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Somerset councils merger approved by government

image captionWest Somerset councillors voted in favour of the merger

The merger of two Somerset councils will go ahead next year after receiving final government approval.

The single authority for Taunton Deane and West Somerset will come into being in April 2019 following agreement by the Secretary of State.

The new council will replace Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council.

Elections will be held in May 2019, a joint statement from the council leaders said.

Councillors voted in favour of the plan in March, despite opposition by some members.

'Sharing resources'

The Liberal Democrats, as well as some Conservative councillors and West Somerset and Bridgwater MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, had opposed the merger.

Since 2013, both councils have been sharing resources, saving £2.6m.

A statement from John Williams, leader of Taunton Deane, and Anthony Trollope-Bellew, leader of West Somerset, said the merger would increase the savings to £3.1m a year.

The statement said: "It means that our one team of officers will, in future, be serving a single council and that will deliver significant financial and efficiency benefits as staff will no longer have to divide their time between two separate councils."

Once merged the council will be named Somerset West and Taunton Council.

In a separate move, Somerset's councils agreed earlier this month to review the structure of local government in the county after Somerset County Council suggested replacing the six authorities with one or more unitary authorities.

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