COUNCIL workers were on Tuesday (February 20) lobbying a meeting of Somerset Council where a package of cuts was due be agreed, including about 1,200 job losses.

Staff union UNISON said workers were lobbying outside the meeting in Bridgwater to ‘voice their concern over the future of public services across the county’. 

The council was setting its 2024-25 budget with measures intended to bridge a £100 million funding gap and avoid it having to issue a ‘section 114’ notice, effectively a declaration of bankruptcy.

It was proposing to stop providing a raft of services which from April would either have to be funded by parish and town councils or cease to be delivered.

Most town councils in Somerset have as a result increased their council tax bills for residents to raise funds to pay for the services themselves, including CCTV and minor highways maintenance.

A bid by Somerset Council to increase its council tax bills by 10 per cent, double the maximum allowed by legislation, was refused by the Government, which said the authority already had power to hold a public referendum to win approval.

UNISON representatives were putting questions at the meeting in Bridgwater to Somerset councillors about the financial emergency and the impact of cuts on local communities and staff.

The union’s Somerset branch secretary Alison Hann said: “The outlook is incredibly bleak for council workers in Somerset.

“There has been over a decade of cuts to Somerset Council, and the size of the local authority has reduced significantly.

“These latest cuts could see over 1,000 workers lose their jobs, which is around a quarter of the workforce.

“This is a problem that is happening all across the country and can only be solved by Government intervention.

“Ministers must do more to help local government and provide the funding needed to save services in Somerset.”

In January, the Government announced additional funding of £500 million for local authorities but the union said it did not go far enough.

UNISON estimates councils across England, Wales, and Scotland will have a budget shortfall of at least £3.5 billion in 2024/25.