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26.07.16

Sedgemoor rejects ‘forced merger’ with West Somerset and Taunton Deane

A proposed merger between Sedgemoor District Council, West Somerset Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council has been rejected by Sedgemoor.

Cllrs John Williams and Anthony Trollope-Bellew, the leaders of Taunton Deane and West Somerset councils, invited Sedgemoor to join their merger yesterday.

However, Sedgemoor said the short notice for the merger had not given it time to consider the business case for the proposals.

“Despite a government directive for councils to consult with neighbouring authorities, Sedgemoor is at a loss that it is only at the 11th hour and 59th minute that an invitation has been extended to Sedgemoor to explore a business case,” the council said in a statement.

It added that it has already entered into service-sharing agreements with partners including West Somerset and Taunton Deane councils, and a strategic alliance with South Somerset District Council.

Given the current plans over devolution across Devon and Somerset, plus a new minister at the DCLG, Sedgemoor District Council said: “It is of the opinion that the most practical and sustainable solution to the financial problems facing Taunton Deane and West Somerset is via the Boundary Commission, rather than forced mergers and cost cutting.”

Sedgemoor’s decision follows a vote by Norwich City Council and Breckland Council last month to reject plans for a joint devolution deal between Norfolk and Suffolk, whilst Hampshire County Council has refused to join the Solent Combined Authority.

The government’s record on devolution has come under criticism recently, with a Public Accounts Committee report saying that it has been “unclear and inconsistent” in how it has established devolution deals.

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