BREXIT threatens to delay vital measures needed to create a new Somerset council – because there aren’t enough lawyers to go around.

Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council are due to be replaced by Somerset West and Taunton Council in April 2019, ahead of the local elections in May.

The council is currently operating as a ‘shadow authority’ (which oversees the transfer of responsibilities), following a decision by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in May.

A further three orders from central government are needed in order to formally transfer all the necessary legal powers to the new authority.

But this process is in danger of running behind schedule because the government does not have enough lawyers to draft the orders – as they are all too busy with Brexit.

The issue was raised at a meeting of the new council’s shadow scrutiny committee in Taunton on Tuesday afternoon (September 18).

Three separate orders are needed – a general order, a financial order, and a place-specific order – which are all concerned with transferring the assets and statutory responsibilities from the two existing councils to the new one.

The shadow authority had originally predicted that a draft version of the general order would be ready by July 24, with the financial and place-specific orders following by October 30.

But the authority has now admitted in a report on its wider transformation strategy that none of the orders have been drafted, with all three being “held up by Brexit”.

A spokesman said: “We are still waiting on the MHCLG finalising this.

"Brexit is impacting on the ministry’s ability to access lawyers in a timely fashion.

“As long as the final version is very similar to the draft, it should not cause too great an issue. The uncertainty is the concern, however.

“These orders will influence the activities that we need to take in readiness for April 1, 2019.

“Our officers are working closely with MHCLG and our counterparts at other merging authorities in helping to shape these orders.”

Details of how the new council’s roles will be implemented – aptly known as its implementation plan – will come before the shadow full council in October.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England will publish its final recommendations for the new council’s ward boundaries on October 23.