TAUNTON Deane MP Rebecca Pow says she is fighting for a fairer funding deal for Somerset.

As Somerset County Council struggles to balance the books, members have lambasted cuts in local authority funding from the Conservative Government, which has seen the authority lose £73 million in funding since 2010.

Yesterday, councillors approved a raft of cuts aimed at saving around £13 million this year, rising to around £15 million by 2019/20.


READ MORE: Somerset County Council approves millions in cuts - but young carers' services spared for now


But leader of the council, David Fothergill, said there was a serious problem with central government funding cuts.

"This is not the biggest set of saving Somerset has faced. But it is absolutely the most difficult set of decisions we have had to consider," he said.

“The Government model for funding local authorities is broken.

"Rural councils like ours don't get the funding they need or deserve.

"I’ve taken every opportunity to lobby and fight to address this, but there has been no extra funding.

"That is hugely disappointing.”

But Ms Pow says she is raising concerns from Somerset at Government level.

"I have been and continue to work hard to raise the concerns of Somerset County Council (SCC) at Government level and locally to ensure the future viability of the Council which delivers the services my constituents need and depend on," she said.

"I have been in close discussion with the Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP and called him to a meeting with my Somerset Conservative colleagues to highlight the seriousness of SCC’s situation.

"I’ve also met with Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire MP and written to the Chancellor himself to suggest ways forward.

"I have made it clear that it is essential to secure the £80m Housing Infrastructure funding SCC have applied for and together all Somerset MP’s made the case that Somerset must be included in the next tranche of pilot areas for Business Rate Retention."

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She said she was pleased to have helped secure the future of the Taunton park and ride services - which have been taken over by Taunton Deane Borough Council for the next 12 months - but that changes needed to be made to ensure fairer funding for the county.

"Although Somerset has had a 3.8% rise in core spending for the 2018/2019 period which is higher than the national average and has benefitted from £28m of infrastructure funding, (amongst this £7.2m for the “spine road” at Staplegrove in Taunton and £15.2m for the Northern Inner Distributor Road) Somerset suffers significant underfunding because of its rural nature and is further disadvantaged in the current funding formula because of its ageing population," she added.

"I am fighting for a fairer funding deal in the forthcoming review.

"I am determined, working together with my Somerset colleagues and Government, to ensure my constituents continue to receive the vital services they need.

"Somerset’s situation highlights the need to re-think how the necessary services are delivered for society and by whom."

Her comments came after Bridgwater and West Somerset MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger, hit out at the council, saying successive leaders have made 'expensive errors'.

"Somerset County Council has been teetering on the brink for a decade," he said.

"After the financial crash Government grants were cut back hard. Successive council leaders made expensive errors.

"The creation of South West One, for example, promised to save the council hundreds of millions of pounds. In fact, it cost Somerset £70 million and was a total disaster.


READ MORE: Bridgwater MP launches scatching attack on county council chiefs in wake of cuts


"It is true that national austerity has bitten far too deep into council budgets.

"There is now a good case to ease up and spend more. But, another part of the problem is the mindset of local government.

"Councils have always been in business to provide services, not to make profits. They are (with a few honourable exceptions like Sedgemoor District Council) somewhat naïve when it comes to saving cash.

"Too often senior officers are unable to take big decisions unless consultants tell them what they want to hear first. All of which adds extra cost.

"In my view many of the top people at County Hall do not warrant their pay or their perks."