Somerset Green reacts to Unitary debate

Yesterday we reported that the County Council elections in Somerset had been postponed. This is to allow elections to coincide with the creation of 1 or 2 new unitary authorities. So the Secretary of State is now consulting (exactly how is opaque) on which option we prefer.

The Green party’s Martin Dimery, a County Councillor for Frome, remains sceptical about the process. He told The Leveller: “There’s a logic to the single unitary authority. The current two tier system means roads and planning working separately; waste disposal and collection being the responsibility of separate councils; street parking and car parks belonging to different councils; likewise social services and housing. The problem is the sheer scale of Somerset, with 550,000 people spread over a huge area.

“It is utterly unacceptable that a councillor on the planning committee from Minehead could reasonably be able to make an informed judgement about building a housing estate in Frome, or vice versa. That is why I would support the Stronger Somerset model which would keep services more localised by creating two authorities – East and West. I fear, however, the die is cast in favour of One Somerset, no matter what public consultation goes ahead. What the local MPs want is what we’ll get.”

4 comments

  • Thank you for this.

  • If you read the One Somerset business case, time and again it refers to local area planning committees just as those are currently run by the district councils. Why would a councillor from Minehead serve on a local planning committee in Frome?
    The economies of scale lie in the professional planning services but the decisions stay local.

    • They wouldn’t and your purposely misreading (or haven’t read it at all) the One Somerset business case to make that misleading point. The One Somerset case makes it clear that LCN concept gives more power to local communities, it would also stop the arguments between District and County over who owns what, who is responsible and also means that you don’t have a 5 CEOs, 5 IT contracts, 5 HR departments but you can make strategic decisions that can benefit the whole County. The two tier model is out of date, joined up working is key and it can’t be delivered whilst each Council and that includes both the Districts and County gatekeep there own resources. I really hope you respond to the governments consultation with such a reductionist perspective because your response will be laughed at.

  • A ‘perspective’ of a Somerset man born & bred enjoined in Scripture: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away”.

    The last Government Reform ‘Balkanised’ the former Somerset County. The first elections to the new county council were held on 23 January 1889. Since then, members have been elected for a term of office (initially three years, now four), with elections held all together on the “first past the post” system. Hitherto Rural/Urban Authorities with retained Parish Councils.(Minor Authorities) It’s my conviction the former SCC was well established, resourced & to the fore post both WW1/WW2 and in my experience ‘exemplars’ in primary/secondary education; many a ‘primary’ school today beneficiaries. My recollection is that ‘elected’ membership was ‘apolitical’ although recognised some individuals, delineated today as ‘party’ apparatchiks; predominantly until the 1974 Reforms an emergent ‘community’ motivated individual; it could never have been perceived the ‘advent’ of ‘political’ nomenclature into parish/town councils.
    An interesting fact the Diocese of Bath & Wells encompasses the former ‘historic’ county and that should be the starting point in the current consultative process. In principle,

    I support the ’embryo’ proposal by SCC Councillor David Fothergill. At the outset the expected ‘challenge’ will come from the ‘Districts’ with the attendant ‘waste’ of precious rate-payers ‘treasurer’ pace Covid – 19 Pandemic. We’re witness to the demise of Somerset’s century’s ‘local’ Newpapers & the emergence of The Leveller 1SSN 2632-3389. (Somerset’s largest circulation newspaper) forensic in its local authority reporting. (15 August 2020: Issue 119 ‘Consequences’.

    I share the view notwithstanding the ‘pubic’ consultation HMG will enact legislation during this parliamentary term at which the 9 Somerset Constituency MPs will have ‘declared’ and was interested in the preliminary ‘thoughts’ of James Heappey MP, encapsulated in Wells Voice: September, publication, which in ‘principle’ endorses Councillor Fothergill’s proposal ‘a single unitary for the whole of Somerset, including NS/B & NES. West of England Mayor need to be factored into any consultation. SALC a ‘trojan’ horse more than a ‘mouth’ piece if resourced.

    Parish Councils must be the ‘vital’ progenitors of the ‘consultative’ process ignored per se over many years by the ‘district’ councils, to which witness the writer declaims, a ‘member’ of those first three ‘quadrennial’ of Mendip District Council, apolitical’ and community led of which the CPRE were ‘principal’ consultees, an abandonment of ‘planning’ to the rampage of ‘speculative’ development; of which we can expect further erosion in ‘local’ democracy input. This unique ‘jewel’ of Wells, desecrated on the altar of ‘profit’. It behoves contemporary ‘elected’ members to start setting the agenda; not managing an agenda and I await with baited breath that ‘member’ to invoke a F.O.I Enquiry on the Section 106s Outcomes & Proceeds accrued to the Church Commissioners on the ‘speculative’ housing in this unique place in the last quadrennial or so?

    Living on the Mendips, participating in the AONB ‘delineation’ I’m concerned at the increasing ‘incursions’ and ‘management’ pace Ash ‘dye-back’ the ever increasing destruction of ‘hedgerows’ replaced with fencing panels; witness the A371 on the west entry to Wells/Dinder Estate, both hitherto a ‘vista’ to the Mendip Hills. To be emulated the ’emergence’ of reinstatement of ‘Drystone Walling’ pace East Harptree, a dilatory commencement in the ‘immense’ funding’s’ for ‘tree’ planting.

    I’ve perhaps erred & strayed but society has to have learnt something post Covid – 19; whither the ‘leadership’ in this millennium?

    Graham E Livings, Lilliput, Upper Milton, Wells. BA5 3AH

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