Vote on merging Somerset councils' services

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Taunton Deane councillors have voted in favour of continuing to look into merging services with a neighbouring authority threatened by bankruptcy.

West Somerset District Council is losing £100,000 a year and was warned it was not viable in the long term.

It has been working on a business case with Taunton Deane Borough Council to cut costs by sharing staff and services

At a meeting on Monday, Taunton councillors voted 25 to 23 to continue to press ahead with making a deal.

The proposal to support joint working, particularly joint management and shared services, was recommended to the council by Taunton Deane Borough Council leader John Williams.

'No dowry'

According to Mr Williams as funding gets "more challenging and more risky" Taunton council "will be in the same position as West Somerset Council" in three to four years if it does nothing.

"We are looking at a business case. We are examining if there are any savings to be had in shared management or shared services," he said before the meeting.

"If we do not even look to see if they're there how will we know. Why would you not look for savings in this very difficult economic climate?"

Despite assurances that there would be "no dowry or financial support" expected and the authority would "not be subsiding West Somerset District Council", Lib Dem councillor Jefferson Horsley said it was a "disaster waiting to happen".

"I don't believe if we go into this there'll be any turning back," he said.

"Therefore we are going to find ourselves rescuing a failing council to the detriment of our tax payers and no net benefit to anyone."

Under the merger proposals, both councils would retain their "democratic independence as two sovereign local authorities" and remain responsible for the government of their own area.

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