Split widens over unitary bid

SEDGEMOOR District Council leader Duncan McGinty has vowed to 'take the fight to Westminster' after Somerset County Council members

SEDGEMOOR District Council leader Duncan McGinty has vowed to 'take the fight to Westminster' after Somerset County Council members voted to scrap his authority. In a vote this week, 28 county councillors voted to push ahead with a unitary authority bid, with 21 voting against and 2 abstentions. Speaking after the vote on Monday, Cllr McGinty said: "We will now take our fight to Westminster to show that this proposal can only bring financial heartache and misery to so many good people in Somerset. "There will be 116 councillors under the new administration, giving a diabolical ratio of one elected official to 5,000 electors, which would be the worst in Europe. At the moment the ratio is one to 2,500."The district councils that would be scrapped - Sedgemoor, Taunton Deane, West Somserset, South Somerset and Mendip - fear the cost of reorganisation could amount to £35million pounds, and that savings will have to come from job cuts, early retirements and a £54 bill for everyone in Somerset. Trade union leaders have also raised concerns, claiming a unitary authority could result in mass redundancies. Dave Chapple, spokesman for the Somerset Association of Trade Union Councils (SATUC), said: "Nobody is against a proper review and consultation on the best, most democratic form of local government for our future. But this rushed unitary bid isn't the answer. "Nobody has been consulted, not MPs, employees or trade unions. We fear a remote authority that will rush into wholesale sackings and privatisations to make £15million savings."My personal view is we need to lobby Ruth Kelly, the minister in charge of the bids, and make it clear to her that there is a huge opposition in Somerset."Somerset County Council leader Cathy Bakewell said: "This is a landmark day for Somerset. We will begin the process of striving for a new government that will empower local decision making, reduce the confusion and allow further investment in frontline services."The Government will now consider all the applications from local authorities who have bid for unitary status. The successful ones will be revealed in March.


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