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Merging of two Somerset councils approved

Words: Laura Edgar
West Somerset and Taunton Deane councils merger / iStock-864489188

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has signed a Structural Change Order paving the way for Taunton Deane and West Somerset councils to become one unitary authority.

The two councils will become one in April 2019, with elections scheduled to be held in May.

The single authority will cover the geographical area of the two councils.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the existing councils, John Williams (Taunton Deane) and Anthony Trollope-Bellew (West Somerset), said: “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 £3.1 million for the taxpayer and help us to protect services people value, cut red tape, reduce duplication and keep council tax bills low.”

“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.”

Williams and Trollope-Bellew said the merger won’t be one of old, but that identity “lies in our people, our landscape and our character”.

“That will not change.”

Until next April, a shadow council will be in place, which aims to ensure the “safe transition from the two existing councils” to the new council.

Image credit | iStock