SOMERSET County Council Conservatives have voted to cancel the next election and simply stay in office.

It's such a bizarre sentence to read in a democratic country but unfortunately you read it correctly.

The excuse that this will have to be approved by the (also Conservative) secretary of state provides only the thinnest veneer of democracy.

All that's left is to rename our great county 'The People's Republic of Somerset', like some 90s dictator hoping that a name and a sham of a democratic process will distract us from what's really happening.

What's most disgraceful about this though is the alternative is so clear and the pretence that this is to save money and ease a transition to unitary so transparently false.

There is no guarantee any unitary proposal will be ready to hold elections in May 2022. The government hasn't even looked at the detailed options they need to consider and agree, and even then boundary reviews will be needed before we can even think about organising an election.

Why not make the decision now to move to a unitary authority in 2023?

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This would allow the district councils to all finish their term and let us to hold Somerset County Council Elections in 2021 as scheduled but with parties, candidates and most importantly voters knowing it's for a two-year term.

Holding them in 2021 will be cheaper too, as polling stations will be open anyway for the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections.

It's so simple a solution; no terms would be extended or cut short and so no question of democratic legitimacy. SCC elections held in 2021 as planned, unitary elections held in 2023 in place of the replaced district council elections, means no extra costs.

With such a clear alternative available, why would Somerset County Conservatives not take this option unless they are afraid of putting their record of financial mismanagement and dither and delay to Somerset voters?

If the Conservative Minister approves their plans to hide from the electorate, it will be a stitch up worthy of the most despicable despot, and something I never thought I'd see in a modern democracy; Somerset County Council Conservatives have voted to cancel the next election and simply stay in office.