It is amazing. Before the pandemic our District Councils were complaining they had insufficient time to put together an alternative plan to that proposed by Somerset County Council. This despite the fact that the SCC plan was announced before Christmas.
Yet despite protesting consistently that no work has been done during the pandemic, Somerset’s four District Councils have now produced a plan on 26 August, 7 weeks after SCC produced theirs on 8th July.
There is much to praise in the new plan. The fact that the districts have decided to embrace the unitary principle is welcome. The idea of having two unitaries rather than one, a detail. To be honest The Leveller® would support either solution: the districts offering of two unitary councils or SCC’s proposal for one. Both are credible.
What is not credible is the story that it was only time and then the pandemic that stopped the district councils coming up with an alternative to the SCC plan. As we can now see. When faced with a deadline, all of a sudden what was not possible throughout the Autumn of 2019 and the first two months of 2020, has been achieved in just 7 weeks. Indeed on 8th July when SCC published their plan, the districts were still protesting that:
- a) they had done no work on the future of local government because of the pandemic
- b) they would never support a proposal involving a unitary authority
For us here at Leveller Towers, it simply reinforces the suspicion, that the district councils never intended to change anything. The course of action, conscious or not, was to talk the issue out and go back to nothing changes.
On the plus side this evening we have a credible plan on the table. It sits alongside the SCC plan. It is worth reading. It is much more Keynesian in approach looking to drive change by spending money, not saving it. It won’t appeal to everyone and there will be question marks over some of the claims.
You can read more of their proposals here: