Poll shows opposition to unitary authority

PEOPLE in Somerset oppose the county councillors' bid for unitary status, according to the latest poll. The survey, conducted by YouGov polling company, showed that 21 per cent of respondents thought a single unitary authority was a good idea, while 67 pe

PEOPLE in Somerset oppose the county councillors' bid for unitary status, according to the latest poll.The survey, conducted by YouGov polling company, showed that 21 per cent of respondents thought a single unitary authority was a good idea, while 67 per cent thought it was a bad idea. Somerset County Council voted to bid for unitary status in late January. If successful, the five district councils - Sedgemoor, Taunton Deane, West Somerset, South Somerset and Mendip - would be scrapped.The district councils, together with representatives from UNISON and the civil wars research group Sealed Knot were taken to the Department for Communities and Local Government on March 21 in an open top Cheddar Caves and Gorge bus to launch their 'Keep Somerset Local' campaign.The poll also showed that for every person who thinks the county councillors' plans will lead to lower council taxes, a staggering 10 people think it will lead to higher council taxes.Only 11 per cent think local services such as street cleaning, road maintenance and refuse collections would improve under a unitary authority, compared to 61 per cent who think services would be worse.Sedgemoor District Council leader Duncan McGinty said: "The poll shows quite clearly that the county councillors' plans are shockingly unpopular. You really would have to try quite hard to come up with proposals that were more unpopular than this. "Against this background I simply cannot see how the Government could allow the council to proceed with its half-baked reorganisation plans."A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: "We are confident that our business case, and its fully costed proposals, represent the best possible outcome for the people of Somerset. We are looking forward to the decision being taken by the Government on the proposals it has received, and, if short-listed, welcome the consultation period that will follow. We expect that this consultation will take account of the views of more than the 266 people surveyed by Sedgemoor which clearly cannot be treated seriously as a reflection of the public view." The Government is now considering all the applications from local authorities who have bid for unitary status. A shortlist will be announced later this month.


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