Councils back Stronger Somerset proposal which now heads to Government

Released On 3rd Dec 2020

Councils back Stronger Somerset proposal which now heads to Government

Somerset’s four District Councils have overwhelmingly backed the Stronger Somerset proposal for a fresh start for the county.

At Thursday’s Full Council meetings, councillors voted 149 in favour and 24 against across all four Districts to submit the full proposal to central government, with support drawn from across the political spectrum.

Central government has invited all councils in Somerset to submit bids for a new Unitary way of working in the county. They’ll make a decision on their preferred option next year.

The District Councils – Sedgemoor, Mendip, South Somerset and Somerset West and Taunton – have designed a joint proposal called Stronger Somerset.

The Stronger Somerset plan sets an ambitious agenda for delivering a better and more efficient quality of services to its communities. 

Building a new way of working to address the poor quality of care received by children in Somerset has played a key part in the full Stronger Somerset proposal.

The plan to give our vulnerable young people the support they need through a fully joined up approach to services received massive backing from elected members.

It has been developed by some of the UK’s leading experts in childrens’ care and built upon by conversations and engagement with those who deliver and use care services. 

Stronger Somerset also offers a new relationship with town and parish councils, builds an economy for all with a commitment to greater social mobility and the potential for a devolution deal to bring more decision making power from Westminster. 

A recent survey by Ipsos Mori, one of the world's leading research companies, found public support from Stronger Somerset outstripping One Somerset by more than two to one. 

In a joint statement, the Leaders of Somerset’s district councils said: "We're delighted that the Stronger Somerset proposal is gathering support and momentum the more people hear about it.

“It's a vision for a future that Somerset deserves and can afford. 

“The County Council’s One Somerset plan doesn’t address the challenges we face and offers more cuts and chaos. It doesn’t have public support and is silent on too many key issues.

“Our model for two Unitaries - in the east and west - will simplify local government while recognising the distinct geographic, social and economic differences in our county.

“It’s sustainable and modern and will give our communities more say on how their money is spent.

“With a Combined Authority able to bring proper devolution to our area, with the power to make big decisions locally and drive real investment, we can unleash the potential of Somerset and make it fit to face the future.”

All the latest news and information, including key documents, relating to Stronger Somerset can be found at www.strongersomerset.co.uk and you can also follow us on social media on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The latest version of the business case and other associated documents can be found here - www.strongersomerset.co.uk/case-for-change

‚ÄčKEY QUESTIONS:

What is Stronger Somerset?

The Secretary of State for Local Government has confirmed that Westminster wants to change the way vital services are delivered by councils in three areas in England – Somerset, Cumbria and North Yorkshire.

Primarily, it would like to see unitary councils created, ending “two-tier” arrangements where county and district councils operate.

The district councils of Somerset had been working with Somerset County Council in developing a plan for Somerset’s future before, the county council decided it only wished to pursue options for a single council for Somerset.

The district firmly believe this is the wrong solution for a county of Somerset’s size particularly in the format it has submitted to Government – an off the shelf model for unitarisation which has not been tailored for the people, culture, or history of Somerset.

Instead, the districts have worked with leading experts, Government advisors, local communities and partners to develop Stronger Somerset.

Stronger Somerset will ensure:

  • Every child starts well and every young person believes they can live well
  • Older people are able to live well, independently and without isolation
  • We have a clean, inclusive and productive economy
  • Working families have access to skilled work
  • We are able to deliver our plans for a zero carbon county
  • Local councils are able to support their communities in the way they choose
  • Vital services and important community facilities receive the funding they need
  • We deliver a stronger future for Somerset

We will achieve this by:

  • Strengthening relationships with local communities – ensuring councils are created that are close to the people they serve
  • Building stronger communities with greater power – giving more control to local people over the things that matter to them
  • Creating a fresh start in care – a transformation of Children’s and Adults Social Care adopting the best of what works elsewhere
  • Forming two new councils for Somerset, to replace the five existing councils – ensuring people and communities are well represented in our large county
  • Planning a modern economy with new skills, higher wages to “level-up” society and ensuring genuinely affordable housing for local people
  • Ensuring the devolution of powers and resources from Westminster – Somerset must make the decisions for our economy and communities and this can Level Up Somerset, drive our economy forward and improve quality of life

The Stronger Somerset proposal is for a fresh start for local government in the county that will ensure better services, an improved economy and better quality of life.

To read about our proposals in more detail and find answers to questions you may have, visit www.strongersomerset.co.uk

Why do we need change and what is proposed?

The Government wants to see major change to the way councils operate in Somerset with the financial pressures being faced by Somerset County Council leading to significant failures in some services. And all the councils of Somerset agree that change needs to happen.

But the four district councils are determined to ensure it is the right change. We believe that reorganising councils, on its own, will not effectively tackle the challenges facing our communities that also cause pressures on local services including child poverty, our increasing older population, low wage levels and climate change.

Our proposal involves creating a very different system of local government – modern and efficient but remaining close to and engaged with the people it serves. Our plan centres on two closely aligned new unitary councils, replacing the five existing councils, that will offer the fresh start necessary and the greatest benefit.

These two new councils will appear similar in structure but will differ in their priorities as they respond to the different challenges and opportunities of their areas.

But it is much more than reorganisation. Crucially, it is about the new councils’ connections to other public services and Somerset’s communities improving how we all work together to achieve better outcomes.

An independent poll led by Ipsos Mori, one of the world’s leading research companies, recently surveyed a representative sample of Somerset’s population and found that twice as many people would back Stronger Somerset than One Somerset favouring Stronger Somerset above all other options for change.

What happens next?

Now it has been approved by district councils, the Stronger Somerset proposal, which meets all of the Government’s requirements, will be submitted to the Secretary of State, by December 9.

In 2021, ministers will make a choice between our plan for two new councils for Somerset, close to the people they serve, operating in a modern and efficient way, focused on investing in better services, or an alternative proposal that is focused on saving money and creating a traditional structure remote from its communities, repeating mistakes of the past. This decision is likely to be made by early Summer with a view to having any new councils in place in 2023.

How can I see what is proposed and have my say?

All the latest news and information, including key documents, relating to Stronger Somerset can be found at www.strongersomerset.co.uk and you can also follow us on social media on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

We want to hear your views on what is proposed as we move forward with our vital plan for the future of our county.

Somerset does not deserve the cheapest form of local government. It deserves better. It needs Stronger Somerset.

The Government consultation on our plan closed on Monday 19 April. 

Thank you to everyone who took part and made their views known.READ OUR CONSULTATION RESPONSE

A local poll will now take place from 18 May to 4 June.

Look out for voter packs in the post.

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