The ‘potential reorganisation of local government’ are words that don’t instil excitement in many people’s minds but such an activity will have a profound effect on all our lives; the everyday delivery of public sector services are usually delivered not by the headline grabbing Westminster central government, but by our local authorities; for us: Somerset County Council, Mendip District Council and Shepton Mallet Town Council.
Motivated to make local government both more financially efficient and improve the delivery of local services, the current county of Somerset has been invited (along with 2 other counties: Cumbria and North Yorkshire) to submit proposals for a local government reorganisation and become a ‘unitary authority’. It’s particularly pertinent for our county; our ageing population means pressure on adult social care is expected to rapidly increase over the next few years. The number of people aged 75 or older is expected to double by 2040 in Somerset.
Two potential outcomes are on the table; the current Somerset County Council has its One Somerset proposal and District Councils have submitted their Stronger Somerset proposal to effectively merge and share services (for us, resulting in the current Mendip and South Somerset District Councils creating one ‘Eastern Somerset’ District Council).
The process for deciding which solution will be implemented at a much later date but the public consultation is well under way. Information on the two proposed new structures can be found by searching online for both ‘Stronger Somerset’ and ‘One Somerset’. To complete the online consultation, simply search for ‘gov.uk Somerset Unitarisation’. The consultation closes on 19 April.
As a Town Council, we will be investigating both structures to reach an understanding as to the potential impact on our level of responsibility. I will keep you posted as to our findings and discussions!
Until next time.
Matt Harrison, Chairperson