Somerset County Council is seeking views on proposals to change the support it provides to some children and families.

The proposals would stop the Council’s getset Service contribution to support for families needing a little extra help – usually short-term – to tackle a particular problem and get back on track.

Support provided by other organisations for families in this position would not be affected by the proposals, nor would the Council’s support for families with more serious issues and challenges.

Being consulted on over the next eight weeks, the proposals include a £200,000 start-up fund to support community groups to increase and develop their support to families.

At present getset supports families who need a little extra help by:

  • Organising and attending 39 of the estimated 427 parenting support groups that take place across the county.
  • Providing one-to-one support for individual families – at any one time around 299 families are supported in this way.

Both these aspects of the Council’s support would stop if the proposals are taken forward.

The getset one-to-one support for families with more significant issues would continue as usual, as would the support from the Council’s Children with Disabilities Team, Special Education Needs and Disabilities Team and Community Adolescent Team.

Councillor Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “This is a subject we know lots of people will have an interest in and we want to hear from as many people as possible, so their views can be taken on board when a decision is made.

“It will be a difficult decision for the Council, but the financial pressures we are under are well documented. We have to find ways of living within our means, and that means considering savings in all areas.

“It’s important that people remember that the council is not the only organisation that provides this kind of early help support for families.  And it is important to remember too that the support we provide when families have more serious difficulties would not be affected.”

The consultation, which ends on 31 December, is open to anyone who has an interest. Documents explaining the proposals in more detail can be found online www.somerset.gov.uk/getsetconsultation along with a questionnaire to complete to share your views.

These are also available in libraries and Family Centres around the county, and at Information drop-in sessions that have been arranged for people to discuss the proposals and share their views.

The Council’s Cabinet agreed to go to consultation on these services when it met in September to consider a range of savings proposals aimed at addressing the authority’s financial pressures.

The results will be used to inform a decision by Cabinet scheduled for February on whether or not to proceed with the proposals.

Information drop-in sessions, open to anyone who wishes to take part in the consultation, will take place at the locations below:

Date Time Venue
Tuesday 13thNovember 2018 10.00am – 6.00pm Glastonbury Library, 1 Orchard Court, The Archers Way, Glastonbury, BA6 9JB
Wednesday 14thNovember 2018 10.00am – 12.00pm The Key Centre, Feltham Lane, Frome, BA11 5AJ
Wednesday 14thNovember 2018 1.00pm – 6.00pm Frome Library, Justice Lane, Frome, BA11 1BE
Monday 19thNovember 2018 10.00am – 6.00pm The Hub, Minehead, Hopcott Road, Minehead, TA24 6DJ
Thursday 22ndNovember 2018 10.00am – 6.00pm Taunton Library, Paul Street, Taunton TA1 3XZ
Wednesday 28thNovember 2018 10.00am – 6.00pm Victoria Park Community Centre, Victoria Park Drive, Bridgwater, TA6 7AS
Tuesday 4thDecember 2018 10.00am – 6.00pm Yeovil Methodist Church, Vicarage Walk, Middle Street, Yeovil, BA20 1JZ

Somerset County Council will end its role in community leisure facilities once its current contract expires, if published recommendations are approved.

The Council’s ten-year contract with 1610 Limited to provide community leisure facilities on eight school sites across the county expires at the end of March 2019.

The County Council has no statutory responsibility to provide leisure services and, in light of the financial pressures facing the authority, the recommendation is that the County Council should stop commissioning leisure services and transfer the facilities to the schools.

Schools and their pupils will be able to continue to use the facilities, but it is highly unlikely that they will all be able to provide the same community access.

This would save the Council an annual management fee, which is currently around £900,000, plus the cost of maintaining and repairing the facilities

“We’re committed to delivering the very best services possible, but we have to live within our means”, said Councillor David Hall,Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure.

“Our focus has to be delivering our core responsibilities, particularly those that support our vulnerable residents. The Council has been in discussion with the schools and 1610 for some time regarding the end of the contract and, as much as we might like to support access to leisure facilities, it’s not something we have a responsibility for and we can no longer afford the costs that come with it.

