The short answer is no – not on the scale that Somerset County Council originally calculated.
Before the Comprehensive Spending Review in October 2010, SCC assumed and budgeted for cuts of £22 million from central government funds. This was, arguably, intelligent ‘worst-case-scenario’ planning.
But it ceased to be intelligent the moment the Government’s grant allocations were announced in mid-December.
In fact the allocation for Somerset was surprisingly generous and included:
- £ 6.7m extra for Adult Social care
- £18m extra for a CYPD Early Intervention Grant
- £ 5m extra to compensate for the Council Tax freeze
- £42m extra for Capital Projects (£40m to be spent at SCC discretion)
- £ 1m allowance to spread redundancy costs
The Local Government Minister Eric Pickles predicted that Somerset County Council would lose only 2% of its “spending power” while total income would rise 4% to £895m.In comparative terms Somerset did very nicely – and the necessity to pursue radical surgery of public finances should have receded.
But the policy-makers insisted. Ideology now began to rule over common sense as the county’s libraries, children’s services, recycling centres, care for the elderly and much else besides were lined up for sacrifice.
“In simple terms, this year – the year ending on 31 March – Somerset has £368 million to spend, and next year, starting on 1 April, it has £360 million. That is a difference of only £8 million in spending money, which amounts to 2%. Somerset has had a fantastic deal.”
“The Government has been generous in granting £42 million in capital grants. That means we can fix the roads, which are in a shocking state, and do something about school buildings. As far as I can see, the county is £20 million better off than it ever has been, and, as I understand it, the capital grant is cash, and that £42 million is about £41 million more than anyone ever expected to have.”