The meeting opened with Ms Sheila Wheeler, Chief Executive of Somerset County Council who had been asked to give a presentation about the cuts.
She gave a very clear description of the pressures on SCC's finances which mainly stem from the need to spend 2/3rd of the budget on vulnerable people (children, pensioners and vulnerable adults). This requirement is increasing (the number of children in care has risen by 40% in the last 2 years) at a time when central government grants have fallen by 29%.
As a result other services are being squeezed and contracts are being re-negotiated.
On the plus side SCC has reacted quickly to the cuts and are therefore in a better position than other local authorities. They should have a balanced budget by the middle of March and the Council Tax will stay the same.
However, she did warn that SCC's financial situation remained risky as the upward pressure on costs would continue whilst government grants reduced.
Councillors and members of the public were so impressed by her clear, 'no frills' explanation, that Ms Wheeler was given a sponaneous round of applause as she left.
Using delegated powers Councillors passed a planning application for an extension at Davy's Close Butts Way.
Councillors were supportive of a detailed proposal for a house in Ford Bridge Quarry and for tree work at Barn Elms.
Councillors also considered the proposal for outline consent for 244 houses on land off the Milverton Road north of Wellington.
Councillors agreed with the many protestors that this was a poor scheme and resolved to object to it on the grounds that
- It was outside the boundary of Wellington so contrary to Local Plan policies
- The road and transport arrangments were contrary to Structure Plan policies
- The development would lead to a significant increase in traffic on local roads through Wellington, Milverton and surrounding villages.
- The site is important for European Protected species viz. dormice and foraging bats and the effects on them could not be satisfactorily mitigated.
Various issues were reported such as the path from the orchard to High St which needs considerable work to be made safe.
The double fence across the Creedwell field was also raised and discussions are underway between SCC and the landowner.
There will be a scarecrow competition over that weekend with prizes for the best dressed house and best dressed window.