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Somerset Council brief Frome businesses

On Tuesday 9th January, members of Somerset Council met with some of Frome’s business owners at Frome Town Hall. The meeting, and several others across the county, was part of an information sharing/gathering project, ahead of setting the unitary authority’s 2024/25 budget, which needs to find £100m in savings in the wake of the financial emergency announced in November 2023.

Liz Leyshon, Deputy Leader of the Council and Lead Member for Resources and Performance and James Gilgrist, Head of Economic Prosperity, gave the attendees a snapshot of the costs facing the authority, notably the rising cost of social care for both adults and children, and the shortfall in current council tax revenue. There was better news for some economic regeneration activities, mentoring schemes and green energy advice schemes for businesses, which have ring-fenced funding and are unaffected by the forthcoming budget cuts.

Lisa Merryweather, Leader of Frome Town Council said:

“Our colleagues at Somerset Council are faced with some extremely difficult decisions in the coming months, which will affect all Somerset residents. We stand ready to act for the benefit of the people of Frome and to protect the open spaces and services that matter most to them. The survey below is an opportunity for individuals and businesses to have their voices heard as part of the budget-setting process.”

Doug Stewart of Edventure said:

‘I hope Somerset is open to some more imaginative thinking than just selling off assets. We are great at setting up community enterprises in Frome and would be interested in taking over the liability of sites so they weren’t a burden to Somerset but can then be put to community use, rather than going into private hands. We are particularly interested in reducing the burden on the Recycling centre by setting up a community reuse centre that will give us space to incubate enterprises that support the circular economy; repurposing more wood, paint, clothes, building materials, furniture,  toys and more.’

Somerset council have drawn up a plan of potential savings, including the reduction of funding for non-statutory services and possible handover of some services to town and parish councils. No decisions have been taken: the final budget will be decided at the council meeting on 20th February.

Other local authorities, most recently Nottingham and Birmingham, have issued Section 114 notices, effectively declaring bankruptcy and ceding control to specialist officers appointed by central government. Cllr Leyshon explained that Somerset Council were keen to avoid issuing a Section 114 in Somerset, to balance their own budget and retain control of spending decisions where possible, using local knowledge and canvassing local opinion.

The council is inviting individuals and businesses across Somerset to complete their online survey to gather opinion on the proposed cuts and collect suggestions. The survey can be accessed until 22nd January at https://bit.ly/somerset-council-survey.

17 January 2024
Last Updated
17 January 2024
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