Improved public services and better outcomes for Somerset communities took a major step forward today after Somerset county councillors backed a new approach to local government.
County Councillors approved the One Somerset business case, which sets out ambitious and innovative plans to abolish all five Councils and replace them with a single council bringing numerous benefits and opportunities to Somerset businesses and communities.
“This was a big step, a really historic step, but one that will end confusion over which council does what and bring real benefits to our residents, businesses and communities,” said Council Leader David Fothergill.
“I’ve invited leaders from all parties to work with me to ensure we get it right for Somerset.”
The vote is the latest step to bring a single authority approach to Somerset with the business case due to be submitted to Government for a final ruling.
The business case has given a big tick to each of the Government’s tests for unitary status – it is based on local people having more say on decisions that affect them; it is the right size for our population; and it has good support. As today’s vote took place, the latest figures of an online survey show 60% of those taking part so far support moving to a single council.
One Somerset will deliver more efficient, accessible, effective and sustainable local services leading to improved lives and better outcomes for Somerset communities.
It will provide improved support to our most vulnerable, improve the life chances of our children and young people, reduce rural isolation and loneliness, deliver housing each community needs, increase investment in climate change and boost economic growth, jobs and apprenticeships.
Through the establishment of 15 to 20 new Local Community Networks (LCNs) across Somerset, One Somerset will also give local people the opportunity to shape their own communities. These will have real constitutional powers to scrutinise, impact and take decisions.
Estimated to save £18.5m per year through reducing duplication, efficiencies of scale and reduction to back office and multiple contracts, One Somerset will lead to more investment in prevention and service improvements.
Cllr Fothergill added: “All Councils agree change is needed – and Somerset is one of few Councils still operating in an outdated two-tier system. Most Local Authorities, including most of our neighbours, are now single council models and reaping the benefits of a more efficient, streamlined service bringing real benefits to the lives of communities.
“Five County and District Councils with different processes, politics and objectives leads to confusion, frustration and mess. One council for Somerset, all working together and closer than ever with partners and communities, will improve lives.”
The Council expects to receive a letter shortly from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, inviting the Council to submit its business case for official review.
Further consultation will then take place in autumn 2020 with the aim of a new single council fully operating from 2022.
To find out more about the One Somerset model, read the business case, and to have your say on the plans, please visit www.onesomerset.org.uk. You can stay up to date with the campaign on Twitter @One1Somerset and on Facebook @OneSomerset.