THE Leaders of two Somerset councils are delighted to announce that a new, single council for Taunton Deane and West Somerset has received official approval from the Government, marking the final stage in the process.
The Structural Change Order (SCO) to create the new council has been signed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP.
The new council will come into being in April 2019 with elections being held a month later, in early May.
It will replace the existing Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset Councils and cover the geographical area of those two authorities.
The Leaders of the existing councils, John Williams (Taunton Deane) and Anthony Trollope-Bellew (West Somerset), said: “We are delighted that the SCO has been signed and that the new council will come into being next year.
“This has been a long – and not always easy – process. We both have long affiliations to our respective areas and we remain proud to have led Taunton Deane and West Somerset through some turbulent times.
“Our focus is – and always has been – on our people: our residents, businesses, partners and our staff. The single new, modern and fit-for-purpose council will enable us to make savings of at least £3.1m for the taxpayer and help us to protect services people value, cut red tape, reduce duplication and keep council tax bills low.
“It means that our One Team of officers will, in future, be serving a single council and that will deliver significant financial and efficiency benefits as staff will no longer have to divide their time between two separate councils.
“While savings are important, this is also about being stronger together. Our shared, single team of staff has increased our capacity and made us more resilient. The creation of a new council will strengthen this. And we need that resilience and purpose to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
“We are going to change the way we work and deliver services – a process known as transformation – so that we can work far more closely with our residents and businesses with the focus firmly on them.
“This is about creating a new council that puts local people first and is fit for the 21st century. It won’t be a bolt-together or merger of the old. Council boundaries and names do not create identity – after all the current councils are not even 50 years old. Identity lies in our people, our landscape and our character. That will not change.
“We would like to echo the message so well voiced by Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP: ‘we should wish the councils in West Somerset and Taunton Deane all the best as they embark on a new, bright future together as a new entity—Godspeed.’”
Until the new council comes into being, a shadow council will be in place. Its role is to ensure the safe transition from the two existing councils – Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset – to the new council in April next year.
The shadow council consists of all 84 members of the two existing councils and is an entity in its own right. It will monitor the delivery of the “Implementation Plan” drawn up to make sure that a legal, safe and functioning authority comes into being in 2019.