A GREAT deal has been written, claimed and counter-claimed in recent weeks about the proposal for a new council covering Taunton Deane and West Somerset.

It’s a shame that those voicing such strident opinions against the proposal cannot even agree on why it should not go ahead.

On one hand, we have those claiming that council tax payers in Taunton Deane will be bailing out ‘bankrupt’ West Somerset.

On the other, we have those who say West Somerset’s financial situation is comfortable and the council can carry on as it is.

Both are fundamentally wrong - and they fail to see that the proposal is about more than that.

READ MORE: More news on the merger plan

It’s about being a united and strong voice for our area and one able to serve its residents and businesses effectively and efficiently.

First, the bail-out claims: A fundamental point being missed throughout is that neither council would subsidise the other. Under the proposal to create a new council, both Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council will cease to exist.

The new single council would set its own budget and decide on its own priorities, working to build the local economy, jobs, housing and infrastructure for the entire area. Essentially, there will be one pot of money for the whole district.

Second, the financial situation facing West Somerset: The council faces an increasing budget gap. West Somerset Council’s revised budget for 2017-18, approved in the summer, has reduced the scale of the financial challenge in the short term. Uncertainty remains on the funding position beyond next year and forecasts show that the budget gap will increase significantly over the next three to four years if nothing is done.

As a council that has a small population and a vast geographical area - more than two thirds of which is protected - Exmoor and the Quantock Hills, West Somerset simply cannot bridge the budget gap in future years.

No alternative solutions have been put forward by those resisting change and making these 11th-hour claims.

As leaders, we believe in providing the best possible services at a cost we can afford. We believe our residents want and value those services too.

Yes, there is still time to make your voice heard and I hope that those who believe in strong and effective local government in our area will show their support by writing to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government at 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF, or by emailing sajid.javid.mp@parliament.gov.uk.

Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council
Leader of West Somerset Council