Jamie Hailstone 08 September 2016

South West districts to merge

Taunton Deane and West Somerset councils are set to merge following a council meeting last night.

Members of West Somerset DC voted 21 to four in favour of the plans, with one abstention, to merge Taunton Deane, which had already agreed to the proposal in July.

West Somerset DC leader, Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew, said it was hardest decision he has ever made during his time in local government.

'We are taking control of our future rather than waiting for a solution to be imposed,' he said. 'Our residents will still receive the services they rely on – if we had done nothing the future of those services were at risk. We are putting people, rather than politics, first.'

Leader of Taunton Deane, Cllr John Williams, added: 'This is a huge and radical step – one that is being taken to make us fit for the future and stronger together. As one council covering Taunton Deane and West Somerset, we will not only save money to invest in our community but have a far stronger voice.'

West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said he disagreed with the councillors’ decision, but respected the ‘size of the vote in favour’.

‘However it is now up to the council to convince local people that merging with Taunton is likely to work and is what people really want. I hope, and will press for, the most rigorous test of public opinion,’ added Mr Liddell-Grainger.

‘Any proposal for merger will have to be signed off by ministers,’ he added. ‘Do not expect any minister to eagerly pick up their pen if the terms fall short.’

The leaders of both councils met with local government minister Marcus Jones earlier this week to discuss the plans, who will now be asked to approve the merger.

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