The County Council Meeting 18th February 2015 questions for Public Question Time.


Q1 2020 Vision and Medium Term Financial Plan 2015/16 to 2017/18 (Item 6 Paper A)

 What steps and measures is SCC taking to address the difference between the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) spending power increase (+0.4%) for Somerset County Council with the 2020 Vision and MTFP (P25 ) assessment of a reduction in spending power (-3.7%)?”

Q2 Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

Reference was made to the TTIP at the last County Council meeting (19thNovember). Does the Council agree that “The trade deal is being negotiated behind closed doors, between EU bureaucrats and delegates from the United States. It is the largest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and threatens to make the ongoing privatisation of the NHS, and presumably local government and other public servicesirreversible by giving the profits of corporations precedence over national lawmakers. TTIP could grant American multinationals, or any firm with American investors, the power to sue the government (and other public authorities?) if it ever attempted to take privatised health (and Local Government?) services back into public ownership.”?

Q3 The Future of Southwest One (SW0) 

The media has reported that Avon and Somerset Police and Wiltshire Police are moving towards sharing services (IT, HR and payroll etc.)


a)    Was Somerset County Council (as a partner in the Joint Venture Company-Somerset County Council (SCC), Taunton Deane Borough Council (TDBC), Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Constabulary (PCC) and IBM – known as Southwest One) consulted?

b)    Has this been included in the corporate risk log?

c)    What steps are being taken to ensure there is no detriment to Somerset County Council?

d)    What progress is being made to bring back (insource) services from SW0 as the contract ends in 2017?

e)    When will services (currently dependent on Southwest One) be able to plan effectively for the period leading up to 2017 and beyond?

 Q4 IBM, Leicester City Council and Southwest One

It was reported in the media (30th January 2015) “Technology company IBM is to open a base in Leicester with the creation of 300 jobs over three years. It will be the first time the US firm has selected a UK site for one of its services centres.” (BBC News website)

a)    Did IBM consult Somerset County Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council about creating a service centre in Somerset?

b)    Were similar claims (creating and working with universities and creating new jobs in Somerset) made during the ISiS programme (which led to the contract with IBM?)

c)    Were the promises by IBM of economic development and creating new jobs (in Somerset) contractual? If contractual, (was it removed in subsequent post original contract variations?) then are IBM now in clear breach of contract and what steps can be taken?

Q5 This relates to Annual Report of the Cabinet Member for Resources (Paper 16 Item 16) – Southwest One

Section 2.9 states:” Since the return of services in 2013 the Client Team have continued to robustly manage Southwest with a continued focus on the ICT service to ensure value for money and improve the service performance of the contract for the County Council. SWO have had a significant number of KPI failures since, resulting in SCC having to serve warning notices to ensure an improvement to the ICT service.”

Can you please provide a list of the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) failures?

Q6 The latest Southwest One Company Accounts (signed off September 2014) 

In assessing whether the company is a going concern, the directors evaluated the detailed financial forecasts, assessed the company company’s liquidity requirements and they received….However, as part of this review the directors are aware that at the end of the contract life, the company is currently due to settle its inter-company loan balance with IBM, which at 31 December 2013 was £48.8 million (2012:£47.9 million). Currently it is felt that there are insufficient cash flows to be generated in the remainder of the contract to settle the loan balance.”

a)    Can you clarify whether SCC will be liable for any of the inter-company loan balance with IBM as SCC is a Joint Venture Partner in SW0?

b)    Did SWO borrow an additional £1 million pounds from IBM in 2013?

c)    Is SW0 currently still trading because of “continued financial support from IBM United Kingdom Holdings Limited.”?

Supplemental Questions for the next Cabinet and Audit Committee meetings (18.03.15 and 26.03.15 respectively) based on the recent questions to Scrutiny (30thJanuary) and Cabinet (9th February)

Q1 Treasury Management Statement 2015-16 Item 6 Paper E (Paragraph 1.7 and Paragraph 2.1)

“SCC has a projected cash turnover of approximately £725m for 2015-16. As at 22nd December 2014 the external long term debt portfolio of SCC stood at just close to £329m. The investment portfolio at the same time stood at just over £290m. This includes approximately £2.35m of impaired Icelandic deposits.”


“Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP). SCC is estimated to have an excess of approximately £41.2m at the beginning of the 2015-16 financial year,”

i)             Compared to other Local Authorities is this a relatively healthy financial position?

ii)            “The SCC Council Tax level for a Band D property has been set at £1,027.30 since 2009/10, having been frozen for 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13 2013/14 and 2014/15. The Somerset Band D Council Tax was the lowest charge of any Shire County in England for the past two years;” Is this correct and what is the average for a Shire County?

Q2 DCLG Statement on Council Reserves and Assets

a)    “Council reserves stood at £21.4 billion at the end of the last financial year – up from £14.3 billion in 2010 to 2011 – an increase of 50% in just 4 years.” (DCLG indicate that SCC reserves were £80+ million (excluding schools and public health.) Has this Council’s reserves also increased in the same period?

b)    “They also have £220 billion worth of assets on their books, of which £2.5 billion is earmarked as ‘surplus to requirements’. How much is surplus at Somerset County Council?

Q3 relates to the Cabinet MTFP papers Item 5 2015-2016: (Item 5 and appendices)

–       Cabinet

–       Cabinet Member Key

–       Cabinet Member Non-key

–       Officer Non-key

–       Alternative funding source identified – No change to service

–       Over achievement of previous years savings

–       Fee reduction – No decision

a)    Can the “savings” be identified by decision type (by the number of and amount per type)?

      b)  Can an explanation of the difference between “savings” and “cuts” be provided?

Q4 Relates to Item 5 Cabinet MTFP 2015-16

a) Please explain why the Council Tax 0% increase (freeze) “incentive” is not identified separately in the 2015/16 Service Control Totals and the Movement in Core Funding Streams (Annex A) in the 2020 Vision document – link below (when other similar politically controlled Local Authorities are planning a 1.99% Council Tax increase)? Item 5 in the Cabinet papers)

b) Is the Council Tax Freeze grant approximately £2m for 2015-2016?

c) The DCLG (Final Local Government Settlement) indicate 2 separate figures for Council Tax freeze compensation. Can these figures be explained?

d) Can a separate budget paper be produced showing the element mentioned in a) and the impact of 0.5%, 1%, 1.5%, 1.99%, 2.5%, increase in Council Tax?   The 2020 paper shows that a 1% increase is equivalent to £1.8m?

e) How much would a 2% rise in Council Tax (year on year) since the start of the Council Tax Freeze (grant) have increased the CTAX on a Band D property (annually, weekly and daily)?

f) Would a £1.99% increase in Council Tax – help to alleviate the pressures in Children’s and Adults Social Care?

Q5 Did the Council contribute to the DCLG consultation on the Local Government Finance Settlement (2015-2016)?

Provisional local government finance settlement 2015 to 2016: consultation – summary of responses

Q6 Relates to Item 5 Cabinet MTFP 2015-16

FAIRER FUNDING FOR SOMERSET (E) The Leader and Cabinet are recommended to agree and recommend to County Council:

To continue to pursue a campaign for fairer funding for Somerset County Council to ensure County Plan priorities are fully funded (ref para 3.3).”

a)    Does the campaign include provision for improved public transport (eg more frequent bus services)?

b)    And include Increased social care provision with a reduction in charges to service users and their families and carers?

Q7 Relates to Item 7 Cabinet Revenue Strategy 2016-17 to 2020-21

“2.2.2 The Council has made significant savings (in excess of £100 million)

over the last five years. With similar levels of savings being required

over the next five years, these will prove to be extremely challenging to

identify and achieve going forwards. Innovative steps have been taken

in recent years to implement initiatives to deliver the required savings

with processes being re-engineered and funding redirected across a

number of organisations within Somerset.

2.2.3 One inescapable consequence of the financial constraints is the need to

transform services in order to provide more for less. This, together with

above average demographic growth, places huge pressure on services

to ensure service availability meets user needs. Without good financial

plans and procedures in place, it is unlikely that demand will be funded.”

It is forecast that the Revenue Support Grant form Central Government will reduce to Zero, Business Rates will increase as will the proportion of Council Tax collected. How will the Council be able to meet increasing demand and a further cut (saving?) of £100m in five years (“more for less”)?


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