THE bid to create a unitary authority for Somerset took a major step forward yesterday as Somerset County Council voted to submit the business case for One Somerset to the Secretary of State.

If the One Somerset initiative does go ahead, it will see the biggest shift in local democracy in recent memory for the county.

The leader of Somerset County Council Cllr David Fothergill has become the face of the case for a unitary council in Somerset, strongly advocating its benefits.

Ahead of Wednesday’s crunch meeting, he explained why he believes a unitary council is the best way forward for Somerset, and responded to criticism from Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger:

We have always been open and transparent about our work in developing the case for a new single council for Somerset.

It really is a fantastic opportunity to improve public services for our residents, businesses and communities – and we’ve been happy to shout about it.

We’ve also tried hard to engage with the public, partners, district councils and MPs from the outset. Sadly some key figures have refused to take part in the conversation at all.

READ MORE: Big step forward for Somerset unitary plan as business case approved

Despite the overwhelming evidence that we’re missing out, it seems some remain unwilling to look beyond their own interests and even consider the possibility that another way might be better.

Far from being steamrollered through, the outdated system of government in Somerset has been talked about for decades. We’ve discussed and argued – and we’ve watched as many of our neighbours have modernised, improved services and saved public money by moving to a single council model.

Let’s be clear on one thing – all five councils agree the current model does not work. It is confusing and wasteful. Everyone agrees we need to change.

I believe as public leaders we have a duty to do the right thing for our public, even if that means being brave and making difficult decisions.

READ MORE: MP questions why unitary council case is being 'steamrollered through'

Mr Liddell-Grainger is right about one thing – One Somerset is a simple idea.

When you put out your rubbish and recycling, it doesn’t make sense to have one council responsible for it on the pavement and another responsible when it’s in the lorry.

It doesn’t make sense to have one council responsible for building new homes and another responsible for new schools. It doesn’t make sense to have five chief executives, five back offices, five sets of councillors. It makes sense to have one.

I don’t believe the business case gets bogged down. The figures quoted, openly and transparently, are estimates but are fully costed, realistic and based on the savings made elsewhere.

One Somerset is not just about saving money (another criticism you’ll hear, although again a strange sort of criticism! Surely even moderate savings are worth exploring, particularly with the districts struggling financially too?).

People are telling us they want to end the confusion over who is responsible for what. A quarter of calls to our contact centre are for services run by other councils. That’s a waste of everyone’s time.

People also tell us they want more powers in their communities. One Somerset will offer this by creating up 20 new Local Community Networks in every corner of Somerset. These will have real constitutional powers to scrutinise, impact and take decisions. There will also be an enhanced role for town, parish and City councils. This is a really exciting opportunity to re-energise our communities.

We know there is a lot of support for One Somerset. From business leaders to the Police and Crime Commissioner, there are many people out there who have read the business case and recognise the benefits.

Please look beyond Project Fright, rise above the petty point scoring and make up your own minds.

Read the business case at, follow @One1Somerset on Twitter and @OneSomerset on Facebook. Join the debate, have your say in our polls and surveys, get involved with the process and play your part in shaping a better future for Somerset.