Somerset

Spending Review: Mendip council services 'will suffer'

The leader of a Somerset council has said the authority will not be able to maintain its high standards due to anticipated spending cuts.

Harvey Siggs, Conservative leader of Mendip District Council, said it expected a 25% reduction in funding over four years.

He said it was looking at a £2m gap, out of a budget of about £16m.

The results of the government's comprehensive Spending Review are due be announced on Wednesday.

Mr Siggs said the authority was committed to not increasing council tax.

He said services delivered to the most vulnerable, such as benefits, would be prioritised.

Some 10% of the authority's workforce was expected to be shed over four years, reducing from more than 200 to about 180 staff, he said.

Mr Siggs said some jobs would go through not filling vacancies.

"The thing we always try to avoid is compulsory redundancies but we can't write that out of the equation," he added.

He said the council was in a better position than other authorities because it did not have any debt.

"We have seen the recession create a 40% increase in the work of our benefits service," he said.

"What it [the budget cut] challenges is how we do discretionary spend and some of the other services."

Mr Siggs said this could include prioritising where grants go, and how to maintain street cleaning.

"Not that we're necessarily going to cut them out all together, but we are going to have to say we can't do everything, we will not be able to maintain the high standards we have been able to bring in the past."

He said street cleaners will still come, adding the council had a number of private contractors.

He said: "It's a matter of negotiating with them and saying 'if you don't cut the grass quite so often, what sort of reduction can you give us in the amount we pay?'"

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