Surveys of residents and businesses across the county will take place from this week as Somerset County Council gathers views towards disbanding all five councils and setting up a new single Unitary Authority.
It follows a decision in February that Somerset County Council will look to reduce duplication and waste across the five councils and instead involve communities more closely in decisions that have an impact in their area through a new One Somerset approach.
Somerset County Council Leader David Fothergill said: “Our focus has been, and continues to be on coronavirus and keeping people in Somerset safe. This goes without saying. However, as we move towards recovery we also need to be looking ahead and preparing to support our residents and businesses in uncertain economic times.
“The evidence shows there are significant benefits in removing five councils and replacing them with one – benefits which will support our communities going forward.
“We are continuing to develop our business case transparently so we can present it to Full Council in July. We want people to really understand what these benefits will mean to them and it’s important we gather the views of the public as best we can.”
In a joint report commissioned by all five councils before the coronavirus pandemic, it was unanimously agreed that the existing arrangements were not working well, and that change was needed.
Cllr Fothergill was quick to praise the joint working of the councils throughout the crisis. “Coronavirus has shown that working in a crisis with our district colleagues can bring about some great results. But it shouldn’t take a crisis to do that – we know that having one Council will keep those great services going but also free up vital funding to invest in key areas like climate change and more local decision making. We need this to work not just in a crisis, but in our day-to-day operations and that’s what unitary will do for Somerset.”
And he pointed out that if the government supported the proposal, it would see all councils scrapped and replaced with a new unitary authority.
“This would allow more decisions to be made locally at parish, town and city level rather than in more remote district councils head-quarters,” he said.
For more information, visit the One Somerset website at onesomerset.org.uk