Somerset’s district councils have welcomed the launch of a public consultation on the Stronger Somerset plan to deliver better jobs, affordable homes, stronger communities and a carbon zero county.
Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP launched the consultation on the evening of Monday 22 February. The consultation period will run for 8 weeks until Monday 19 April.
District council Leaders are now encouraging residents to have their say and to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation chance to transform lives across our county.
Leader of Mendip District Council, Cllr Ros Wyke, said: “Stronger Somerset is the fresh start our county needs. We have a plan for the county’s needs now and into the future that will deliver better jobs, affordable homes, stronger communities and a carbon zero county. This is not about simply creating a bigger, cheaper version of what we have now. Stronger Somerset proposes deep, fundamental reform that will transform the places and quality of life in Somerset and give residents excellent, value-for-money services.”
Leader of Sedgemoor District Council, Cllr Duncan McGinty, said: “We need reform – without it, the county will go broke. Savings from reorganisation would soon be eaten up by spiralling costs of adults’ and children’s services, if they continue to be run as they are. Only the Stronger Somerset business case sets out the ideas, fresh thinking and evidence to show how reform can be achieved and sustain excellent services right across our communities.”
Leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, said: “Creating two councils from five is the opportunity to cut duplication in administration and support services and use the savings for targeted investment where resources are most needed, early intervention to prevent dependency on crisis services, new approaches in adults’ and children’s services and locally-led solutions to reduce demand on services. This is not about simply creating a bigger, cheaper version of what we have now. Moving the deckchairs around and changing the name plate won’t cut it.”
Leader of South Somerset District Council, Cllr Val Keitch, said: “The two new councils we propose will each cover distinct areas based on established local economies as well as aligning with existing boundaries used by emergency services and the health service. This is the right solution for a county of Somerset’s size, recognising the important differences of our diverse communities. These new councils will be small enough, so they know you and you know them, but big enough to be effective and economic. They will meet the needs of their local communities and work together for the benefit of the whole county.”
Stronger Somerset proposes two unitary authorities, covering western and eastern Somerset, to replace the five current councils. This arrangement reflects and serves the geographic, social and economic differences across the county.
Every Somerset resident will have one council responsible for their services, one set of councillors, and one council tax bill. These new councils would work closely with each other to coordinate policy and share back-office services where it makes sense.
For more information on the Stronger Somerset proposal go to www.strongersomerset.co.uk.
To respond to the Government’s consultation, go to https://consult.communities.gov.uk/governance-reform-and-democracy/somerset/. You can also respond by email or post.
The Government is also consulting on Somerset County Council’s alternative proposal, One Somerset.