SOMERSET Council has gone to the Government with a begging bowl as it fights to stave off bankruptcy.

In a letter to Health and Social Care Minister Helen Whately, the lead member for adult social care at County Hall pleads for "urgent assistance in securing additional funding".

Cllr Dean Ruddle says the council is facing a "perilous financial position" due to a £100million black hole, while the adult social care bill is likely to shoot up by £70million in the year from next April.

"This means the council cannot rely on reserves to cover the gap for next year and, without action, risks us needing to issue a s114 (bankruptcy) notice at the point of setting next year's budget in February," wrote Cllr Ruddle.

He adds that the local government funding system is "undeniably broken".

Cllr Ruddle says that although Somerset has an older-than-average population, it is among the lowest spending authorities on older people.

"This is because people living in Somerset have told us that they want to remain living as independently as possible in their own homes, which has led us to develop the market to support this - helping keep our costs low," says the letter.

This has been achieved by "careful spending" on the volunteer and community sector, domiciliary care sector and micro providers.

Despite that, costs have risen due to:

  • inflationary pressures passed on by care providers meaning residential care costs have risen 47 per cent from £577 a week last year to the current £850.
  • a 16 per cent increase in the average amount of care at home, up from 12 hours a week to 14 hours a week this year.
  • a pause in planned reforms, meaning Somerset Council has not received the total money originally allocated to fund "the fair cost of care exercise".

Cllr Ruddle adds: "In view of this wider context and the significant and growing challenges we now face here in Somerset and very much wish to avoid, I ask for your urgent assistance in securing additional funding for adult social care.

"Our overspend position is not because of poor control or oversight, nor policy decisions or legal action - rather it is simply an exceptionally large increase in our costs for demand-led services we have no choice but to manage."