AFTER years of debate councillors from Taunton Deane Borough Council (TDBC) and West Somerset Council have voted to merge the two councils at a 'historic' meeting. 

The decision was made at a Special Full Council meeting at Oake Manor Golf Course tonight (March 19) but it still needs to be agreed by the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid.

West Somerset Council and TDBC have voted to take the next step after working together for the past three years through joint management and sharing services, which TDBC leader, John Williams says has led to £1.8 million of annual savings.

Cllr John Williams, leader of TDBC, said the merger will benefit residents of Taunton Deane as frontline services will be retained and the newly formed council will see £3.1million of annual savings. 

"This merger is the next logical step, we have already delivered £7.2million worth of savings" Cllr Williams said. 

"We are doing all of the work on Deane House to make it fit for purpose for the incoming new council."

He said it is not unusual to take such decisions before the Secretary of State gives the thumbs up, citing Dorset and Suffolk as examples.

"The proof of the pudding will be in doing it - and then you can tell me whether it was right or wrong," Cllr Williams said.

A number of Liberal Democrat councillors spoke out against the merger at the meeting saying there was a lack of public support for it and urged TDBC to postpone the vote until the public are consulted. 

Councillor Jean Adkins, said: "I do not believe we should be making this decision without giving them (residents) the opportunity to say what they think at the ballot box.

"There is nothing about merging with West Somerset which will benefit TDBC."

Councillor Eddie Gaines likened the meeting to a wake and said "we are witnessing the death of Taunton Deane" and said the merger is like a "shotgun wedding".

Councillor Gwilym Wren said he could not find a person in his ward who supported the merger and said the government has "put the boot" into public services.

"We are now reaching crisis point, and the pips are squeaking very hard," Cllr Wren said.

"It's a real abdication of responsibility by government."

But Tory councillor Will Brown said all residents in Taunton Deane care about is the delivery of frontline services regardless of who does it. 

"This merger is the best way to retain services for our electorate, and that is the most important thing," Cllr Brown said. 

Councillor Mark Edwards, said: "Most people I have spoken to have when I have explained the situation to them have said 'fantastic, get on with it'. 

"Let's just get on with it."

Councillor John Williams responded to Liberal Democrat councillor's comments and said

"If you are going to go against this, please tell us how you are going to save the money," Cllr Williams said.

"There is no more money in the pot coming to us, we have to do what we can with what we have."

West Somerset councillors voted to back the merger with 17 for, eight against and two abstentions while Taunton Deane's vote was much closer with 26 voting for the merger, 22 voting against and three abstentions. 

If the merger is approved by the secretary of state the new council will have 58 seats - it will be up to the Local Government Boundary Commission to propose and consult on the boundaries for each ward. 

After the full council meeting councillors met for a special executive meeting and TDBC councillors voted unanimously in favour of the recommendations set out in the report. 

A spokesman for TDBC confirmed the council is expecting a decision from secretary of state Sajid Javid 'imminently' and the merger will not be put in place formally until then.