LEADER of Somerset County Council John Osman says he’s confident the authority has produced the “best possible” budget for the forthcoming year.

Councillors last week voted 32 to 21 in favour of the budget, which plans to make £16million of savings from crucial areas including youth and environmental services.

The budget has come under fire from the Liberal Democrats, but Cllr Osman said: “We had some tough decisions to make due to a significant reduction in Government funding but I’m confident that we’ve delivered the best possible budget for Somerset in the present circumstances.”

A plan for £38million investment in roads and schools and a council tax freeze for the fourth year running are also part of the spending plans.

A last-minute windfall of £771,000 Government cash also meant original savings plans were changed at the Full Council meeting.

Cllr Osman added: “Unfortunately, as there was a budget deficit of £20million owing to the Government reducing the councils grant, some savings needed to be made.

“No politician enters local Government wishing to make savings, however, our saving proposals were made after we were informed we had received massive cuts from central Government.”

An alternative budget proposed by the Liberal Democrats was dismissed by the ruling Tory group.

And Sam Crabb, leader of the Liberal Democrats, commented: “This budget shows how the Conservatives are completely out of touch about what the people of Somerset need and deserve.

“I find it astounding they can justify slashing the budget on so many key services while having recently spent £4million on office refurbishment, spending money on £800-a-day consultants and thousands on legal fees after trying to close libraries.

“The residents of Somerset deserve far better than they are currently getting, we need to be putting the needs of our communities first.”

Tax file:

TAXPAYERS in average Band D homes in Taunton Deane will see their annual council tax bills rise by less than £2.

The overall Band D bill goes up from £1,404.44 to £1,405.91 - a rise of £1.47.

Only one of the four authorities which levy council tax has chosen to increase their share of the overall bill.

Here is a breakdown of the bill:

  • Avon and Somerset Police - £168.03 (no change).
  • Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service - £75.39 (up from £73.92)
  • Taunton Deane Council - £135.19 (no change)
  • Somerset County Council - £1,027.30 (no change).

West Somerset Council was last night (February 27) expected to announce a rise of 3.7% from £132.90 to £137.82.