Revolt at Somerset West & Taunton?

A curious petition has appeared on protest website Change.Org

The petition on behalf of “we the people” demands change to the way Somerset West & Taunton does business. In short it asks to “democratise” the council now. Somerset West & Taunto is controlled by the LibDems who took over from the Conservatives when Taunton Deane was merged with West Somerset in 2019. So who is calling for a radical overhaul of the way things are done? The Labour party? the Conservatives?

No it is none other than former LibDem leader Jefferson Horsley. The petition is very pointedly addressed to party and council leader Federica Smith. What the petition asks for is a change in “the ‘strong leader’ model in which a small group of people from the ruling party make the decisions and the views of other councillors (even those from their own party) can be disregarded.

Mr Horsley notes that the Liberal Democrats won control of the new council on a manifesto which stated: “The new Council needs to change. Too many decisions are currently concentrated in the hands of a small clique…” He goes on to complain that although “the Council set up a Governance Working Group last summer to work on options for change, and most councillors have said they support introducing a Modern Committee System. This would cost no more to run than the current one but would have the major advantage of ensuring ALL councillors, no matter what political group they belong to, have a real role in developing policy at an early stage and in decision making, meaning the needs and views of all our diverse communities would be better represented and heeded.

Although Mr Horsley suggests that “We the people DEMAND BETTER” to date just 23 people have signed.

But with a change in government and a unitary future on the horizon, does change now make sense? The council Leader may well be playing her cards close to her chest. But the very existence of a petition from a prominent Somerset LibDem does raise an eyebrow. Perhaps not all is well in the camp right now?

The link to the petition can be found here:

One comment

  • The four district council leaders tell us that creating two new unitary councils instead of one will deliver better jobs and affordable homes. They have downplayed the ‘elephant in the room’ issue of their need to duplicate existing county council services which cost nearly 70% of our unnecessarily expensive council tax.

    Their Stronger Somerset business plan proposes replacing five existing councils with five new organisations – two new unitary councils, a Childrens Trust, a Joint Enabling Service and an Integrated Delivery Service to combine two unitaries in a connected Somerset. The latter looks worryingly similar to the failed Southwest One which was created immediately after councillors voted against a unitary authority in 2007, promising savings of £180m, and locked Somerset into two- tier management for 10 years while most adjacent areas became unitary.

    If councillors had voted for a unitary authority in 2007, they could have saved their citizens £200m in total annual savings plus £89m by not approving the defensive Southwest One, the unnecessary Ignite Transformations and recent property renovation and speculation.

    The One Somerset single unitary council proposal would be better than two unitaries by matching the health service and social services area critical to integrating better support for an ageing population. Time-consuming and costly negotiations across two authorities would be avoided.

    One Somerset avoids unbalance and a larger concentration of deprivation in the west, and would also most reduce costs by properly utilising the massive improvements in communications and technology over the last 50 years. With one management team and 100 councillors, One Somerset single unitary claims the big advantage over two unitaries of twice the annual transition savings, nearly four times the estimated five year savings and the shortest payback time.

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