Somerset Unitary Proposals

Yesterday Somerset County Council published the full business case for a Unitary Authority. The document is lengthy and detailed. It is however easy to read and not infused with the sort of corporate speak many of these documents use.

We could tell you all the good things in it, and why we think this is a good idea. But as readers know we have been campaigning for this. We believe this is the right way forward and we support the idea of a Unitary Authority.

So rather than preach to you, here is the document. Have a read, join the debate and form your own view (now updated so you can read it without the rest of the Scrutiny Committee papers)


  • Fantastic, a well thought out business case. Let’s see if you the District Council’s magically publish their own proposals after they denied any work was being done. Rather telling if they do come up with something… I’d like to know why SSDC thinks now is not the tine for Unitary but it’s certainly the time to continue with their failed Transformation plan

  • I am afraid that the Options Appraisal element in this report is flawed.

    On print page 38 (39 in the PDF) the report in my opinion rejects a whole of the historic County of Somerset unitary option that is clearly viable:

    “3c) Extended two new councils – Two new councils for Somerset including BANES and NS. E/W split. A new council for NS, Sedgemoor and Somerset West and Taunton. A new council for BANES, Mendip and South Somerset.”

    That viable option is marked Amber which colour code isn’t explained as all the others options are either Red and Green. The reasons given for removing this clearly viable unitary option are weak and unconvincing.

    Then a bit of “jiggery pokey” takes place where an unrelated sub-option based only the current area of Somerset is suddenly referred to (when it should be an option in its own right) and the proposal to have two small unitary councils within the current County Council are is marked as Green!

    Is this due to internal party political pressures given that Dr Brand has repeatedly and correctly briefed that the sub 300K populations in this proposal do not meet Government criteria for a new unitary|?

    People identify strongly with the historic and ancient County of Somerset so that option would have better alignment than the current Somerset County Council area which was much reduced in the controversial 1974 local government reorganisation.

    It is very important that Options Appraisals are carried out impartially and not with the preferred option pre-decided and then working backwards from there in the Business Case.

    The Options Appraisal for the Big Bang outsource to IBM which gave us the disastrous South West One joint venture started with that as the preferred option. Look where that got us: A loss for Somerset County Council taxpayers of at least £69m – instead of the “assured savings” of £182m forecast in the flawed Business Case.

    Once I saw that the Options Appraisal in this report had removed the viable whole of historic Somerset County option 3c above, I simply stopped reading any further.

    When the Government starts the formal consultation, I hope that Option 3c will be added, as otherwise I cannot vote for my preferred unitary option based upon the whole of the historic County of Somerset.

    While I want the current outmoded, confusing and expensive two-tier system of 5 Councils for Somerset gone, I do not want a sub-optimal unitary solution.

    Bring back the ancient County of Somerset that King Alfred the Great would recognise over 1,100 years later.

    If the Editor of The Leveller wishes to respond then I welcome a debate where all viable unitary options are open for public consultation.

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