Somerset

Somerset's unitary authority bid backed by council

David Fothergill Image copyright Somerset County Council
Image caption Council leader David Fothergill told the online meeting: "This is about a single powerful voice to lobby government"

Plans to create a new, single council for Somerset will be submitted to the government following a vote by councillors.

County councillors voted 33-14 in favour of a business case which would see five main councils replaced with a unitary authority.

The business case for the move claims it will save £50m over five years.

Critics said this aim is more a hope than a guarantee and they feared the changes will result in major job cuts.

The council leader, Conservative David Fothergill, said: “This is about a single powerful voice to lobby government.”

The business case will now be sent to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, for review.

'Somerset is too big'

Liberal Democrat, Liz Leyshon, who voted against the plans, said: "I don't think there's adequate contingency in it, the timescale won't work.

"When you look at counties as close as Dorset, some of the promises in there didn't actually happen.

"I know Covid is a disaster across the world but redundancies for a few hundred people in Somerset could not come at a worse time."

Image copyright Google
Image caption In 2006 a motion was passed instructing the council to prepare the bid and submission for unitary status by January 2007

At the moment Somerset comprises South Somerset, Mendip, Somerset West and Taunton, and Sedgemoor district councils, as well as the county council.

Green councillor, Martin Dimery, said: “Somerset is simply too big geographically to operate all services evenly, fairly and effectively.

“What works for Bristol or Swindon doesn’t work in large areas of countryside.”

It is not the first time the county has sought to change to a unitary authority.

In 2006 a motion was passed instructing the council to prepare the bid and submission for unitary status by January 2007.

The bid was rejected by central government the following July.

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