MP Ian Liddell Grainger

Somerset Tories remain at loggerheads over local elections in May

CONSERVATIVE MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has re-ignited the row over whether the local elections for Somerset County Council – due to be held on May 6 – should go ahead.

At a full meeting of the Conservative-led county council in November, members voted to call for the elections to be delayed because of the uncertainty over the proposals for local government reforms currently being considered by Whitehall.

Those proposals include a One Somerset plan, preferred by the county, and the Stronger Somerset plan, favoured by district councils.

The motion for the postponement received 34 votes in favour with 12 against and nine abstentions. Somerset council leader, Cllr David Fothergill, subsequently wrote to the Government calling for a delay.

But the Tories’ plea to extend their time in power without an election has been controversial from the start and now Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, has waded into the argument with both barrels.

He said: ““County council elections MUST go ahead.  The Government has decided to proceed with local elections in England this May. But the leader of the county council is still hoping Somerset will be made a ‘special’ case for local government reform which could delay elections for at least another year.

“This would be a dreadful state of affairs and undermine democracy itself.

“The last county elections were held four years ago. We may have put them in power back then. But denying the people a chance to throw them out now would be wrong.
“I do not believe Ministers will accept the county council’s argument. And I am quite sure voters would be furious.”

Cllr Fothergill said today: “We’ve always been really clear that our One Somerset proposal is needed to end confusion, give greater powers to local communities and free up millions of pounds to reinvest in vital public services.

“We have now submitted our final business case to the Government and they will decide how to take this forward, including whether an election this year is the right course of action.”

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