A single council for Somerset Business Case
This business case develops a strategy that will harness the strengths and put in place solutions for the concerns and challenges. It will not deliver everything at once but is a huge step towards improving lives across Somerset. If we do not take that step now, we will store up problems and challenges for our future generations.Read the Business Case
The Government has a series of tests that any proposed new Unitary Authority must meet before it can be approved. This business case showcases what Somerset can achieve and demonstrates how we surpass all Government’s tests.
Take part Have your say
The government has begun a public consultation into changing the way local councils work in Somerset. It gives everyone the chance to have their say on setting up a unitary council approach – scrapping all five councils in the county and creating a new and better way of working.
We want Somerset to be a great place to do business, whether that’s creating a start-up or growing an established operation. And we want every business to be able to reach its full potential by creating the right conditions to prosper; a trained and highly skilled workforce, better and more responsive regulatory services and the right infrastructure where and when its needed, whether that’s ultra-fast broadband, regenerating our town centres or improving the county’s highways and public transport.
A strong unitary authority for Somerset would provide singular decision-making, strategic leadership, and voice. This would enable strengthened relationships with regional economic development partners such as HotSW LEP, the Sub-National Transport Board, Great South West (GSW) and WECA and Western Gateway.
Key points for Business
As a strong and effective unitary authority, the One Somerset proposal will provide:
- One voice for Somerset in strategic economic development discussions and negotiations with Government and regional partners.
- One clear message when promoting Somerset for tourism and inward investment through Visit Somerset and Into Somerset.
- One partnership between the council and the business community to make sure that business has a channel for open communication.
- One plan for delivering economic success across the entire county without geographic bias that is developed with influence from the business community.
- One “Wrap Around” economic development service, including planning and highways and business support to seamlessly ease businesses, with the help of an account manager, through Council’s services.
For Parish and Town Councils
One Somerset will provide the opportunity to fundamentally enhance local decision-making and move genuine power and responsibility to local communities and their representatives. We envisage the creation of between 15 and 20 Local Community Networks, reaching every part of the county, that would give local people real power and real influence over the decisions that affect them most.
We are also fortunate to have 278 parish and town councils in Somerset which, as you will appreciate, vary greatly in size in the range of activity they undertake. Establishing a new unitary authority would, we believe, be a huge opportunity to look at this relationship and to seek to devolve decision making, services and assets in a way that benefits our communities and both the unitary and local parish and town councils.
Key points for Parish and Town Councils
As you will see, the business case details the sorts of services and assets that could be devolved where this is appropriate to local circumstances. It is not exhaustive. Devolving assets will need to be broadly cost neutral to both the town or parish councils involved, and the unitary council, in order to not cause financial instability for either partner. So, assets with income would need to be balanced with service responsibilities and costs. But we want to have these discussions with our town and parish councils, and creating the unitary authority allows us to do this.
This devolution of power and resources to the councils and organisations that are at the real heart of our communities, will provide a focus for local engagement and become the channel for local views, feedback, consultation and communication. Importantly this will have a huge value, not just within the unitary council, but it will also create the opportunity to link up more closely with other local public services, notably the NHS, police, schools and the voluntary sector.
One Somerset would replace the existing 5 councils with a single council for Somerset delivering major savings, better value for money, improved local services, increased powers for local communities and a stronger voice for the people of Somerset
A single council will improve local government and public service delivery across the area by allowing us to join up and deliver local services, creating greater value for money and providing stronger strategic and local leadership with sustainable structures. One Somerset would end the artificial and needless administrative boundaries, delivering annual savings of £18.5m to direct towards front line services. A single council approach has worked well in other places that have adopted it in recent years.
Key points for residents
We believe that on every test, a single council will deliver significant benefits to Somerset and to you and your family, including:
- End the current confusion and mess that having five councils creates.
- Cut red tape and the wasting of tax-payers money.
- Generate greater and quicker savings that can reinvested back into public services.
- Create new local opportunities for residents to have a real say about their own community.
- Create one council listening to the needs and concerns of residents, parishes and businesses, providing clear accountability to the public.
- Create greater opportunities for local businesses to grow and prosper.
- Delivery of outstanding public services to improve the quality of life of all our residents and businesses.
- Give a much stronger voice for Somerset on a regional, national and international stage.
For Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE)
The voluntary and community sector in Somerset plays a crucial role in supporting communities throughout the county and in the delivery of many vital services. This has been reinforced in recent months as we have, collectively, had to contend with the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. The VCSE is, therefore, a crucial and significant partner working with Somerset County Council to improve and enhance the lives of our residents.
Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE)
One Somerset would deliver direct benefits to the work of the VCSE in the country by ensuring we, collectively, can more effectively address inequality and disadvantage and with the resources needed to do this. In short, One Somerset would enable local government in the county to better work with and support the VCSE and to deliver the objectives of the sector.