by Sam Crabb on 22 February, 2012
Report for Brympton Parish Council – 22.02.12
1. The Country Council and other partners “signed up” on Monday to the Armed Forces Covenant. There are substantial grants available for communities where both the military & civilians live. If you know of any really good ideas, do let me know. The Signing ceremony was this morning at Yeovilton – in the Museum. The MOD has a budget of £30 million to spend on schemes in the UK. I would think that we could put forward a bid based on the married quarters area that we have in Brympton. But we need schemes and ideas.
2. I attended the Regulation Board on 2nd February and spoke in support of the Parish Council’s view on the Temporary Building (drying room) at the Highways Depot. The Board voted in favour of the officers recommendation to give it another 5 years.
I have been in correspondence with Colin Fletcher about a vehicle rat run on a pedestrian path in Pound Close. Colin’s response is “We should be able to help with a bollard appropriately placed but it will have to be in the new financial year. Budget permitting!”
I have been chasing up Highways about Percivale Road and the adoption. There has been protracted correspondence with the developer and it looks as though the Developer is now objecting to doing the work around visibility splays. David Laws MP is also pressing. I will continue with the pressure. Next suggestion is to call on the Developers Bond.
You will have seen that work has started on the improvements to the Cartgate Roundabout, which will be ongoing up to 30th March. This is disrupting disrupt traffic in the whole area. They are currently putting in new lighting and then new “slip roads”. I think that is joining or exiting the A3088 – but am not sure yet.
3. I reported to you that the County Council is looking at a full service review – which the Administration now hopes will save in the region of £45 million. This will be ongoing for some 13 months – looking at each of the 170 services in turn to determine how they should be done in future, whether they should continue and if the service can be commissioned or purchased from any one else. I am on a number of the review teams. It is thought that this will be what is called a “full zero based budget review”. Looking at every aspect of what the Council does. If it is “nice to do” or “not what the core business should be” it is anticipated that the service will cease. However I am doing my best to ensure that statutory services and services to the vulnerable in society should stay. The budget for this work – done a lot by consultants – is £3 million for 2012-2013! Last Wednesday we tried at Full Council to keep the best services in house, so they could be “hosted” and carry out work across the South West. This was turned down. Yesterday we had a presentation at Scrutiny about the Service Reviews progress. It seems very slow, with lack of capacity from officers and no member involvement so far.
4. Linked to that is a series of Local Choice Events – which Somerset County Council are organising, one in each district council area, throughout February 2012 to meet with local parish and town councils and community organisations. These events will be fronted by the Chief Executive, together with the relevant District Council Chief Executive for some of the events. The purpose of the events are to explore what Parish/Town Councils and local communities may be able to do for themselves due to SCC being no longer able to afford to provide its current level of services! And of course how SCC can help with this transfer. The event will include examples of communities which have taken over the running of council services or have enhanced the service provided by the council by using their own resources and workshop sessions to hear from attendees about which services are important to them and which they would be willing to help provide. It was good to see the Chair there at thr Edgar Hall, Somerton last night.
There is another due on 27th Feb at The Bath West Showground. The event will run from 7pm until 9pm (with tea & coffee and biscuits available from 6.30pm).
5 The Conservative Administration opted for a 0% increase in Council Tax, for the coming year, taking an offer of a grant from the Government of £5 million to “freeze” the County Council’s element of Council Tax. This means that the grant will have to be used for one off projects, like the costs of the Service Review above, rather than being used to support the services. At least £2 million of this grant will be put into Reserves – “in case there is a rainy day”. We received the Budget papers at the end of January. Over 1200 pages in all.
6 The Budget. This was discussed at some length on Wednesday 1st February at the Cabinet meeting. And was examined in detail on 6th February at the Scrutiny Committee Meeting. The fact is that with significant further cuts to services scheduled, the County Council is due to under spend the current year’s budget by £10 million. This will be added to reserves. The County Council will have the highest level of reserves for at least 25 years, by the end of this current financial year – 31st March 2012. I called upon the Conservative Cabinet to look at again at budgets, so that they can pull back from more cuts to front line services. If they are under spending by £10 million then the budgets they set in February last year are wrong. We a Full Council meeting last Wednesday. Which lasted all day.
7 The cuts include £1.5 million from bus subsidies, which has been subject to consultation. I chaired a Consultation event at Brympton Way, where there was a good turn out. But it is evident that our bus services will be severely affected by not only the cuts to budget, with less people travelling on concessionary fares, less money to operators for concessionary fares, dropping from 70% to 55%, and a drop in the Government Fuel Support Levy for firms as well. This could have a really large impact on people from all areas and all ages. Over 1,400 people responded to the bus consultation. The actual list of cuts is enormous – but one that causes me some anger is a reduction of gully cleaning – now to once every two years. We are told that the service will be flexible – but added to no weed killing we may see floods happen more often, due to blocked drains. There is an on-line petition about bus cuts.
8 Another cut that is truly dreadful, is the 75% to the Youth Service. At the January Scrutiny meeting we told the Cabinet that this is a step too far and at least £250k needs to be added back to the budget. Indeed if some money was used from Reserves, a lot of cuts could be held off. So that all services could have time to be reviewed. In the Lib Dem Alternative Budget tomorrow we have put forward £1m being put back into Youth Services.
9 I have no further information on the Local Transport Plan Road Safety Improvement schemes for our area as yet. There seems to be a great lack of any officers in the Highways Dept looking at new works and plans. I am trying to find out if Montacute has moved from Reserve to in the list – progress seems so slow, and progress on plans for Tintinhull, with only 2 out of 60 schemes being finished. The majority still have not been assessed.Leave a comment