"Conservatives’ financial incompetence has driven Somerset to the brink of bankruptcy," says Lib Dem Leader, as Council releases its latest "Chopping List" of 76 service cuts.
Jane Lock, Lib Dem Leader of the Opposition on Somerset County Council, has launched a scathing attack on what she describes as the "financial incompetence" of the Conservative Cabinet which will lead to at least £10.6 million worth of crisis cuts to this year’s spending on top of £12 million of cuts already in the system.
"Despite imposing the highest Council Tax rise in England this year,” she says, “and reductions to a host of vital services, the County’s finances are in such a dire state that more painful cuts to services will now be made to a massive ‘Chopping List’ of 76 services."
These include everything from help for the most vulnerable children and elderly through to shutting Taunton’s Park and Ride, slashing Citizens Advice and even reducing the roadside salt available to keep our roads open and safe in winter.
"These cuts are false economies," she says, "because they’ll lead to even higher costs to the public elsewhere in the system. What’s more, these cuts could have been avoided if the Conservatives had exercised some common sense over seven years instead of bribing voters with a Council Tax freeze and effectively cutting spending by around 2% each year.
"If they had acted responsibly and increased Council Tax by the modest amount allowed by the Government - which would have amounted to the cost of a cup of coffee each week for each household - the County would have had an additional £114 million to spend over the last seven years.
"As it is, the Conservatives are now slashing vital services and have brought Somerset to the brink of bankruptcy."
The new round of cuts will be debated at a Scrutiny meeting on Tuesday 11 September.
Cllr Lock believes that there’s worse to come in April 2019, with likely cuts to the Library Service, Early Help Services for vulnerable families and to public transport and college buses.
"I’d like to see the Conservatives responsible for driving this economically-illiterate policy to apologise for the pain they are inflicting on the most vulnerable in our community. I suspect they won't have the decency to do that.
"So, ask your local Conservative Councillor what role they’ve played in bringing the County to its knees – and how they plan to get us out of this mess. If they haven’t got a sensible answer, then let us take the reins at the next elections because we do have constructive ways to deal with this."