BRIDGWATER residents will see an extra £72 on their Council Tax bills from April after the county and district council’s passed their budgets this week.

The lion’s share of this is an increase of £67 a year which will go to Somerset County Council as it faces a £10m cut in central Government funding.

Councillor David Fothergill, leader of Somerset County Council, introduced the Capital Investment Programme which will see more than £91million of investment across the county.

A capital programme of £218m over the next four years was approved including £120m for school buildings in what is the biggest investment of its kind in generations.

It also includes funding for the M5 Junction 25 improved works, Yeovil Western Corridor, gritter replacement and the Colley Lane Southern Access Road in Bridgwater.

This amount could increase by a further £15m if the council’s bid to the Housing Infrastructure Fund is successful.

Councillor David Fothergill said: I’m pleased to be able to present a budget that is not only balanced, but demonstrates our ambition and commitment to meet the needs of our residents, especially our children and young people.“Like local authorities, our finances are under pressure – our funding from central Government is falling by £10m this year alone. 

“But we are still able to fund our priorities, which are in line with those of our residents, investing in the right things at the right time.”

Councillor Jane Lock, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said all Liberal Democrat councillors would be abstaining from the budget vote.
Cllr Lock said: “We recognise the move from delusion to reality. Of course we support the building of new schools, but also take out the sale of £70million of assets over two administrations. We cannot support this capital budget.”

Councillors voted 42 - 0 in favour of the capital investment programme but there were 11 abstentions from Liberal Democrat councillors.
Councillor David Hall, cabinet member for resources and economic development, spoke about the need to save £10m in light of cuts to its grant.

Cabinet also approved the proposed Revenue Budget, which sets out the council’s day to day running costs and features savings proposals to close an estimated £13m budget gap. These include a comprehensive review of all existing and planned contracts, reducing third party spend, more enhanced procurement and a reduction of 100 county council posts.

These include a comprehensive review of all existing and planned contracts, reducing third party spend, more enhanced procurement and a reduction of 100 County Council posts.

This includes a Council Tax increase of 2.99 per cent and 3 per cent precept for social care.

For a Band D property the annual Council Tax bill will rise from £1,124.79 in 2017/18 to £1,192.16 in 2018/19 – a rise of £67.37, or £1.30 each week. 

The Liberal Democrats spoke in opposition to the revenue budget with Cllr Jane Lock describing the council’s savings plan as ‘rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic’. 

But Cllr Hall said the savings plans are achievable and asked for parties to work together to provide the savings. 
Councillors voted 33 - 30 in favour of the revenue budget. 

Meanwhile Sedgemoor District Council has voted to increase its share of council tax by £5 a year on a Band D property.
SDC’s budget includes £15.3m to build out six sites, which assisted with £1.2m from the Hinkley Housing Fund, will deliver 110 affordable homes in Bridgwater.

An additional £100,000 has been set aside to strengthen the housing advice team, £150,000 for expert advice with £50 million to invest in the commercial markets to increase income in light of diminishing funding from central government.

The budget also includes £30,000 for funding the Together Teams in Sydenham and Bower in Bridgwater, South Bridgwater, Highbridge and Burnham, and a further £250,000 for the Sedgemoor Apprenticeship programme.