Unitary – Bridgwater Councillor appeals for common sense
The direction of travel for Somerset has been set. The complete about turn by the four district councils last month, means that we now have two proposals for a future unitary structure to Somerset. In other words no county council, no district councils, but one (or two) unitary councils.
Given that there is now a clear agreement on the way forward, what next. The Secretary of State is going to be presented with two business cases. One by Somerset County Council (SCC) for a single unitary authority. A second by the four district councils (South Somerset, Mendip, Sedgemoor and Somerset West & Taunton) for two unitary authorities.
This will present a dilemma for the thirty plus councillors who are both county councillors AND district councillors. It will also present a dilemma for the secretary of State. Today Bridgwater town, district and county councilor, Leigh Redman suggested it was time for more cooperation.
He told The Leveller® “We have heard Cllr Fothergill, leader of the County Council, continually make the offer to sit around a table. I hope that following the change of heart that District leaders may want to find some common ground too. So let me start the ball rolling by offering a venue that will allow social distancing, you are all welcomed to come to the Town hall in Bridgwater for free. I will work with anyone that wants to engage in constructive debate so that we can try to find common ground before it is too late.”
And there is a lot of sense in his proposal too. Will we get the best for Somerset if central government can divide and rule? Cllr Redman adds “To be clear, the Secretary of State will have less wiggle room in the ‘Somerset Unitary decision’, if we can find & agree some common ground, the chances of a unifying outcome is increased with consensus. The door is open and my phone is on. If we are going to go Unitary then lets do it as much as possible, together, for the staff we employ and the people we represent.”
Meanwhile the “consultation” that the district and county councils assured us will take place, looks to be meagre fare.
SSDC’s method of consulting with the people of South Somerset is going along to a select number of parish and town councils and presenting their plans. They will be meeting at Yeovil Town Council on 8 September. This is in fact exactly the approach SCC took with their plans. It is exactly what the district councils criticised SCC for doing, saying that it did not constitute a proper consultation. Now apparently it does.