Yesterday, the Local Government Secretary announced a single new unitary council will be established in Somerset. This is the One Somerset model promoted by Somerset County Council.
Consultation has been underway since last autumn. The change comes during a pandemic and only two years after two district councils were merged to form Somerset West and Taunton Council. That change was disruptive and wasted millions. Now we are faced with another disruptive reorganisation.
Both changes have been proposed by the Conservatives. It’s unbelievable that they could make one major change to be followed so soon by another.
At this time, no change would have been more sensible, but we were told that was not an option. It was only a choice between the size of unitary council or councils to be introduced. I much preferred the Western and Eastern two unitary model promoted by the four District Councils as Stronger Somerset.
However, a single county-wide council is what it is to be, replacing the County Council and all the District Councils.
It is proposed to form a Local Government Reorganisation Board from September, involving existing Councils and other representatives, including from parish councils and the voluntary sector.
A shadow council will be elected in May 2022 and the new council will take over in May 2023.
It is planned to create 15-20 Local Community Networks involving new unitary councillors, representaitives from town and parish councils and other statutory and voluntary sectors. These will have some spending powers and officer support. Wiveliscombe and West Deane Parishes could be in a LCN with Wellington. Brendon Hills Parishes could be with the rest of West Somerset.
However, there are still many details to be confirmed and many decisions to be taken. I will update this page as more becomes clear.
We now know change is on the way. All involved need to ensure the transition works as well as possible and that we make the best of the new situation.