Last week a long meeting of Somerset West & Taunton Council presented proposals for a new town council. Th efinal proposals come at the end of a long Community Governance Review process. Although many like the idea per se, a large number of residents do not like the specific proposals put forward. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure those who did not like the proposals had their say. They did. The meeting lasted nearly three hours. However at the end the proposals were voted through by the LibDem majority.
Today the same proposals came to Somerset County Council for ratification. This was a much shorter meeting with little time for public representation.
Not everyone is happy. Notably Cheddon Fitzpaine. The parish council will lose chunks of the parish to the new town council. Despite widespread and vocal opposition to the changes, they felt the views they put forward were ignored.
And in today’s meeting the Conservative block complained about debate being curtailed. Legal advice about the way in which the Community Governance review had reach its decision was important to the decision. Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr David Fothergill requested the legal advice be given to all Councillors. This had been given to members of the Executive the night before the Extraordinary Meeting of the County Council. However, there were no copies ready for Councillors to receive prior to debate of the item.
Extensive debate followed but all held in camera. When council reconvened in public session, Cllr G Oaks and Lock of Yeovil proposed that the Council move forward with the vote. All Liberal Democrat Councillors, excluding Cllr V Keitch of Ilminster, voted to move on from public debate.
Representatives of Cheddon Fitzpaine who had come to hear the debate were disappointed.
When put to the vote, it was passed by the full council.
SCC noted that the commitment to a Town Council for Taunton was made in the business case for the new, unitary council in Somerset. Both the district and county councils worked in partnership to deliver shared pledges on creating the new Town Council.
A Shadow Taunton Town Council will be established to lead and oversee the work to establish the new council. Robes, chains and other regalia associated with Taunton’s Mayor will be transferred to the Town Council. In future the council’s chair will take on the role of Mayor.
The first elections for the 20 councillors to the new council for Taunton will be held on the first Thursday in May in 2023.