Council tax set to soar?

TAXES in Sedgemoor could be 'hiked up' by around 20 per cent, if a unitary authority gets the go-ahead from Government. Residents in Sedgemoor currently enjoy the lowest council tax rates in the five districts, but if the bid is accepted, taxes will be r

TAXES in Sedgemoor could be 'hiked up' by around 20 per cent, if a unitary authority gets the go-ahead from Government. Residents in Sedgemoor currently enjoy the lowest council tax rates in the five districts, but if the bid is accepted, taxes will be raised to cover the £20 million transitional costs and to level taxes across the county. Somerset County Council met this week and agreed to press ahead with the proposal. It has until January 25 to submit a bid to Government. It would then consider the proposal and make an announcement in July. If Somerset did become a unitary authority, elections would be held in May 2008 and councillors would work in shadow for a year, until the district councils started to fall down and end in May 2009. Sedgemoor council chief executive Kerry Rickards said: "Not only will taxes be raised significantly, but the voice of the public will not be heard."Mr Rickards predicts the reorganisation would mean a cut from 310 district and county councillors to about 60. He said: "Local councillors are supposed to listen to citizens' comments. If we reduce their numbers, the public will not have a voice."It is nothing short of disgraceful. People will never get heard without a local councillor. If people try to contact a unitary authority, their requests will be buried."A similar bid was made by Somerset County Council in the early 90s. Mr Rickards said: "The bid was rushed through, we were not consulted and it brassed off the taxpayers. Now 10 years later they are doing the same thing again. "District and county councils are supposed to work together, but how can we do that when we are being threatened with a hostile take over bid?"The unitary authority would serve the area from Frome to Minehead and from Burnham to Chard. The district council feels this area would be too large and remote from local communities and would oppose the principles of the white paper, which aims to create strong and prosperous communities.Somerset council leader Cathy Bakewell said: "This council welcomes the Government's white paper. We believe this builds significantly on work which Somerset County is already undertaking. The current system of two tiers does not work in the best interest of communities, is expensive and produces duplication. Despite strenuous efforts by all councils, closer two tier working has not always been achieved."The Government white paper, released earlier this year, has invited authorities to bid for unitary status, and needs eight local authorities to come forward by January.


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