A special Scrutiny meeting was held today to discuss the potential impact of a two-unitary system of local government on adult social care and children’s services.
The Government is currently consulting with the public on proposals to replace Somerset’s existing five councils with a new unitary system.
Today, a special Joint Scrutiny for Adults, Health, Children and Families was held to discuss two expert reports analysing Stronger Somerset – the proposal favoured by Somerset’s district councils.
This would replace Somerset’s existing five councils with two new unitary authorities and a separate children’s services alternative delivery model, a shared services company, and a combined authority for the area. So, replacing five existing councils with five new organisations.
Somerset County Council’s proposal – called One Somerset – would see the four district councils and the county council replaced with a single unitary authority. So, replacing five existing councils with one new organisation.
The County Council has been asked by Government to feedback on the Stronger Somerset proposal as the main consultee and commissioned four expert reports to inform its response (see notes to editors)
Today’s meeting considered the adult social care report with Professor John Bolton and the children’s services report with author Trevor Doughty. The first two reports were scrutinised last week.
The full expert reports can be found here: Proposals (onesomerset.org.uk)
Cllr Hazel Prior-Sankey, Chair of the Adults and Health Scrutiny Committee, summarised the adult social care discussion and asked if Members agreed with it.
She said: “Thank you for answering all these questions. Firstly, I think what we know is that we’re well along the journey to improvement from where we were, and Adult Social Care is performing well with our partners in the NHS and other providers. I suppose the big question is will they be worse under Stronger Somerset? We’ve heard there is a risk that under Stronger Somerset services will take considerable time to stabilise and to be as good as they are now. If I can sum up in seven words: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“I would encourage all members of the public to engage with the consultation and consider both the One Somerset and Stronger Somerset business cases.”
Members voted to agree with her summary by 10 votes to 3 abstentions.
The consultation period will run until Monday 19 April. Those responding may do so on the department’s online platform ‘Citizen Space’ or by email or post. To take part in the Government’s consultation and have your say, please visit https://consult.communities.gov.uk/governance-reform-and-democracy/somerset/.
A final decision on which proposal will go forward to implementation is expected to be taken by Government in summer 2021, with any new authority starting in 2023.
For more information about One Somerset, to sign up for e-newsletters or to pledge your support, please visit www.onesomerset.org.uk. You can stay up to date on Twitter @One1Somerset and on Facebook @OneSomerset. You can find out more about the Stronger Somerset proposal at https://www.strongersomerset.co.uk/