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30.05.18

Councils ‘delighted’ with Somerset merger government approval

The formation of a new Somerset council has been given the seal of approval by the government.

The merger of Taunton Deane and West Somerset councils has received official approval by housing, communities and local government (HCLG) secretary, James Brokenshire.

Previous HCLG secretary, Sajid Javid, said that he was “minded to” approve the strategy in December 2017.

The new council will be formed in April 2019, with elections held the following month.

In a joint statement, John Williams, leader of Taunton Deane Council, and Anthony Trollope-Bellew, leader of West Somerset Council, said that they were “delighted” that the Structural Change Order (SCO) has been signed after a long process.

They expect the merger to enable savings of at least £3.1m, with staff no longer expected to divide their time between two separate councils.

“While savings are important, this is also about being stronger together. Our shared, single team of staff has increased our capacity and made us more resilient.

“The creation of a new council will strengthen this. And we need that resilience and purpose to tackle the challenges that lie ahead,” the leaders added.

They continued: “This is about creating a new council that puts local people first and is fit for the 21st century. It won’t be a bolt-together or merger of the old.

“Council boundaries and names do not create identity – after all, the current councils are not even 50 years old. Identity lies in our people, our landscape and our character. That will not change.”

Until the new council is established, a shadow council will be in place in order to monitor the delivery of the Implementation Plan and ensure a safe transition to the new council.

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Image credit: Neil Owen

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