Somerset Districts cry foul
Yesterday Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick announced he would back the One Somerset model. This will see one unitary authority replace the four district councils and county council in Somerset. or at least the bit of Somerset formerly run by Somerset County Council.
The reaction from the four district councils to the decision has been defiant. The Leveller® understands that anticipating the decision, plans for a judicial review were already being discussed. That may or may not transpire, but rest assured, it is taxpayers that will pick up the tab.
Among some of the more bizarre claims being made, relates to the way the decision was communicated. In an interview given to Bauer Radio, Duncan McGinty suggested others had been told first. Implying that the district councils had found out from the press.
By which he appears to be referring to articles put out by The Leveller® and BBC at around 7.00pm last night. The District Council statement was put out at 8pm. There is no mystery here. And no favouritism. We subscribe to the government press release service as do the BBC. We received the press release when it was released. As clearly did various people at County Hall. It is not hard to sign up to the press release service, perhaps the districts should give it a go?
In their own statement the districts said “The Secretary of State is riding roughshod over the people of Somerset who voted 65% to 35% in favour of the Stronger Somerset plan over the other scheme chosen by the Secretary of State.” This will almost certainly form the basis of their judicial review if they go for it. Their statement suggests they are intent on spending more money defending their position. “We are duty bound to represent the interests of our constituents to our fullest ability. “We are duty bound to represent the interests of our constituents to our fullest ability. We will continue to seek to ensure that their voices are heard. There is still chance for Parliament to see sense and force a rethink. We just cannot understand why the wishes of the people of Somerset are being ignored.” We will continue to seek to ensure that their voices are heard. There is still chance for Parliament to see sense and force a rethink. We just cannot understand why the wishes of the people of Somerset are being ignored.”
The Leveller® may be seen as biased having campaigned for One Somerset. We make just two observations:
- Just over 70,000 people voted for the district council solution (Stronger Somerset) in their poll. It was a poll in which one side campaigned and one didn’t. It was neither fair nor democratic. And yet still barely 10% of Somerset’s population chose Stronger Somerset. The districts have said they will “represent the interests of our constituents to our fullest ability.” It is not clear what they will be doing to represent the interests of their 470,000 constituents who did not vote for Stronger Somerset in the poll.
- In 1974 when the district councils were created, no-one was consulted. Except parliament. Not a murmur then about the voice of the people, the need for polls or referendums. If the Secretary of State goes ahead with his plan, the creation and dissolution of this tier of local government will have been on the same basis.