Somerset is a great place to live, work and play in – we all know this, and we also know that it can be so much more.
As a rural county, we have great opportunities, more than many other parts of the country. For Somerset to thrive, for Somerset to have a brighter future we want more.
We want more families to move to Somerset, more opportunities to encourage young people to stay in Somerset, we want more homes built, we want more businesses to bring new jobs to Somerset.
We want better health for our residents, fewer smokers – especially mums – less obesity, less of a divide between richer and poorer people in terms of their health and life expectancy.
We want more people to visit our beautiful and vibrant county to fuel our local economy; we want more investment in our county; better roads, rail, broadband and mobile phone coverage.
Our residents, businesses and communities want to do more for themselves – across Somerset. We need to provide the clear and easily accessible information, advice, and support people want to help themselves.
And we want more powers, investment and support from government to help us deliver all of this.
Somerset County Council is ideally placed to take a lead and work with key partners to bring this County Plan to life and make it real.
We have worked well with partners over the past few years but it is time to ramp that up. We need to do more, to work more closely to provide better services and reduce all of our costs.
That is my commitment to Somerset – that is the commitment in this County Plan.
Produced in two sections, it provides the aspirations for the Council and its partners over a longer timescale than the span of the Plan itself.
But all of this comes with a clear and honest approach to what we have to face up to.
Looking back… the past years have seen Somerset County Council deal with enormous financial challenges that have seen more than £100m removed from our budget by successive governments. This has not been done in a fair way – Somerset County Council has suffered, Somerset’s residents, businesses and communities have suffered.
Looking forward… I can see nothing but more of the same. In fact, I firmly believe that by 2020 we will have no financial support from government at all for our day-to-day spending…that’s a potential loss of more than £120m. There is no doubt that some of our services will be cut back or stopped. Some of the help and support we have provided in the past will come to an end. We will have to raise charges or charge for the first time to cover our costs – that is unwelcome, but it is inevitable.
And it gets even more challenging. Alongside this financial loss, we have a growing elderly population stretching our vital social services even further.
Something has to change. Something is changing
- We are working towards a ground-breaking joint working arrangement between health services and social services, delivering better results for residents
- We are leading a joined-up push for more devolved powers for the South West to boost our local economies.
- We are investing in our digital services to help carers, and those they care for, find the help and support they need
- We are investing in our communities, looking to provide essential services with our partners in places our customers need them most
- We have a superb working relationship with businesses and partners in our Local Enterprise Partnership, delivering massive investment in Somerset
Somerset is working together as never before. Our district and parish councils, the NHS, emergency services, voluntary and charity sectors – we have never been more united in our approach to do our best for our residents, businesses and communities.
We have a strong base to deliver what everyone wants and the results we are all working towards: For Somerset to thrive, for Somerset to have a brighter future.
And we want more powers from Government to help us deliver all of this.
Leader of Somerset County Council