Statement on behalf of South Somerset District Council from the Council’s Leader Ric Pallister regarding today’s announcement from Somerset County Council about exploring the option of a unitary local government
“Now the work to win back this seat can begin”, says Paddy Ashdown, Chair of Yeovil Liberal Democrats.
Jane Lock Slams County Council Budget as ''Incompetent''
Jane Lock, Leader of the Liberal Democrats at SCC, was highly critical the County Council's Budget announced on Wednesday (21st) for the coming financial year.
She said: ''How many times do Somerset residents need to pay for Tory financial incompetence at Somerset County Council?
Council Tax in Somerset has already been amongst the highest in the Country over the last two years and will now rise again to the maximum allowed.
Now, they are asking taxpayers to take on a debt of up to a £120million to build schools that will be given away to academy trusts as soon as they are built.''
She added: ''Of course, we support the building of new schools; our children deserve the best environment in which to learn but we believe you (the taxpayer) have already paid for them and it is Tory mismanagement of County finances that means they are lumbering you with a debt that will never be paid.
This is all made worse by the fact that the County Council have sold £72m of your assets since 2009. We also know that they are slashing a further £10.345m from services for this coming financial year (including up to 100 staff), yet, as they did last year, the Tories have deliberately made the financial plans ambiguous as to where these cuts will exactly hit, as to not allow proper scrutiny. Perhaps this is to hide what we all know, they have been squandering your money since 2009 - when they took power.''
Liberal Democrats at Somerset County Council are very disappointed over the news that libraries across Somerset are being put to consultation with the potential that a significant number could close, whilst at the same time announcing a hike in Council Tax.
Speaking on behalf of the Lib Dems on the matter of County Libraries, Cllr Liz Leyshon, has said she is extremely concerned about what this could mean for communities across the county.
She said, ‘’Many of these libraries provide important facilities for local people and school children, with remarkably high footfall numbers at many of the libraries earmarked for change and possible closure. The so-called ‘saving grace’ to change many of them into community run, which basically means run by volunteers, would mean that a lot of essential skills and knowledge would be lost. The Leader of the Council has rightly told us that the children of Somerset must be a clear priority, yet many of our children and young people may no longer have the benefit of a public library in their home town or village where they can read, learn and complete their homework online.’’
Leader of the Lib Dems on Somerset County Council, Cllr Jane Lock, linked the recent announcement in Council Tax from Somerset County Council to proposed changes. She said, ‘’ Instead of raising Council Tax gradually over the last 8 years, the Tories are now in a state of desperation, having starved services of £25 million because of their refusal to have a very modest rise of 38p a week over this period.’’
She added, ‘’It’s no wonder now that the average Band D property will see a £67-a-year increase from the County Council alone. It seems you have to pay more to get less!’’
Have your say on the future of Somerset libraries here:
Somerset's teacher training programme. SCITT, has been rated outstanding by Ofsted for high-level learning support and opportunities.
The rating has been maintained since 2005 and recognised by the National College for Teaching and Learning as being in the top 25%.
Opposition Lib Dem Leader at Somerset County Council, Jane Lock, has welcomed the news but added ''This programme was set up the Lib Dems when we led Somerset County Councils and seems to be one programme that the Tories have left alone; you see can what happens when they don't interfere in good initiatives. ''
In 2016-17, 48 trainees became teachers and 54 are set to complete the programme this year.
South Somerset District Council (SSDC) is delighted to confirm its decision to acquire the Wilkos building in Middle Street, Yeovil.
This is the second investment decision following on from the purchase of the M&S Yeovil building in September, as part of the Council’s new Commercial Strategy.
The acquisition of Wilkos has now been concluded and will provide additional strong income to the Council for the future. It will help to protect the provision of core services to our residents and communities.
SSDC adopted a Commercial Strategy in August this year and is once again demonstrating its commercial focus to enable the Council to grow its income, become more business-like and to help it focus on reaching its investment, regeneration and economic development objectives and grow into the future.
The Council is taking this approach following significant cuts to the public sector in Government grants and central funding since 2010.
As well as finding significant internal efficiency savings, the Council is committed to protecting services as far as possible and meeting its ambitions to improve life in South Somerset by being more commercial in its approach and making investments that will deliver valuable income.
South Somerset District Council is committed to investing in the town centres of South Somerset and this second investment purchase demonstrates this commitment. Wilkos is another substantial employer in the town centre and anchor tenant for Middle Street. The Council is looking forward to working with them into the future, as plans for the wider town centre are developed under the Yeovil Refresh.
Councillor Ric Pallister, Leader of South Somerset District Council, said: “The Council continues to act in accordance with its Commercial Strategy, with another investment acquisition in Yeovil. This is all about creating new income streams to protect services and enable us to continue to deliver on our ambitions for South Somerset. The aim as our strategy is implemented, is to develop a broad and balanced portfolio of investments. The alternative to this approach was to cut services that the public tell us they both need and want and that was never an option we were going to seriously consider without trying sensible but challenging alternatives. We believe that our residents would want us to take this initiative in the face of massive cuts in funding from central government. Whilst becoming more commercial, we remain focussed on our primary role of delivering high quality services for everyone in our communities. This latest acquisition will contribute towards meeting that aim of maintaining critical public services into the future.”
Councillor Henry Hobhouse, the Portfolio Holder for Property and Income Generation, added: “As a council we are now well on our way to commercially delivering the income targets and investment we need to sustain and grow the services needed for our communities within our strategy. We are operating in a commercial manner, utilising appropriate expertise and skills to ensure the sound utilisation of public funds. We intend to continue to do this to grow our economy, regenerate our towns and become more self-sufficient as a District Council. In doing so, we will achieve our overall goal of providing services to and meeting the needs of South Somerset communities.”
