“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.