A series of experts’ reports has been published this week analysing Stronger Somerset – a proposal to replace Somerset’s existing five councils with two new unitary authorities and a separate children’s services alternative delivery vehicle, shared services company, and a combined authority for the area.
The Government is currently considering changing the way local councils work in Somerset and a public consultation is now open. It gives everyone the chance to have their say on setting up a unitary council approach – replacing all five councils in the county and creating a new and better way of working.
The Stronger Somerset proposal has been submitted by the four district councils in Somerset and the county council has been asked by government to feed back on that proposal as the main consultee. To inform this response to government, Somerset County Council has commissioned four independent reports to analyse the approach that Stronger Somerset proposes.
The first report by PricewaterhouseCooper looks at the overall Stronger Somerset proposal, while there are three further reports by independent experts looking at the plans for adult social care, children’s services, and place services, like highways, economy, and environment.
These can be found here: Proposals (onesomerset.org.uk)
Somerset County Council is proposing One Somerset, an ambition to replace the county’s five existing councils with a simple, single unitary model. This would end confusion for residents, remove waste and duplication, and free up funding to invest in vital public services. It would offer more powers for local communities and give Somerset one strong voice to lobby for funding and support the county’s recovery from coronavirus.
Cllr David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, is calling for everyone to support the plans and help shape the future for Somerset.
“This is a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to improve public services for everyone in Somerset,” he said. “We cannot stay the same. We are proposing a new, modern council that will deliver what matters most to our communities. One, strong council will end the duplication, waste and confusion and provide a single, clear voice for Somerset.
“I strongly encourage all residents, organisations and businesses to get behind One Somerset and make sure the Government hears your voice.”
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.
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/ .
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 with progress on Twitter @One1Somerset and on Facebook @OneSomerset.