Today I am covering an item many of you may have heard or read about – the future of local government in Somerset.
In our county, there are currently four district councils and one county council, in addition to city, town and parish councils. To many people, understandably, it can be quite confusing to know which council is in charge of what! Last week a proposal was launched to make things clearer and more efficient.
At Mendip District Council, we have been working together with the other three districts (South Somerset, Somerset West & Taunton and Sedgemoor) to come up with a fresh approach for the restructuring of our councils – replacing five councils with two – with savings of more than £204 million. The proposal, which was launched last week, is called ‘Stronger Somerset.’
Geographically, Somerset is a large county. The Stronger Somerset bid will see plans for a Western Somerset Council and an Eastern Somerset Council. This is a serious alternative to the single unitary council bid for the whole of Somerset, proposed by Somerset County Council. We think our way is smarter, more democratic, and stronger.
We need to create a stronger economy – now more than ever – and tackle the climate emergency by building a greener Somerset. We need truly affordable housing for local people and the infrastructure to support them.
Our two-unitary bid is not an exercise in reorganisation. This is complete reform so we can make genuine savings while tackling things that matter to people like social care, child poverty and inequality.
I believe the two-unitary approach provides the right building blocks for a county of our size so that local government remains close, accessible and accountable to the people it serves, and can shape the places it is responsible for.
The Stronger Somerset proposal is the result of many months of detailed research, planning and consultation, with the four district councils working together, alongside experts in Somerset and across the UK.
We can build on the great work done by our communities during Covid-19 and give town and parish councils a real voice, providing them with the powers and resources they need to really allow services to be tailored to suit local needs.
Central government made it clear that they want a unitary solution for Somerset – we think Stronger Somerset fulfils that brief and will fundamentally change the way we work to secure a brighter, sustainable future. You can read more about our plans here: www.strongersomerset.co.uk.
I’m always happy to answer any questions you have and, as always, do let me know if you have any topics you’d like me to cover by sending an email to: [email protected]