THE Leaders of two Somerset councils are welcoming the Government’s announcement that it is approving the creation of a new district council covering their areas.
The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government, today (Thursday) told Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset Councils of his decision which will be subject to Parliamentary approval. The link to his statement is HERE
The Minister said: “On 30 November 2017 I told the House that I was minded to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, the locally-led proposal I had received from West Somerset District Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council to merge, and I invited representations before I took my final decision on this proposal.
“Having carefully considered all the representations I have received and all the relevant information available to me, I am today announcing that I have decided to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, the proposal to merge West Somerset District Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council to become a new single district council named Somerset West and Taunton District Council.
“I have reached my decision having regard to the criteria for district council mergers that I announced to the House on 7 November 2017. I am satisfied that these criteria are met and that the new district council is likely to improve local government and service delivery in the area, commands a good deal of local support, and that the new council area is a credible geography.
“I now intend to prepare and lay before Parliament drafts of the necessary secondary legislation to give effect to my decision. My intention is that if Parliament approves this legislation the new council will be established on 1 April 2019 with the first election to the council held on 2 May 2019.
The councils voted earlier this week to give their consent to the start of the legal process, while the respective Executive and Cabinet agreed the name of the new authority – Somerset West and Taunton, the number of councillors and to request a boundary review.
“There is much that needs to be done,” said the Leaders, Cllrs John Williams (Taunton Deane) and Anthony Trollope-Bellew (West Somerset). “We can now start making definitive plans to make sure that a new council can be ready for business in May 2019, following local elections.
“This is now the time for us all to work together to make sure that we can deliver a unified, modern and fit-for- purpose council to serve all our residents.”
The two councils have been working in a formal partnership since 2013, sharing a Chief Executive and a single set of staff – the One Team. The partnership has delivered annual savings of £1.8m used to maintain important front line services.
The councils are implementing new ways of working to streamline and modernise what they do and this will deliver some £2.6m in savings. The new council initiative will increase the savings to £3.1m annually.
The Leaders said: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that he is approving the proposal for a single new council. This has been an understandably long process and the final decision gives us the ability to look forward with far more clarity, and unity.
“This new council will make sure we can continue to deliver our services in a way that’s sustainable into the future. We know that our residents value those services highly. It will also allow us to focus on boosting our economy, supporting the delivery of Hinkley Point C new nuclear power station and fully embracing the opportunity afforded by Garden Town status awarded to Taunton.
“We must also make the most of the great natural assets that exist – Exmoor National Park, the coastline, Quantock and Blackdown Hills and the Somerset Levels.”
Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow added; “I welcome the news that the Secretary of State has approved the merger of Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset District Council. This is something both councils unanimously supported themselves, having followed due process. The two councils have already been successfully sharing services and merging means further savings can be made. I have always made the case that if a merger will benefit residents in my constituency, and if it ultimately means a more efficient council service, then it makes sense.”