A DELEGATION of council leaders and MPs headed up to Westminster for a crunch meeting regarding the West Somerset and Taunton Deane merger.

West Somerset, Taunton Deane and Sedgemoor District council leaders Anthony Trollope-Bellew, John Williams and Duncan McGinty joined local MPs Ian Liddell-Grainger and Rebecca Pow for a meeting with Local Government Minister Marcus Jones MP on Monday.

There has been a lot of surrounding the merger, which West Somerset was due to vote on last night, and both sides came out with rather differing views on the outcome of the meeting.

Taunton Deane and West Somerset council released a joint statement saying the minister had said the final decision on how to proceed rests with the democratically elected members.

Cllr John Williams, said: “Our meeting with the Minister for Local Government Marcus Jones was very positive. He is very much of the opinion that this is a matter for us to decide as local authorities and that whatever scheme is agreed should be viable, sustainable and able to deliver much valued services to our communities.

"I was happy to reassure the Minister that our plans, if approved, would deliver.”

Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew added: “I would like to thank the Minister, Marcus Jones MP, for finding the time to meet us. It was a very constructive meeting that will be helpful to the future delivery of services to the people of West Somerset and Taunton Deane.”

However outspoken merger critic Ian Liddell-Grainger came out with a different perspective on what had occurred.

In a open letter written to West Somerset councillors following Monday's meeting Mr Liddell-Grainger said:

"The minister strongly supported a tri-partite solution, between all three councils, which is what the Government has always wanted to achieve.

"He made it very clear that he could not, and would not, support any plan that failed to involve Sedgemoor. He refused a request for transitional funding for the existing Business Plan – because there are no resources currently available – but suggested that a tri-partite agreement could attract a favourable response for funds."

Mr Liddell-Grainger said that Mr Jones had categorically warned the leaders that any attempt to push through the merger of two councils would be stoutly opposed by ministers and Parliament.

"He reserved the right to call in the Boundary Commission to conduct a detailed review of all three council areas. He insisted that extensive consultation was vital and overdue.

"Ministers will not allow such a merger to proceed unless all three councils are involved and until the Boundaries Commission has properly reviewed the proposal and proper public consultation has been undertaken," Mr Liddell-Grainger said.

A spokesman for Marcus Jones MP said: "In response to the article and subsequent letter to councillors, the minister is clear that this is very much a local decision to be made at the local level.

"While he would like to see discussion across local partners, if the will locally is a two council solution, he is very willing to listen and consider any proposal brought forward.

"At no point has the minister suggested that the government will oppose any merger of the two councils nor that he would oppose any deal that did not involve any one partner.

"The government is not there to force mergers of councils, but are willing to listen to any local solution that is put to it and any proposal that instils the confidence that a sustainable position can be maintained."

Check out the Somerset County Gazette website to find out what happened at Wednesday night's meeting.