Snuck out, just before Christmas, was the news that Somerset County Council is to receive £1m LESS than the already massively slashed level of Government funding that had been anticipated. Ever since being elected I have called repeatedly on the Conservative administration at SCC to mount a vigorous public campaign for equivalent Government funding to that received by our urban counterparts (see here for an example). Each time they have refused. They claim to believe that “private pressure” is a more successful means of bringing about fair funding for Somerset. Well the final nail was banged into that particular coffin with the news that not only did we fail to gain any sort of rebalancing at all, we actually got an even bigger cut than planned. Either the “private pressure” they claim never really happened or they’re just not very good at that either.
Before these funding decisions were made, 119 Council leaders from across England and the political spectrum wrote calling for an end to the savage cuts imposed by Government on council budgets. Yes, 119! But not Somerset’s John Osman. He waited until after the announcement had been made to make any public call for fair funding for Somerset. While I’m naturally pleased that he’s come round to my position on this, it’s deeply disappointing that he made no effort to mount a concerted public campaign BEFORE next year’s funding was announced. This is typical of how Somerset Conservatives have sold us down the river in recent years. The current crisis in Children’s Services is not gong to be fixed with yet more budget cuts. How are we going to deal with looking after vulnerable elderly people with a further £1m cut when we are already heading for a yearly shortfall of £8.5m in adult social care? I remain of the view that the Conservative administration is wedded to the ideology of creating a tiny council doing as little as possible, regardless of the impact on people. Not one of Somerset’s Conservative MPs voted against the funding package that disadvantages the county. But don’t think that the LibDems are any better; none of them voted against it either. Why not? Because party orders whip them into line like obedient pets. This is why we need a fresh approach – an independent MP for Taunton Deane, free to stand up for our interests and not hamstrung by extreme ideology and party orders.