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Somerset leader in 'bold' unitary bid

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The leader of Somerset CC has kickstarted talks of local government reorganisation.

David Fothergill (Con) has asked for work to begin to look at how a unitary arrangement could work in the county.

This would see the abolition of all six local authorities in the county – including the county council – and replacing them with a smaller number of single-tier authorities, or potentially just one authority.

The county council has claimed the move could save between £18m and £28m a year.

Cllr Fothergill (Con) said: “At a time of unprecedented financial pressures on all councils we are all looking at different ways to be more efficient, make savings and protect the frontline services that our residents value so much.

“I want to start the ball rolling on work to establish the benefits and costs of such a change so that we can all make an informed decision as to whether a unitary model is the right way to go.

“This is only the start of a conversation and what would be a long process. At this stage we don’t have all the answers, but I believe that in these difficult times we have to be bold enough to start asking the questions.”

2007 was the last time the idea of a unitary council for Somerset was discussed. Back then a poll of residents found a majority in favour of keeping the current two-tier arrangements.

“This hasn’t been looked at for ten years and the circumstances for local government have changed dramatically since then,” said Cllr Fothergill. “The time is right to look at this again.

“No-one can deny that a unitary model has huge potential for efficiencies, savings and reduction in duplication and bureaucracy. There will be arguments against this idea but I want to open up the discussion and see what options can come forward.” 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Well you could have waited for the new SoS to have a few days in the office before rolling out the CCN line to carve up the country into county based unitaries ..so predictable..come on DCN where are you!

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  • The potential savings speak for themselves and it's absolutely right to consider this, especially given the success of county unitaries such as Cornwall and Wiltshire since 2007.

    It's usually a brave person that suggests a debate on this so congratulations to Cllr Fothergill for being far-sighted enough to look at this. Reactionary forces in the DCN and unions may soon kick back but it surely is worth the prize for the residents of Somerset.

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