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Plans to scrap six councils in major merger could save £28m a year

Plans to scrap all six councils in Somerset could save the area between £18m and £28m a year, it has been claimed.

Conservative leader of Somerset County Council, David Fothergill, has asked for work to begin on looking into how a possible unitary model could be feasible.

Such an arrangement would see one single tier authority replace all six of Somerset’s councils, including Somerset County, Taunton Deane Borough, South Somerset, West Somerset, Sedgemoor District and Mendip District.

Cllr Fothergill said: “At a time of unprecedented financial pressures on all councils we are all looking at different ways to be more efficient, make savings and protect the frontline services that our residents value so much.

“I believe that we owe it to our residents to look at this option too. I want start the ball rolling on work to establish the benefits and costs of such a change so that we can all make an informed decision as to whether a unitary model is the right way to go.

“This is only the start of a conversation and what would be a long process. At this stage we don’t have all the answers, but I believe that in these difficult times we have to be bold enough to start asking the questions.”

In a statement from Somerset County Council, it was claimed that possible benefits of switching to a unitary arrangement include savings of up to £500,000 by switching from five chief execs to just one, as well as savings of around £1m a year by halving the number of councillors.

In 2007, residents of Somerset rejected the idea of a unitary local authority in a poll, but Cllr Fothergill argues that circumstances have changed since.

“This hasn’t been looked at for 10 years and the circumstances for local government have changed dramatically since then,” he added.

Last year, former communities secretary Sajid Javid was minded to approve the merger of two Somerset councils – Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset District – after being satisfied that the proposals met the correct criteria.


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