Somerset County Councillors have this week approved a business case that sets out controversial plans to abolish all five Councils and replace them with a single council.
Somerset County Council’s ‘One Somerset’ project is aims to replace all five existing councils with a new single council for Somerset, with the business case highlighting a number of potential financial benefits.
The plans are controversial, with town councillors in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge voicing concerns about the long-term implications and costs.
The business case was approved on Wednesday (July 29th).
Somerset County Council Leader David Fothergill said: “This was a big step, 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.”
“I’ve invited leaders from all parties to work with me to ensure we get it right for Somerset.”
The vote is the latest step to bring a single authority approach to Somerset with the business case due to be submitted to Government for a final ruling.
The Council expects to receive a letter shortly from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, inviting the Council to submit its business case for official review.
Further consultation will then take place in autumn 2020 with the aim of a new single council fully operating from 2022.
The council says the business case has given a ‘big tick to each of the Government’s tests for unitary status’, adding that it is based on local people having more say on decisions that affect them; it is the right size for our population; and it has good support. As Wednesday’s vote took place, the latest figures of an online survey showed 60% of those taking part so far support moving to a single council.
One Somerset aims to deliver more efficient, accessible, effective and sustainable local services.
Through the establishment of 15 to 20 new Local Community Networks (LCNs) across Somerset, One Somerset also aims to give local people the opportunity to shape their own communities with constitutional powers to scrutinise, impact and take decisions.
Estimated to save £18.5m per year through reducing duplication, efficiencies of scale and reduction to back office and multiple contracts, One Somerset will lead to more investment in prevention and service improvements.
Cllr Fothergill added: “All Councils agree change is needed – and Somerset is one of few Councils still operating in an outdated two-tier system. Most Local Authorities, including most of our neighbours, are now single council models and reaping the benefits of a more efficient, streamlined service bringing real benefits to the lives of communities.”
“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.”
To find out more about the One Somerset model, read the business case, and to have your say on the plans, visit www.onesomerset.org.uk.