Published:
July 26, 2016
Proposed merger of local councils set to be discussed next week

Sedgemoor District Council has said it is 'at a loss' to explain an '11th hour and 59th-minute' approach regarding a possible council merger with Taunton Deane and West Somerset.

West Somerset and Taunton Deane councils have issued a formal approach to Sedgemoor District Council, inviting it to join discussions over a possible merger.

Sedgemoor responded to the invitation on Monday (July 25th) by issuing a 'position statement', in which it said the "most practical and sustainable solution to the financial problems facing Taunton Deane and West Somerset is via the Boundary Commission, rather than forced mergers and cost cutting."

The matter will be further discussed by Sedgemoor District Councillors during a Full Council meeting due to be held on Wednesday, August 3rd.

The council says: "Sedgemoor District Council thanks Taunton Deane and West Somerset for their invitation to explore improve and streamline services for the community in a tripartite way."

"Earlier in the week, Sedgemoor re-iterated to both councils its long-held position of never turning down an income generation or cost reduction opportunity without first considering a business case."

"This would mean proper, thorough and meaningful dialogue with all three councils, their elected members and our MPs about how to move forward constructively in a timely fashion, where the interests of the communities are at the heart of the way forward."

"However, despite a government directive for councils to consult with neighbouring authorities, Sedgemoor is at a loss that it is only at the 11th hour and 59th minute that an invitation has been extended to Sedgemoor to explore a business case."

The statement adds: "As long ago as 2013, Sedgemoor stood ready to help West Somerset but an alternative way forward was forged with Taunton Deane. This was taken as an indication that West Somerset were not keen to work closely with Sedgemoor."

"In the meantime, Sedgemoor has entered into many service-sharing agreements with a whole host of partners; many of which already include both West Somerset and Taunton Deane."

"In February 2016, Sedgemoor District Council joined with South Somerset District Council in a ‘Strategic Alliance’ which allows for appropriate elements, great initiatives and opportunities from previous business cases to be taken forward for further exploration. The benefits of this Alliance are savings and income generation, resilience, and a stronger voice across the region."

"Given the current plans over Devolution plans across Devon and Somerset, due to be discussed by Sedgemoor’s Full Council on August 3rd; plus a new Minister at the Department of Communities and Local Government and the previous abortive attempts at closer working and cost savings as indicated by the present situation, Sedgemoor District Council is of the opinion that the most practical and sustainable solution to the financial problems facing Taunton Deane and West Somerset is via the Boundary Commission, rather than forced mergers and cost cutting."

The matter will be further discussed by Sedgemoor District Council members at a Full Council meeting on August 3rd.

 

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