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Somerset councils merger approved by government

The merger of two Somerset councils will go ahead next year after receiving final government approval.

The single authority for Taunton Deane and West Somerset will come into being in April 2019 following agreement by the Secretary of State.

The new council will replace Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council.

Elections will be held in May 2019, a joint statement from the council leaders said.

Councillors voted in favour of the plan in March, despite opposition by some members.

The Liberal Democrats, as well as some Conservative Councillors and West Somerset and Bridgwater MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, had opposed the merger.

Since 2013, both councils have been sharing resources, saving £2.6m.

A statement from John Williams, leader of Taunton Deane, and Anthony Trollope-Bellew, leader of West Somerset, said the merger would increase the savings to £3.1m a year.

The statement said: “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.”

Once merged the council will be named Somerset West and Taunton Council.

In a separate move, Somerset’s councils agreed earlier this month to review the structure of local government in the county after Somerset County Council suggested replacing the six authorities with one or more unitary authorities.

Chris Langdon, Interim Chief Executive at the Somerset Chamber of Commerce commented ”We understand that there is a constant need to look at ways to improve productivity and the services delivered by our councils in Somerset are under the same pressures. Clearly the discussion comes from a background of cuts to public service funding and the opportunity to make savings of up to £28m is a compelling reason for the merger.” 

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