Talks to continue over possible councils merger

Somerset County Council leader David Fothergill. Picture: BBC

Somerset County Council leader David Fothergill. Picture: BBC - Credit: BBC

Talks about potentially merging six Somerset’s councils into a larger authority will continue as it may save taxpayers tens of millions of pounds a year.

Feasibility studies were carried out in the autumn and a meeting was held last week to discuss the idea again.

Somerset County Council leader David Fothergill said last year a merger could save £28million a year.

His statement made last May surprised the other five councils – Mendip district, Sedgemoor district, South Somerset district, Taunton Deane and West Somerset – who had not fully briefed staff on the idea.

The most drastic idea on the table would see all the councils abolished and replaced by a unitary authority which would be responsible for all major council work in the area, including education, roads and public health.

In a joint statement the councils said today (Thursday): “This research will continue over the coming months to test the early findings and consider next steps.

“The options being researched are considering how services can be protected and better outcomes delivered for the communities of Somerset within the challenging financial climate for public sector organisations and to make sure that local government and the services it provides are financially sustainable for the future.

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“The research is also examining what changes might be made that strengthen the voice of the communities of Somerset.”

A further update on the research is not expected to be forthcoming until after the district council elections in May.

The next county council elections are scheduled to take place in 2021.

North Somerset Council is unaffected by the possible change.