On Wednesday (8th Nov) at the Somerset County Council's Scrutiny Committee, parents, people with Learning Disabilities, volunteers, staff members and union officials joined forces to present the case to councillors that the changes to Learning Disability Services are not working.
In April this year, Somerset County Council controversially commissioned Dimensions UK Ltd (Discovery) to deliver a £32million a year contract to deliver care services to people with learning disabilities in the County.
Lib Dem spokesman for Adults and Health, Councillor Bill Revans said:
“The people who spoke shared heartbreaking accounts of their experiences since April. The evidence that the new arrangements for Learning Disability services under Discovery aren’t working is indisputable, they simply are not fit for purpose. The core service depends on highly motivated staff providing quality services to our most vulnerable residents. Huge staff turnover and low morale have led to numerous examples of falling standards and concerns that some service users are not safe or receiving the care they need. The information that the Council uses to monitor the situation was deemed inadequate.”
The Committee was not convinced by a presentation from the Managing Director of Discovery and unanimously voted to set up a group to scrutinize in detail what is going wrong and to refer the contract to it the council’s Audit Committee.
On November 2nd a Serious Case Review was published in response to the abuse of girls in the Yeovil Area.
Jane Lock (pictured below), Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Somerset County Council, said ‘I have read the Serious Case Review report of the dreadful abuse suffered by girls in Yeovil. They were completely let down by the people you would normally turn to being prepared to take any action against these dreadful men. The report is a damning indictment of the inadequate children's services in Somerset at that time with a 50% vacancy rate for social workers; could they honestly say it wouldn't happen again, I don't believe they can.
Children's Services looked at the parenting, one of the girls under the care of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) continued to be visited and taken out by her abuser and the police prosecuted one of the victims for racial abuse. Somerset County Council, Health services and the police were negligent by not sharing information which might have helped the nightmare to end sooner. It could not have been any worse’.
Two men were jailed for 32 years for rape and assault of up to six children which led to the review.
Jane added ‘The bravery of the girls and their families has been inspiring and I hope the changes that have been made as a result of this case will make it easier for young people to be listened to and taken seriously’.
Yeovil in Bloom struck gold once again in the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) South West in Bloom competition.
Representatives of the Yeovil in Bloom team received the gold award at the presentations ceremony at the Imperial Hotel in Torquay.
The Yeovil in Bloom initiative is managed and funded by Yeovil Town Council and delivered with the support of South Somerset District Council (SSDC).
Five RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood awards were also given in Yeovil, with The Hub and Kenmore Drive receiving “outstanding” and Westfield Community Association, Wyndham Park Community Garden and the Vanessa Project receiving “thriving”. The Hub in Yeovil also received Best Youth Award.
Yeovil Country Park which is managed by SSDC’s Countryside Team, was awarded the London & Manchester trophy for Outstanding Contribution to the Environment.
There were more awards across the SSDC area with Wincanton’s CATCH community group - Community Action to Transform the river Cale Habitat - winning an “outstanding” It’s Your Neighbourhood award and Milborne Port succeeding with Silver Gilt in the In Bloom competition and also receiving the Serco Cup for Best Community Initiative.
Ash and Langport received Silver Gilt awards, and Curry Rivel Silver, in the New for 2017 category. Langport was also Best New Entry in the Viv Verrier Cup and Curry Rivel received the City of Bath Trophy for landscaping.
The following entries were nominated for Best Portfolio: Ash, Langport and Yeovil, with Yeovil also nominated for the Best Municipal Display for St John’s Churchyard and Ash for the Art in The Landscape Trophy.
Councillor David Recardo, Chairman of the Yeovil in Bloom Steering Group said: “Once again we are extremely pleased that we have been awarded gold. The five It’s Your Neighbourhood awards represent the passionate community based groups around the town.
“The competition isn’t just about floral displays. We have to demonstrate a commitment to environment and community participation. Thanks must go to Yeovil Country Park, Preston C of E Primary School, the Hub, Kenmore Drive, The Quedam and the shops in Princes Street who made up our tour. We would not win gold without showcasing these groups.
“We must thank the people of Yeovil who really get behind In Bloom each year, endorsing what we do and supporting the floral displays on show. We receive many kind compliments throughout the year.”
Lesley Jelleyman - Yeovil in Bloom Promotions Officer - added: “Community participation makes up 25% of the overall points for the South West in Bloom competition so it is important that we can demonstrate community involvement all year round. There is increasing evidence to show that green spaces have a tremendous positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing, so activities such as gardening and community based projects are excellent for relaxation and mental stimulation.
“We know there are many community groups and villages who might like to take part in some form of project helping local people and the local area, so please get in contact with us and let’s make South Somerset even more bloomin marvellous.”
If you would like to form a community group or if you are already part of a community group and you would like to get involved, please contact Lesley with ideas and suggestions on 01935 462837 or email email@example.com.
South Somerset District Council has confirmed its decision to acquire the Marks and Spencer building in Middle Street, Yeovil.
Councillor Ric Pallister, the leader of South Somerset District Council, spoke to Somerset Live: “This is the first major step for the Council in actively applying its new Commercial Strategy which is all about creating new income to protect services and enable us to continue to deliver on our ambitions for South Somerset.
"The alternative was to cut services that the public both need and want and that was never an option we were going to seriously consider without trying sensible but challenging alternatives.
"We believe that our residents would want us to take this approach in the face of massive cuts in funding from central government. While becoming more commercial, we remain focussed on our role of delivering for everyone in our communities and this will help us safeguard critical public services into the future.”