‘Historic step’ for single Somerset council as case is set for government ruling

Somerset County Council. Picture: Google Street View

Somerset County Council. Picture: Google Street View - Credit: Google Street View

County councillors have approved the business case to abolish all Somerset councils and replace them with one single authority.

Somerset County Council leader David Fothergill. Picture: BBC

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

The case is now due to be submitted to government for a final ruling.

Somerset County Council members from all parties gave the plans the green light on July 29.

The unitary authority encompasses five councils in the county, including Sedgemoor and Mendip district administrations, and plans were discussed to create one Somerset businesses case on July 15.

Somerset County Council argues a single authority will bring ‘numerous benefits and opportunities’ to businesses and communities in the area.

Out of those who took the council’s survey, 60 per cent of people supported the move.

Council leader David Fothergill said: “This was a really historic step, but one that will end confusion over which council does what and bring real benefits to our residents, businesses and communities.

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“I’ve invited leaders from all parties to work with me to ensure we get it right for Somerset.”

A single Somerset council is estimated to save the authorities £18.5million annually through reducing duplication, efficiencies of scale and reduction to back office and multiple contracts.

There are also hopes to create 15 to 20 Local Community Networks across Somerset, which the unitary authority says will give people the opportunity to shape their communities, giving them powers to scrutinise, impact society and take decisions.

Cllr Fothergill added: “All councils agree change is needed – and Somerset is one of few councils still operating in an outdated two-tier system.

“Five county and district councils with different processes, politics and objectives leads to confusion, frustration and mess.

“One council for Somerset, all working together and closer than ever with partners and communities, will improve lives.”

Somerset County Council expects to receive a letter from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government imminently, and the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP to invite the authority to submit its business case for official review.

Further consultation will then take place in autumn, 2020 with the aim of a operating a new single council from 2022.