County Hall

Councillors scrutinise Somerset unitary proposals

The Government is considering changing the way local councils work in Somerset and a public consultation is now open.

Members sitting on Somerset County Council’s Scrutiny for Policies and Place Committee were asked to comment on the consultation process and also scrutinise two expert reports analysing Stronger Somerset – the proposal favoured by Somerset’s district councils.

The county council’s proposal – called One Somerset – would see the four district councils and the county council replaced with a single unitary authority. So replacing five existing councils with one new organisation.

Stronger Somerset would replace Somerset’s existing five councils with two new unitary authorities and a separate children’s services alternative delivery model, a shared services company, and a combined authority for the area.

The county council has been asked by Government to feedback on that proposal as the main consultee and commissioned four expert reports to inform its response.

The first report by PricewaterhouseCooper looks at the overall Stronger Somerset proposal, while there are three further reports looking at the specific plans for adult social care, children’s services, and place services, like highways, economy, and environment.

The meeting considered the PWC report with author Ben Pykett as well as the report into Place Services with author Neil Gibson. The second two reports looking at adults’ and children’s services will be scrutinised at a separate Scrutiny meeting next week.

The full reports can be found here: Proposals (onesomerset.org.uk)

Cllr Anna Groskop, Chair of Scrutiny Policies and Place, said: “I’d like to thank the two report authors for joining us today and sharing their expert views on the Stronger Somerset business case. It’s really important we all take the opportunity to review both business cases and take part in the Government consultation.”

The consultation period will run until Monday, April 19. 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, visit https://consult.communities.gov.uk/governance-reform-and-democracy/somerset/

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.

You can find out more about the Stronger Somerset proposal at https://www.strongersomerset.co.uk

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