Rising to the Challenge

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Ric Pallister - Leader South Somerset District Council

It will not have escaped anyone's notice that Councils up and down the country are being financially squeezed as never before by the Government's continuing Austerity programme. For our District Council, by 2019/20, this squeeze will have opened up a funding gap of £4.1m per annum and that gap has to be filled one way or another. 

We have two choices - bemoan our lot and cut staff and services year on year or take up the challenge and do something radically different to plug that financial black hole. By this I mean transforming the way the Council works so that public services are maintained or improved. Continuing with the traditional Council structure is not an option if we are to win this particular battle. What we have embarked upon is a 2 year transformation programme that will see a leaner more effective Council better able to respond to the needs of our residents in this changing digital world. The target is a saving of £2m but that is not enough. Thus our second priority is to create new income by thinking and acting commercially. Once again the Council will create a Property Portfolio to meet local housing need and at the same time generate a "profit". We will be doing this in partnership with Sedgemoor District Council where we will initiate and develop new business ideas. The difference is that while the private sector aim is to make a profit, for us it will be to create an income stream that can be used to maintain services to our residents. The challenge is significant but exciting.