Council pushing for fairer funding and support
- Credit: Archant
We try to be open with you about the challenges we face. North Somerset finds itself in a uniquely difficult place as regards funding, especially for infrastructure, skills and business support.
For reasons known to themselves, the previous administration did not allow the council to join the West of England Combined Authority in 2016. As a result, North Somerset has been denied access to vital funds for infrastructure, transport and skills via the government's preferred combined authorities route.
We tried to put this right by joining the Combined Authority this year, but were unfortunately thwarted by a veto by the Bristol Elected Mayor, despite all the other councils, business groups and education leaders being in favour.
Now there is a new West of England Metro Mayor and elections are out of the way in Bristol, we will look again at how we can join the combined authority and try to access the investment we need.
Despite North Somerset being the third most unequal local authority area in England, we are deemed "too rich" by the Government for Levelling Up or Towns Fund support, but we aren't taking this lying down and will be putting in an ambitious bid for funding this year in spite of this.
We have listened to the Government's ambitions and tried to encourage large transformational projects that would create jobs and investment. Most recently we strongly supported a Freeport bid for Bristol Port, the largest part of which lies in North Somerset, but despite being the most accessible port on the West Coast the bid was discarded for other alternatives, seemingly to influence elections, in places like Hartlepool and Plymouth, despite them already having access to the Levelling Up funding.
We are sure residents will welcome the fact that we have one of the lowest council tax rates in the region, but with Government-imposed caps on our ability to generate income this means that our gross funding through council tax falls further and further behind each year compared to other authorities, whilst demands on our services, especially for social care, do not.
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We are being forced by central government to provide 20,475 new homes between now and 2038 which means that we shall have to offer challenging locations to deliver those numbers, with no investment to deliver the associated infrastructure, nor any means of ensuring they are the types of homes our communities need.
We are working very hard to address the shortfalls these represent for delivering our desire to make North Somerset open, fairer and greener and we shall continue to encourage our two MPs to ensure that their Government gives us a fair share of the national cake.
North Somerset Council leader Don Davies and deputy leader Mike Bell.