SOMERSET Council is looking into selling properties, raising council tax again and reducing services to help plug a £100million 'black hole'.

Budget figures going before the authority's executive on November 8 are expected to show an estimated £70million rise in expected adult social care costs for 2024/25.

That means the council cannot rely on reserves to cover the gap next year and without action will need to issue a Section 114 notice, effectively declaring bankruptcy next February.

Cllr Liz Leyshon, County Hall lead member for resources and deputy leader, said: “The funding model for local Government is clearly broken, with many councils struggling in light of soaring costs and demands on services.

“But while at Woking and Birmingham their finances were also impacted by a policy decision or legal action, here in Somerset we’re simply running out of money due to the soaring costs of demand-led services, particularly the costs of residential and nursing care for adults.

“This is not because of poor control of service spend. It is simply an exceptionally large increase in our costs for demand-led services which we have no choice but to manage.”

In August, Somerset Council warned it would need to raid reserves to balance the books this year.

Latest figures show the budget gap for the current financial year stands at £27.3million and the projected shortfall for the following year is now £100million, way over levels of reserves.

The main driver is a £70million increase in adult social care costs, caused by proposed changes to national policy which aimed to make the cost of care fairer.

Although the policy change was later abandoned by Government, in Somerset this has led to significant rises in the costs of residential and nursing care placements.

Officers are currently drawing up savings proposals which will be voted on by the executive in December.

It could involve selling assets and buildings, including offices; increasing council tax, fees and charges; job losses; and reducing council services.

Cllr Leyshon added: “Our priority will be to maximise all opportunities, work with partners and do everything we can to ensure we can continue to take care of those most in need.

“No-one wants to be in this position but we are well aware of the implications of a Section 114 notice. It is our intention to take the difficult decisions now and to set a direction for the new Council with the benefit of our local knowledge and commitment to Somerset.

“The alternative is to leave it to Government Commissioners, paid by the people of Somerset, to find a financial answer that does not take into account local factors or experience.”