Somerset “customer panel”

The new administration at Somerset County Council (SCC) is launching a “customer panel”. It is a slightly Byzantine mechanism. The idea is to listen to Somerset residents. But rather than listen to Somerset residents themselves, SCC want to recruit a panel of residents, to do the listening. And that panel will report back to SCC their views and the views of other residents.

SCC are encouraging Somerset residents to take part in a new Customer Panel now. This will “help shape the future of council services in the county.” To find out more or to express your interest, visit or call 0300 123 2224.

Those interested in taking part don’t require any specific skills. All that is required apparently, is a desire to make services in Somerset the best they can be. And to give constructive and honest feedback too.

Cllr Val Keitch is Lead Member for Local Government Reorganisation and this is her initiative. She wants to ensure the voices of the people of Somerset will be at the heart of decision-making. Especially as SCC merges with four District Councils in April 2023 to create the new Somerset Council.

In other news, today another Cllr Val Keitch has been dictating events in Yeovil. This Cllr Keitch is Leader of South Somerset District Council. At her behest, an Area South meeting will meet this evening at 7pm. It is the height of the holiday season and the main item of discussion will be a controversial planning application. It is for Acacia Lodge, a former care home which could be turned into a homeless hostel. The officer report was only published 10 days ago.

Local people have asked that the meeting at least be deferred to give time to properly digest the report. They are furious at what they see as a brazen attempt to bulldoze the application through. Especially when so many are on holiday. Her own fellow LibDem councillors have urged her to postpone the meeting until September.

But no, this Cllr Keitch, who shares a name with the councillor who wishes to listen to residents, is having none of it. Not only completely ignoring the views of residents, but also the clearly expressed wishes of her own councillors. She has insisted on a meeting tonight.

If these two councillor Keitch’s are in any way related to each other, it does not bode well for listening to residents. What chance is there of the views of residents being listened to? Unless of course they happily decide they want the same things that Cllr Keitch wants.

If you want to hear tonight’s Area South meeting in Yeovil, you can catch it here:


  • This should be the role of Parish Councils,that are accountable
    Plus going towards the Unitary Authority,in eight months time,the role of Parish Councils.
    Will become more important

  • SSDC hasn’t listened to its electorate for quite a while – Disabled parking, over 600 signatures against the loss of disabled spaces – they didn’t listen then, sadly, not listening now.

  • Val Keitch’s leadership has been a disaster at SSDC, failures of policy and judgment are a hallmark of her administration!

  • And how much does the good Councillor Keitch guestimate that these panels will cost?
    Many organisations, from HMRC and others down, mistakenly refer to their prey as “customers”, forgetting that customers can choose where to spend their money – Tesco or Sainsburys, MacD or the chippy around the corner.

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