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Somerset County Council teeters on brink of bankruptcy

TORY-RUN Somerset County Council will vote tomorrow on major cuts to services to save itself from bankruptcy.

Having warned residents during the summer that the local authority is at risk of going bust, Somerset county councillors will vote on the raft of cuts they hope will save about £13 million.

Conservative-run Northamptonshire County Council has already filed for bankruptcy twice this year.

Somerset’s leadership says it is being forced to contemplate reducing early intervention funding for families and vulnerable children by £2 million and reducing funds for supported housing for homeless young people by £550,000.

Councillors will vote on cutting all funding for Citizens Advice in the region, cutting funds for transport for vulnerable children, reducing the number of roads gritted in winter by a third, closing three care homes and scrapping transport for employees at the nuclear power station Hinkley Point C.

They will also vote on whether council staff should take at least two days of compulsory unpaid leave at Christmas.

Up to 130 jobs could be lost as a result of the cuts.

Trade unionists are expected to stage a protest outside county hall as the scrutiny committee meeting takes place.

A report published in July warned the authority could follow Northants in having to issue a “section 114” notice if the £12.1 million budget black hole was not addressed.

Shadow communities and local government secretary Andrew Gwynne said: “How many of the government’s own councils have to collapse before they wake up to the brutal reality of their cuts?

“The crisis in Somerset County Council reveals the stark reality of the impact this Tory government has had on our communities — stripping the public services we all rely on to the bone and treating the vulnerable with neglect.

“Austerity has hit some of the most vulnerable in our society the hardest. The next Labour government will sustainably fund our councils and deal with this crisis in children’s services.”

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said that financial pressures are a result of “falling funding and rising costs and demand.”

He added: “No decisions will be taken until the cabinet meets and, in some cases, consultation will be needed before decisions can be made. If proposals are taken forward we will do what we can to minimise the impacts.”

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