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Rescue for 'unviable' council takes shape

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Draft rescue plans for financially ‘unviable’ West Somerset DC include proposals to share a management team and services with neighbouring Taunton Deane, council papers reveal.

The initial proposals for the shared arrangments are progressing despite only a minority of Taunton Deane councillors supporting the idea, they reveal.

Taunton Deane’s corporate scrutiny committee is due to discuss outline plans this week, including the creation of a joint members advisory panel and a joint programme board. The latter will be tasked with creating a detailed joint management proposal for consideration in October and implementation in April 2014.

However, a report to the committee notes that while 91% of Taunton Deane members “showed a clear appetite for shared services” only 41% support shared management. “Not a majority – but significant enough to suggest it is something we could explore further”, the report states.

The two councils are drawing up plans for closer working after an LGA assessment of West Somerset’s long-term future branded it “unviable and recommended the pursuit of a boundary review.

However, ministers did not support such a review which had the potential to create a unitary government in Somerset. West Somerset was instead advised to explore joint working with neighbouring authorities.

Costs associated with the drawing up of a business plan include £10,000 for additional services which will have to be paid to Southwest One, the back office joint venture between IBM, Somerset CC and Taunton Deane BC, according to the papers. A further £25,000 may be needed to resource external advice, the papers state.

Councillors will be asked to choose between paying £57,000 towards additional staff or allowing lower priority work to be rescheduled or stopped.

The chief executives of both authorities are investigating the possibility of LGA or government funding to assist with the business plan development. Those requests are thought to have been answered last week with local government minister Brandon Lewis’ announcement of a £9.2m ‘challenge award’ fund for councils moving to shared management arrangements.

Taunton Deane councillors are to discuss the proposals this week; West Somerset members will do so next week.


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Jeff Horsley

    This report iis little more than an attempt to form a suicide pact with West Somerset when the CEO of Taunton Deane asserts that if we don't join this exploration then we face our own "fiscal cliff". It is extraordinary that the CEO has so little confidence in the future that she thinks Taunton Deane is better off aligning itself with a "failing" council. No sharing of services will overcome the need to obtain growth and that West Somerset has no chance of achieving. Jefferson Horsley chairman of Taunton Deane Corporate Scrutiny Committee

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