You may have read in the news about the financial crisis facing the new Somerset Council. While its budgets are not yet finalised it appears that it will have deficits in the next couple of years of tens of millions of pounds. It seems highly likely that it will therefore be forced to cut back in many areas of spending, in some areas those cuts will be very large.

This is the Somerset Council press release.

Somerset Council recently wrote to all its town and parish councils, offering what it described as “devolution opportunities” – in other words, asking if there were services which are currently provided by Somerset Council which the local councils would wish to take on. The implication being that if they did not, there was a strong possibility that they would cease to provide those services.

Bruton Town Council is considering which, if any, of those services we would be in a position to handle. However we could not afford to do so within our current budgets, so your council tax bill would rise.

Given the current financial situation for many Bruton households, that is not something we would do lightly. We therefore wish to get as many opinions as possible about which areas we might seek to take on, if any.

Unfortunately we do not know how much it would cost to take over any of these services, or how much extra council tax you would have to pay, because this process is being done in an enormous hurry. So at this point we are looking for general feedback on which areas residents think are important to preserve.

The list Somerset Council has provided includes many things which we are simply not in any position to provide, or which are not relevant to Bruton, so we have shortlisted some of the possible ones for consideration. We have requested more information from Somerset on those areas in order to be able to make an informed choice.

Services that we are considering are:

  • Management and ownership of open space assets, including Riverside Walk and various small areas owned by Somerset Council around town. Also including the County Fields area between Uphills and the Enterprise Centre.
  • Ownership of the Cuckoo Hill play area
  • Ownership of the county-owned car parks
  • Maintenance of verges, pavements and footpaths including hedge trimming and weed treatment
  • Management of grit bins
  • Road sign cleaning

Other services which Somerset is suggesting, but we are not currently actively considering, include:

  • Drain and gully clearing
  • Bus services funding
  • Financial contribution to household waste recycling sites
  • Dealing with fly tipping
  • Street cleaning
  • Funding towards leisure centres and arts centres

There is a full list of services under threat here.

We have very limited time to establish whether or not there is an appetite to take on these services – our budgets have to be finalised in January. And currently we do not have any figures on how much they would cost to provide.

Clearly this is an unsatisfactory situation, but we are where we are.

What we need from you is your feedback on which areas you think the Town Council should now talk to Somerset Council about taking on, and which you would be willing to sacrifice should the expected cuts transpire.

Please email feedback@brutontowncouncil.gov.uk, comment on the post on our website, or write to us at 26 High Street, Bruton BA10 0AA.

 

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