The school-based community leisure facilities included in the 1610 contract are:

·     Caryford Fitness & Leisure Centre, Ansford Academy, near Castle Cary

·     Castle Sports Centre, The Castle School, Taunton

·     Crewkerne Sports Centre, Wadham School, Crewkerne

·     Glastonbury Leisure Centre, St Dunstan’s Academy, Glastonbury

·     King Alfred’s Sports Centre, at The King Alfred Schoolin Highbridge

·     Preston Sports Centre and Gym, at Preston School in Yeovil

·     Stanchester Sports Centre, Stanchester Academy, Stoke-sub-Hamdon

·     West Somerset Sports & Leisure Centre, West Somerset College, Minehead

1610 will continue to work with The King Alfred School in Highbridge and Preston School in Yeovil to provide leisure facilities. These leases have been extended and services there will be unaffected.

If the recommendations are approved and the transfer of buildings and takes place, continued community access would not be a condition of the transfer.

Schools have no responsibility to provide community leisure facilities and each will have to work within their own financial constraints and the associated safeguarding complications that comes with running dual use sites.

The Council would welcome community access where possible, but it fully appreciates that arrangements are likely to change.

All other 1610 Limited facilities and services outside of this contract, including those at Bridgwater’s Chilton Trinity School and Robert Blake Science College, would not be affected by this decision.

Cllr Hall said: “We would be delighted to see community access continue, but completely understand this may not be possible in all cases.”

If recommendations are approved, a decision would be made on 10 December. Council officers would continue to support the schools and 1610 on managing the end of the contract Community users of facilities would be kept informed as details are finalised.

If the decision is taken, some changes are likely to take place before the end of March as the Council has agreed to a phased approach to make the transfer more manageable for 1610.

The decision will be discussed by the Policies and Place Scrutiny Committee when it meets on 13 November. The report to the committee can be found on the Council’s website (https://bit.ly/2JJ4J5w).

An extra £22,000 a year to help support communities to run library buildings, and a commitment to retain nineteen Somerset County Council libraries was approved today.

Somerset County Council’s Cabinet made the final decision on how libraries services will be delivered across Somerset in future agreeing nineteen library buildings will be retained by the County Council.

For the remaining fifteen, communities are invited to submit expressions of interest by 15 November to set up Community Library Partnerships (CLPs). An additional £154,000 over seven years was approved today to help support CLPs and communities who step forward to run library buildings themselves.

If these can’t be established, library buildings will close and libraries services will be provided in other ways (such as mobile or outreach) from as early as January next year.

Councillor David Hall, lead Cabinet Member for Libraries, started today’s Cabinet meeting by setting out the libraries service redesign vision to his fellow Cabinet Members, emphasising the need to modernise the service whilst putting it on a sustainable financial footing.

Cllr Hall then asked his fellow Members to consider the need for libraries services within communities, the County Council’s legal requirements, the views of the public expressed through the consultation and the funding available.

He concluded by paying tribute to everyone who responded to the consultation, Friends of Somerset Libraries and the many library friend groups, and the frontline libraries staff who are so clearly valued by the Council and customers across Somerset.

Before making their decision, Cabinet heard a presentation setting out the results from the libraries consultation which ran earlier this year, community needs and access to libraries services analysis as well as equalities impact assessments.

They also heard and responded to many questions and statements from Members present and from the Chair of Friends of Somerset Libraries (FoSL), Watchet Library Friends and Unite.

Cabinet unanimously approved the Somerset’s Libraries Service redesign programme, which will now be implemented – with new services in place from as early as January next year.

Cllr Hall said: “It’s been 40 years since the Council last made any significant changes its library network and it’s time we modernise our service, ensuring its sustainability for the future. Today’s decision strikes the right balance in delivering a strong, thriving and modernised library service across Somerset, whilst still living within our means.”

Cabinet also agreed to investigate an alternative location for Shepton Mallet’s library, reduce costs in Cheddar, Martock, Langport and Ilminster libraries (through implementing new technology, sharing space with partners and generating income), a management restructure and develop an approach for donations and philanthropic giving.

For further information as the libraries redesign programme progresses, please click http://somersetlibraries.co.uk/redesign/, contact Somerset Direct on 0300 123 224 or visit a library.