Poll reveals that twice as many residents would back Stronger Somerset than One Somerset

Released On 26th Nov 2020

Poll reveals that twice as many residents would back Stronger Somerset than One Somerset

More Somerset residents would back Stronger Somerset as the right solution for a better future than Somerset County Council’s vision for a single council according to the early results from an independent poll.

Ipsos Mori, one of the world’s leading research companies, has been surveying a representative sample of 2,000 residents across the county regarding the future of local government and how vital services should be provided.

When asked how the councils of Somerset might be restructured, which of the following four options they most prefer - a system featuring an Eastern Somerset council and Western Somerset council (Stronger Somerset), a single council covering the whole of the county (One Somerset), no change, or greater collaboration between existing councils - the district councils’ vision of a fresh start for the county featuring two new unitary authorities came out on top.

And twice as many residents said they would support Stronger Somerset than One Somerset.

Additionally, when those who showed no preference towards any of the re-organisation options and answered “no change” were asked to make a choice between Stronger Somerset and One Somerset, 58% backed the two unitary council proposal with just 20% favouring a one council model.

The early findings also show that significantly more residents are currently satisfied with public services provided by district councils than Somerset County Council (67% versus 45%), that residents generally understand which councils are currently responsible for providing certain public services, and that the majority of people believe there is a clear distinction between the west and east of the county.

The full report will be released shortly when the data has been verified.

The positive news comes as the Stronger Somerset proposal is finalised, ready to be considered by councils ahead of submission to the Government.

It has been further shaped in recent weeks by excellent and informative feedback from residents, representatives of the NHS, charities, community volunteers, town & parish councils, carers and many more who have participated in more than 20 engagement sessions.

In addition to the engagement sessions, thousands of residents of Somerset have engaged with Stronger Somerset through the website and social media.

Your views have helped further develop a number of areas of the plan including:

  • How vital adult care and health will be delivered across the county through the new Eastern and Western Somerset councils including increased investment
  • How education and children’s services will be provided including how children’s services will be strengthened
  • What will be achieved in terms of climate action and devolution
  • How the two new councils’ relationship with towns, parishes and communities will work so that local communities can be empowered to take forward their priorities & ambitions

In a joint statement, the Leaders of Somerset’s four district councils said: “We are committed to creating the best possible future for Somerset, its people and its communities.

“This always had to be a plan which we developed with our communities, the NHS, police, carers and more and this is why we have been engaging in every way we can during the current restrictions.

“It’s incredibly positive to see from the feedback we’ve received, and the early findings of the Ipsos Mori poll, that so many people believe that our vision for the future is one which they support by such a clear margin.

“One of the Government’s key tests is to demonstrate public support and it is clear that we have it.

“This has never been about politics. This has always been about ensuring we create a system of local government that is fit for purpose and focused wholly on the needs of its residents and communities.

“We are proud of our plan which is ambitious for the area and people we serve and sets a blue print for improving the life of everyone and protecting services. It is our plan for a Stronger Somerset.”

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

KEY 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.

What happens next?

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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