West Somerset Council rescue deal cash fears

West Somerset Council offices in Williton. PHOTO: Steve Guscott

West Somerset Council offices in Williton. PHOTO: Steve Guscott

First published in West Somerset Somerset County Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

A DEAL which would see Taunton Deane Council step in to help run West Somerset’s ailing authority moved a step closer this week.

West Somerset Council, which is likely to be unviable in two years, wants a partnership with Taunton, sharing some services and staff to help cut bills.

It has rejected the idea of linking with neighbouring Sedgemoor District Council and at a dramatic meeting this week, West Somerset councillor Jon Freeman launched a blistering attack on Sedgemoor.

Answering questions from Taunton councillors, Mr Freeman called the Deane ‘decent, honest, honourable and reputable’, which, he added, ‘is certainly not the case with Sedgemoor District Council’.

He added: “The problem is Hinkley Point – we’ve got it, they want it.

“Many of us at West Somerset have personal experience of shady dealings and dodgy behaviour by Sedgemoor.

“They’re trying to rob us of any sweeties that may come our way from developments at Hinkley Point.”

Afterwards, a Sedgemoor District Council spokeswoman said: “We welcome the news that West Somerset Council has found a way forward in addressing their long-term viability.

“SDC waits for the plans to be drawn up and agreed by West Somerset, assisted by Taunton Deane.

“If West Somerset feels there are any services Sedgemoor could help deliver, this will be considered at the appropriate time.

“However, Sedgemoor District Council’s officers and members are also clear that any help given in delivering services to West Somerset must be on a proper financial basis and at no cost to the council tax payers of Sedgemoor.”

Earlier in the meeting, West Somerset leader Cllr Tim Taylor tried to calm fears from Deane councillors that any partnership could cost council tax payers in Taunton and Wellington.

He said: “At most any arrangement would be cost-neutral for Taunton Deane and there may be savings.”

But Cllr Jefferson Horsley, who chaired the meeting, said: “This feels like an arranged marriage.

“Taunton Deane are the reluctant bride and we could find ourselves having to provide a large dowry.

“The would-be in-laws – the Department for Communities and Local Government – are standing by and watching and asserting an influence that could be detrimental to taxpayers.”

Deane councillors will vote on the tie-up next month.

West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said: “I understand the pressure everyone is under but there’s no way we can’t move forward.

“The Coalition Government is very clear that West Somerset’s position has to be sorted out.”

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