted to put forward a bid to secretary of state for local government for its replacement with two unitary authorities.
In July, Somerset County Council leader David Fothergill categorically stated: “We are not going to write a 114 notice.”
It came at a meeting where cabinet members voted to use £5M of an emergency spending fund to shore up children’s services, which at the time was due to overspend by £20M.
But Mr Forthergill has launched a consultation on replacing the county council with one or more unitary authorities.
Owl says: Bear in mind that Somerset County Council is the lead financial and administrative authority for the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.
“A council has proposed cutting more than 100 jobs and major services so it can balance its books.
Somerset County Council has begun a consultation on 130 redundancies and is proposing cutbacks to highways, public transport and special needs services.
The authority needed to save £19.5m in 2017/18, but only made cuts of £11.1m.
In an email to staff, the council’s chief executive said the latest cuts were being considered due to severe financial pressures.
Council leader David Fothergill said the authority had been open about its “huge” financial challenge and would formally consult with trade unions about the redundancies.
“The coming weeks will be very difficult for the council and its staff, but we have to achieve financial stability,” he said.
Liberal Democrat councillor Neil Bloomfield said Somerset was going the same way as Northamptonshire County Council, which is facing a funding shortfall of about £70m and has banned all new spending this year.
‘A ruthless process’
He said: “If Somerset were to issue a 114 notice and the government appointed special commissioners, the desire would be to create their vision of a unitary authority and then you lose control of your own, local, decision making.
“The commissioners’ job is to save money and bring you back on budget. It’s a ruthless process.”
In an email sent to staff, chief executive Pat Flaherty said severe financial pressures meant the council was considering a “reduction in services and changes to staffing structures”.
Other ideas for savings include cutting funds to services for children and support for vulnerable pupils.
More details on the proposals will be announced next week.
The authority said it was trying to balance its books after eight years of central government cuts.
A final decision will be made by the cabinet on 12 September, Mr Flaherty said.”
Source: The Times (pay wall)
East Devon has more than £5 million of unspent money from developers – topping Exeter and Plymouth for non-spending
A Freedom of Information request revealed East Devon has received nearly £8.4 million from developers of Section 106 money, of which it has spent only about £4.4 million.
The exact amount not spent is £5,139,000.
Section 106 contributions are paid to local authorities by developers when planning permission is agreed. The contributions are discussed and agreed before developments are given the go ahead. The money is ringfenced for certain projects and has to be spent within a time period – usually five years [after that the money is lost and can never be reclaimed, any interest on the money is presumably retained by EDDC].
It is by far the highest amount of all the local councils which responded.
Exeter has £872,183 unspent; Teignbridge nearly £4 million; Plymouth nearly £2.5 million.
“Plymouth City Council has claimed to be the first to use the Sustainable Communities Act to try to force the government to reveal the impact of Brexit.
It will also encourage other local authorities to take similar steps. Leader Tudor Evans has used the act to ask the government share with the council what it knows about Brexit’s affect on the city, even if the information concerned is considered confidential.
In a letter to communities secretary James Brokenshire, Cllr Evans demanded: “Immediate receipt by Plymouth City Council of all government departmental information and analysis pertaining to the impacts upon Plymouth’s communities and businesses of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, including any information deemed by the government to be confidential.”
The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 allows local authorities to ask central government to remove legislative or other barriers to the improvement of the economic, social and environmental well-being of their area.
Plymouth’s use of it is based on the council’s fears about the impact of Brexit on the city’s economy.
Cllr Evans said: “Brexit is going to have an impact on Plymouth, that is for sure. But for this council to do the job of protecting businesses and residents, we have to know exactly what the government has planned for us because at the moment, we don’t know.
“We’ve seen various dossiers released in the last few weeks. They have been at best woolly and do not address what Brexit means for individual communities.”
He said Plymouth relied on imports and exports, and half of its 20 largest companies were foreign owned and had invested there because of the direct access to the EU market.
“Although we are the first council to use the [sustainable communities] act in this way, I don’t expect us to be the last,” Cllr Evans said. “I will be speaking to colleagues all around the country in the next few days to help put pressure on the government for answers.”