POLL: ‘Why the panic?’: District councils respond to unitary plan approval for Somerset

“IT is unclear why the council’s leader is in such a panic to submit its case…”

The district councils of Somerset – Somerset West and Taunton, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and Mendip – have issued a statement making clear their opposition to plans to abolish them and create a unitary authority in the county.

On Wednesday, Somerset County Council approved the business plan for creating the unitary authority, which is now set to be sent to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, for approval.

Leader of the county council, David Fothergill, said the move would save around £18.5m per year, and would bring Somerset in line with many other councils across the country.

But the districts have now responded, with a statement outlining their opposition to the move, as well as writing to Secretary of State themselves.

“Yesterday, as expected, Somerset County Council agreed and submitted its business case to Government for a single county unitary council,” the statement said.

“However, no invitation has yet been issued by the Secretary of State and so no change to council structures can be considered until then.

“It is unclear why the county council’s leader, David Fothergill, is in such a panic to submit its case before an invitation has been received and people in Somerset have had a chance to debate it.

“Somerset’s district councils remain disappointed that the county council walked away from the shared work to create a better, more integrated system of local government in Somerset that will improve quality of life for communities and make the system more efficient.

READ MORE: Plan to abolish district councils in Somerset approved

“We are committed as four districts to continuing to work together and with others to improve the system of local government for the benefit of everyone in Somerset.

“To point out the obvious, four of the five councils in Somerset do not think a single unitary is the right solution for our residents and the county council’s isolated position on this remains the odd one out in this debate.

“We have written to the Secretary of State to inform him that a business case for change that will serve the people and communities of Somerset better is being developed but we will not be submitting our plans until we have fully engaged with the people of Somerset who must be at the centre of any future proposal.”

READ MORE: Somerset County Council leader on why unitary is ‘right for Somerset’
READ MORE: MP questions why unitary council case is being ‘steamrollered through’

Somerset County Gazette | News