Somerset councils disagree on how to work together

County Hall, Taunton Image copyright Google
Image caption The report estimates that moving to one new authority covering all of Somerset could save up to £47m

Discussions by five councils in Somerset to work out how they could collaborate more or even merge have ended up in disagreement.

Somerset County Council wants to replace all five local authorities, including itself, with one new council.

But the four district councils across the county would prefer to work more closely together, rather than merging.

A report commissioned by all five councils looking at potential options has just been published.

The study cost £167,000 and was paid for by the county council and the four district councils: Sedgemoor, Mendip, South Somerset and Somerset West and Taunton.

The options suggested in the report range from staying with the same arrangements, to closer co-operation, or creating new authorities.

The new councils could include neighbouring authorities like North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset.

'One voice'

The report estimates that moving to one new authority covering all of Somerset could save up to £47m a year, but may cost more than £82m to implement.

It suggests that closer co-operation between councils could save £32m a year and cost £74m to bring in.

Somerset County Council leader councillor David Fothergill said: "All the options have merit, but I have said many times I believe the way forward is a single authority for Somerset.

"It makes sense for our residents to deal with just one authority. It makes sense to our businesses who will find it easier to grow the economy, and it makes sense for councillors to speak with one voice to government."

Image caption Councillor Val Keitch said one unitary authority would "not deliver services correctly for the people of Somerset"

Representing the four district councils Val Keitch, leader of South Somerset District Council, said: "We actually think change is needed. We acknowledge that, but we don't believe that one single unitary that covers from Porlock to Frome and beyond is the right way to deliver services.

"We think if we can have much closer collaboration between all five councils then that's the way to deliver services better because it keeps it local as well."

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