Today, the Communities Secretary announced that local government in Somerset will be restructured, replacing the five existing councils with one unitary authority.
I’m delighted by today's announcement of a single unitary council for Somerset, which will generate considerable efficiency savings, improved financial resilience, and – most importantly – deliver better services for the people of Somerset.
The superb work of our councils (and councillors) throughout the pandemic proves just how critical they really are. I believe this dynamic new authority will be best placed to tackle our challenges head on, fuelling our economic recovery from the pandemic, but also delivering on priorities such as broadband, transport connectivity and education.
The experiences of neighbouring counties – Wiltshire, Dorset and Cornwall – show starkly that unitary councils provide better co-ordination of services and resources, and draw clearer lines of accountability between the local authority and the public. Of course, it’s vital that the local knowledge of our existing district councils is not lost, and I’m glad that the One Somerset proposal includes a web of fifteen community networks to ensure the council remains engaged with communities across the length and breadth of Somerset.
The opportunity to help and serve those in our part of Somerset is something for which I’m hugely grateful, and – now that the Communities Secretary has fired the starting pistol – I do very much look forward to working with our new council as it takes its first breath.