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Busy Year Ahead for The Parish Council:

The Parish Council has a number of new projects in the pipeline for 2024/25, in addition to the normal everyday tasks of managing the allotments, two playparks, the cemetery, the Town Hall, the Churchyard and many of the Village’s green spaces.

There is also the new Somerset Council taking shape, with the abolition of South Somerset District Council on 31st of March 2023. Sadly, the new shape of the services that Somerset Council will be offering is going to be completely dictated by the fact that it is almost insolvent, so there will be some quite considerable cuts to public services over the next year.

Back in the Autumn and Winter of 2023, councillors looked very carefully at the cost of providing all the carried out by the Parish Council, against a background of high inflation and growing costs. It will not come as a surprise that, even by keeping things close to the bone, the Parish Council is having to increase its share of the Council Tax from this April by £26.12 (per year, for a band D household). This increase of £2.17 per month will mean a Band D household will pay £138.87 per year for services provided by the Parish Council.

How do we compare? 

Bruton£184.92   (24/25)
Langport£325.05   (23/24)
Wincanton£195.73   (24/25)
Sherborne£228.59   (24/25)
Henstridge£106.44   (23/24)
Milborne Port£138.87   (24/25)

(Some are last year’s figures, as we cannot find this year’s, but we know that there have been increases from their minutes.)

The Parish Council – Delivering More Services Than Ever

There are three areas where the parish council is significantly extending its services in the coming year, two of them by choice, the last by default:

1: Youth Services / Youth Club:

The Parish Council has teamed up with Bruton, Wincanton and Castle Cary Town Councils to employ a youth worker to serve across the four council areas; this will see the formation of a youth evening at the Village Hall each Thursday and improved engagement with the village’s young people to better understand their requirements and reduce anti-social behaviour. This project is a three-year commitment costing £10,000 per year.

2: Facilities Officer (Village Hall Manager):

The trustees of the Village Hall came to the Parish Council back in the summer of 2023 to ask for support. Firstly, the hall is operating at a loss due to the cost of energy prices; this was unsustainable and eventually the hall would use all its reserves.

Secondly, the trustees had been unable to recruit people either as volunteer trustees or even into paid roles like booking secretary over a number of years, and with the current Hall Manager due to retire shortly, the Village Hall would be in a position where there would be no one to manage it on a day-to-day basis.

The Parish Council immediately agreed to the awarding of a grant for £3,000 to keep the Hall open and solvent while the rent charges to users were assessed (and ultimately increased). The Parish Council will also take over as the sole trustee of the Village Hall on the 1st of April to provide a solid foundation to build the business in the future.

Further, it was agreed that the Parish Council would employ a Facilities Officer (Village Hall Manager) to take on the day-to-day operation of the Village Hall for the start of this April, as well as having a wider remit in terms of looking after MPPC’s other facilities (i.e. the Town Hall, play parks). This will add a cost to the council of around £13,500 per year.

3: The Demise of Somerset Council

What will the massive cuts to all Somerset Council’s budget and services mean for the parish? Currently, Somerset Council provides a number of services, some charged to the Parish Council, some not:

  • The Parish Ranger (paid for by the PC)
  • Dog poo bin emptying (some paid for by the PC)
  • Playground safety checks (paid for by the PC)
  • High Street (and just off) sweeping & weed control
  • Emptying and replacement of public litter bins
  • Repair of potholes/emptying of gullies
  • Cutting back dangerous overgrowth next to the highway.

What might come of other services not listed above will become apparent as the cuts start to take hold; these are just the day-to-day services that we most engage with in the Parish Office. Over the next year, the Parish Council will need to monitor all these areas of service reduction by Somerset Council to see what will need to be picked up and paid for locally and what will simply no longer be offered.

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