Somerset County Council approves £24m cuts plan

Somerset County Council office building The council also plans to spend £84 in its capital budget on roads and schools

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Plans to cut more than £24m from areas including bus services and care for elderly and disabled people have been approved by Somerset County Council.

The Conservative-run authority proposed to cut 35 bus routes from April, with a further 18 routes seeing some journeys cut from timetables.

Funding to charities such as women's refuges and the children's charity Barnado's could also be reduced.

The council said the cuts were due to reduced government funding.

A freeze in the authority's share of the council tax bill has also been approved and £84m is due to be spent on building projects for roads and schools.

A new road costing £14m will be built in Taunton and £25m has been set aside in the capital budget for superfast broadband.

From the meeting

For a meeting with a fairly predictable outcome, the 58 county councillors, and around 40 members of the public, managed a fiery six hours.

Campaigners against the Quantocks sell-off met councillors on their arrival at Shire Hall and sang: "This land was made for you and me - not them!"

And the Quantocks dominated debate throughout the morning. It was only after lunch that matters turned to the council's budget.

The Lib Dems' alternative savings plans got short shrift with the Tories in charge.

And the vote to proceed with £24m of savings, and a council tax freeze was carried unanimously by the administration. Speaking afterwards, leader Ken Maddock said "I'm as happy as I can be, considering the cuts."

Plans to cut all youth worker posts have also been put back for two years after fears were raised over the future of youth centres.

The new plan will instead see Morley House in Yeovil and the Rollercoaster Centre in Bridgwater continue to be funded by the county council with an extra £100,000 during 2012-13.

Youth workers will also be given two more years to hand over to outside organisations.

A sell-off of 2,000 acres of woods and moorland in the Quantocks was approved by councillors, despite a campaign to keep it under public ownership.

The Liberal Democrat opposition at the council had proposed an alternative budget, which included reversing half of the bus service cuts with a £750,000 investment and looking again at the annual £500,000 subsidy the council pays toward the Taunton park-and-ride scheme.

The Lib Dems also wanted to reinstate the old opening hours of the household recycling centres in a bid to curb fly-tipping in the county.

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