Response to 'One Somerset' and The Future of Local Government in Somerset
Joint statement from The Leaders of Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council and South Somerset District Council in Response to 'One Somerset' and The Future of Local Government in Somerset.
"We want to make it clear that the District Councils of Somerset do not support 'One Somerset' and the proposals for a single council for Somerset.
"The detailed work which the five councils of Somerset commissioned together clearly concluded that a single council was the wrong solution for the people and communities of Somerset.
"Somerset's District Councils have been focused in recent months on supporting our residents and businesses through the Coronavirus crisis. This remains our priority including focusing on how we help Somerset's communities and economy recover. However, as Somerset County Council is determined to push the debate on the future forward during the pandemic, as four districts we will now be putting our collective efforts to developing an alternative proposal. We have always said would refocus on this when the time was right.
"We know we can offer a better future for the people of Somerset that reforms local government and is ambitious for our communities and their quality of life. Somerset does not deserve the cheapest local Government. Somerset deserves the best local government.
"We will develop the best plan for the future with the help and involvement of our communities."
Local government has seen big reductions in funding from central government and that means challenges for everyone.
At the same time, the challenges our communities face require urgent attention which cannot wait.
The key challenges for Somerset communities, alongside recovering from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, are:
- High rates of children growing up in poverty and poor social mobility
- Large numbers of struggling families
- Growing numbers of older people who are increasingly living in poor health
- The climate emergency
- Homelessness and the lack of genuinely affordable housing
- The economy including productivity, skills and wage levels
District Councils in Somerset have already undertaken radical change and as a result are financially sustainable, and able to protect services to communities without making cuts. However, we recognise that further change is required in the future.
A team drawn from the five councils of Somerset, including the county council, undertook further work on the options, and we agreed the well-trodden path of a single Unitary model was not the right choice for Somerset.
Our invitation to Somerset County Council to rejoin this joint work remains open.
We will focus on a plan for widespread joint reform, that focuses on the needs of our communities.
Our aim is not to simply cut costs. Our intention is to find a way, to improve life for all residents in Somerset now and for the future.
Our communities do not deserve the cheapest local government. They deserve the best local government which will drive improvement in quality of life.
Just as Somerset County Council, we need to be invited by the Government to submit our plan for positive change in Somerset.
If that invitation is received, we will consult with our communities on our proposals to help the people we serve, alongside partners in the NHS, police and more, shape the way our plans develop.
This will be a plan developed with our communities to create a better future for everyone in Somerset.