SOMERSET Council has announced CCTV across the county could be saved as new papers have been published with different plans to tackle its financial emergency.

Both CCTV services and the threatened Yeovil Recreation Ground could be protected under the council's new strategy to be discussed at the Executive meeting on Wednesday, February 7.

It is hoped that local authorities such as town, city, and parish councils will enable the CCTV service to continue, while Yeovil Recreation Ground could be devolved to Yeovil Town Council.

Talks regarding the protection other Somerset Council services are still ongoing with local authorities in the county.

Council leader Bill Revans said: “We’ve been fully open about our financial emergency and have sought to raise awareness of the broken system of local government funding, where costs for statutory services like social care are rising much faster than our ability to raise income. 

“Meanwhile we have been exploring every option and working proactively to find alternative ways to run services which we can no longer afford.

"I’m pleased to see the updates to proposals around CCTV and Yeovil Rec and hope many other services will be protected by working in partnership with our excellent communities and their City, Town and Parish Councils.” 

The new papers give more details of the approach to create a leaner, more productive organisation whilst reducing the size of the workforce.

The council's aim will be to keep the number of compulsory redundancies to a minimum by removing vacant posts, reducing the number of agency workers, interims and consultants, and by opening a voluntary redundancy scheme. 

At next week's Executive meeting, the board will be asked to consider a plan to use reserves, significant savings, a council tax increase, and the sale of council assets to set a balanced budget. 

This requires the Government to allow Somerset Council to raise council tax by 9.99% and approve a capitalisation direction, where the council is allowed to borrow money or sell assets to fund day-to-day running costs. 

As reserves and capital funds can only be used once, for future years the council will need to significantly reduce its budget through a transformation programme.  

Cllr Revans added: “This is not a position any of us would want to be in but sadly this national problem will have very real impacts on local people, including our hard-working staff.

"We are having to look at every option and it is clear we need to reduce our budget to ensure the council is sustainable for the long term. 

“I do not believe there is an alternative. If both requests are rejected by Government then a S114 notice will be inevitable.

"This simply means well paid commissioners would come in and cut all non-statutory services, regardless of impact, impose a more drastic reduction in our staff numbers, while raising Council Tax and other fees even more than we are proposing.

"We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact on our residents by taking the responsibility here in Somerset.” 

The public are encouraged to take part in the budget-setting process by attending Scrutiny Committee (2 Feb), Executive (7 Feb) and/or Full Council (20 Feb) either in person or online to gain a deeper knowledge on the issues. 

For Scrutiny Committee and Full Council, The Canalside venue in Bridgwater has been booked due the high volume of interest anticipated.

Meeting timings have also been extended to ensure a 45-minute Public Question Time can be accommodated.

Up to nine people can speak, in person, at the meetings, having three minutes, and a maximum of three questions each.

All questions and responses will be published on the Council’s website. 

For those unable to attend in person, all three budget meetings will be held live on MS Teams – including Full Council on 20 February, with the recordings available on YouTube shortly afterwards.