Where are the men in white coats?

I remain deeply worried about the financial state of Somerset County Council and the deep cuts proposed for essential public services. I am also increasingly concerned that the top management at County Hall is in severe danger of losing both the plot and their own credibility. On Monday the Chancellor will announce his Budget. But Mr Patrick Flaherty, Chief Executive of Somerset County Council has penned a ridiculous message for him – it was written and published in Mr Flaherty’s weekly digest to all SCC staff. It will, or should, make everyone cringe with embarrassment:

Dear Chancellor of the Exchequer, 

In setting your budget next week I would ask that you reflect upon and acknowledge the outstanding work and remarkable achievements of local government.  I ask this as we feel forgotten and overlooked.  Over the last few years we have been at the front of the austerity agenda and although we have creaked and we have shuddered we are still here, proudly delivering excellent outcomes for the people we serve, the wonderful people of Somerset. 

However, I feel the time is right to remind you that the future of some of our services is in doubt and in some instances in grave danger.  We see growing demand for our services, for example in supporting the elderly and caring for children at risk of harm.  Further, we are experiencing a huge and growing deficit in the budget we have available to us to secure a better outcome for the people of Somerset, including the money available to maintain our roads and to build the schools which our growing population needs and deserves. 

Somerset County Council is a confident, ambitious and improving organisation that is wholly focussed on improving lives for the residents, businesses and communities of Somerset.  Our promise to the people of Somerset, and to you, is that we will continue to do so. Our ask of you is clear and simple:

  • Please allow us the freedom and flexibility to spend all of our available finances as we need to address the needs of the people of Somerset,
  • Please address the funding gaps that we are facing in child protection, adult social care, in the funding of our schools and funding for building new schools,
  • Please allow us to determine the appropriate level of local taxation and allow my Council the freedom to set Council Tax without the hinderance of an arbitrary cap,
  • And please, when considering the future funding for local government in next year’s Comprehensive Spending Review you may wish to consider that local authorities up and down the country have done more than their fair share and now need a stable and predictable budget on which to safely plan for the future – no more cuts please.

Yours sincerely, Pat Flaherty.

Whatever the budget may or may not, my thanks to you all for the incredible and hard work that goes on each and every day to improve lives across Somerset. I now believe it is time to change our story, move to the front foot, remember the great work that we do and look with confidence to the future.

Have a great weekend,