A NEW unitary authority for Somerset will not be a “short-term sticking plaster” to address the county council’s financial woes, according to one council leader.

Councillor Harvey Siggs, leader of Mendip District Council, made the comments at a full council meeting in Shepton Mallet on Monday (September 24).

On Tuesday (September 25), the six councils involved in the unitary discussions (which began in May) stated that “a broad set of principles” for the future shape of local government in Somerset had been agreed.

The councils will now appoint a consultant to assess the various options available, including the current two-tier model.

Speaking on Monday evening, Mr Siggs said that delivering sustainable public services would have to be at the core of any proposed restructure.

He said: “Our aim has to be about better, sustainable councils for the future. It is not about the current county council funding position – that is not the way to look at reorganisation of any sort.

“It has to be about building for the future, not short-term sticking plasters.”

Following Mr Siggs’ comments, a joint statement was released by the leaders of all six councils involved in the unitary discussions (Somerset County Council and the five district or borough councils).

The leaders said that a “delivery partner” would be secured shortly, and would assess all possibilities for “service delivery and financial efficiencies” within Somerset local government.

They said: “Procurement has started to identify an organisation to work with the councils on the feasibility and potential benefits of a range of options.

“All of Somerset’s MPs will invited to participate in the process to discuss and identify common ground.

“The timetable for this work will become clearer once a delivery partner is secured.”

Bath and North East Somerset Council (BANES) and North Somerset Council will also be included in this process.

The leaders added: “We will continue to work together to assess local  government delivery in Somerset and all the options for change.

“Our residents and businesses are at the heart of that conversation, and this is about ensuring local government in Somerset works more efficiently and effectively for them.”