SOMERSET Council will have to set an ‘emergency budget’ in the New Year to see it through the county’s worst-ever financial crisis.

The council has been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy - officially known as issuing a Section 114 notice – as it faced a £100 million budget shortfall in the 2024-25 financial year.

But council leader Cllr Bill Revans said on Tuesday the budget gap now appeared to have been reduced to £87 million after a series of cost savings measures were identified.

However, it still meant the council was in a ‘stark and challenging financial position’.

Cllr Revans said the size of the council might even have to be reduced in the future.

He said to close the gap and balance next year’s budget, as the council was required by law to do, he would have to look at service reductions, efficiency savings, and increases to fees and charges, including council tax. 

An updated financial report going to next Wednesday’s (December 6) meeting of the council’s executive councillors highlighted a number of services which could be redesigned, reduced, or even stopped, subject to consultation.

The report by the council’s financial officer Jason Vaughan warned even that might not be enough to fully close the gap and a planned transformation programme may need to be ‘accelerated and broadened’ to reduce the size of the council.

Cllr Revans said: “No decisions have yet been made but it is clear we are going to have to look carefully at every saving proposal.

“It is either that or we follow the likes of Birmingham and Croydon Councils and serve a S114 notice.

“Both scenarios mean we will be effectively setting an emergency budget in February.

“We will take these hard decisions, working with national Government, our communities, and our partners to minimise the impacts on our residents and achieve the best outcome possible in this awful situation.”

Cllr Revans said some of the county’s MPs had agreed to speak up for the council and he urged residents to lobby their MP to join the authority in ‘rolling up our sleeves to work together for the people of Somerset’.

The council is planning a public consultation exercise before it sets its budget at a meeting in Bridgwater on February 20 next year.

The budget papers being considered by the executive next week can be found here.