Government receives details of Stronger Somerset proposal as plans for a fresh start move forward
The draft Stronger Somerset proposal has now been submitted to Government to keep key ministers up to date with our ambitious plan for a better future.
While our final business case for change will continue to be shaped by residents, parish and town councils and key partners in the coming weeks, the principles of Stronger Somerset have been explained to decision makers in Westminster including Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Local Government.
Stronger Somerset is a comprehensive plan that offers a fresh start for Somerset and will give it more control over its future with more power and more funding to invest in our communities.
It lays out our vision for innovation in adult care and children's services, and for a new relationship with towns and parishes.
Our plan will simplify our local government structure with two new Councils for East and West, while creating a Combined Authority so more decisions can be made locally. Its focus is on jobs and opportunity, on tackling the climate and ecology crisis and on long-term investment, not more cuts, so that hard-working staff can deliver better outcomes.
It's not about breaking Somerset into two. It's about creating a better connected system of local government that preserves local democracy and protects the voices of our diverse communities and businesses.
In a joint statement, the Leaders of Somerset's district councils said: "We are delighted to be able to share our exciting vision of the future with ministers and, we need to be clear, no change is not an option in Somerset. We are all agreed on the need for change but the county council and the districts fundamentally differ in our view of why we need to reorganise. This cannot be about delivering the cheapest form of Government without tackling the growing costs of services.
"Stronger Somerset is the only option to create a real solution to the challenges we face across the county. With 25% of our children living in poverty, with services for our young people with special needs failing, with communities feeling left behind and disconnected we can't afford to keep things the way they are.
"Our understanding is that the future of how we provide services in Somerset is not off the government's agenda. Full-scale change for Somerset's local government is coming and we do not want to be left with the same old-fashioned system which saw Somerset County Council have to make devastating cuts to its services just to stay afloat. We cannot take that risk. Our vision for the future will create a Somerset where we can invest in our diverse and brilliant towns, city and villages and truly make a difference."
Since we started talking about Stronger Somerset with our communities, Stronger Somerset has received increasing support from people we meet online and in person, from businesses, from MPs, from towns and parish councils. This support crosses political and geographical divides.
Stronger Somerset is building a coalition for reform, not just re-organisation, and the district councils are showing the leadership, the spirit of collaboration and the passion for Somerset that the county deserves.
Over the next few weeks, there will be a number of consultation and engagement events to create a consensus for a new system of local government. We look forward to hearing from you all as we build a Stronger Somerset.
And you can have your say now by visiting www.strongersomerset.co.uk or following us on social media (Twitter and Facebook) @strongsomerset.
Issued on behalf of the Leaders of Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset West & Taunton Council, and South Somerset District Council