Six councils to be axed and replaced by one large authority?
PUBLISHED: 12:49 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:54 02 May 2018
A major shake-up of local government in Somerset could see six councils across Somerset axed and replaced by a single organisation.
Somerset County Council leader David Fothergill has proposed scrapping his authority plus Taunton Deane Borough, West Somerset, South Somerset, Sedgemoor and Mendip councils to save the taxpayer millions.
In their place would be one larger council which would be run education, waste, roads and other services.
The set-up being considered is similar to how North Somerset Council is run with parish and town councils providing more localised services.
Cllr Fothergill believes the changes would save money with fewer management posts and councillors needed.
He said: “At a time of unprecedented financial pressures on all councils we are all looking at different ways to be more efficient, make savings and protect the frontline services that our residents value so much.
“I believe we owe it to our residents to look at this option.
“I want start the ball rolling on work to establish the benefits and costs of such a change so we can all make an informed decision as to whether a unitary model is the right way to go.
“This is only the start of a conversation and what would be a long process.
“At this stage we don’t have all the answers, but I believe in these difficult times we have to be bold enough to start asking the questions.”
Cllr Fothergill also believes a more joined-up approach would make Somerset’s voice heard more on a national level.
Estimates suggest the changes would save £18-28million a year.
A reduction in council chief executives would save about £500,000 per year and reducing the number of councillors from 300 across the county would save approximately £1million.
A similar idea was rejected by the electorate in 2007.
Cllr Fothergill said: “This hasn’t been looked at for 10 years and the circumstances for local government have changed dramatically since. The time is right to look at this again.
“No-one can deny a unitary model has huge potential for efficiencies, savings and reduction in duplication and bureaucracy.
“There will be arguments against this idea but I want to open up the discussion and see what options can come forward.”