I HAVE just found out (by word of mouth) that Somerset West and Taunton Council have set up a “behind closed doors” working group to look at forming a town council for Taunton - something that many of us have wanted since it was abolished 47 years ago in the botched 1974 reform that broke the historic county of Somerset up.

Should a unitary council for Somerset be formed in 2022/23 then it is critical that Taunton as the County Town has a strong voice through a powerful town council.

The working group meetings are held “in camera” and the public cannot attend (even online via Zoom). No agendas, meeting notes or papers are yet openly published by them.

I live in the unparished ward of Vivary and none of my councillors is on this working group, nor are they allowed to attend meetings (even online via Zoom).

Has the council engaged with the local MP Rebecca Pow? Have business groups and the voluntary sector etc across Taunton also been engaged?

No terms of reference have been published. The scope has been initially limited to unparished wards in Taunton which have only 50% of all households within the Taunton conurbation: “In respect of your queries re the boundary for the review – the focus will be on the unparished area of Taunton”

The council tax precept for the costs of the town council and mayoral duties will fall only on 50% of Taunton households, so will be double what it would be if those costs were borne by all of Taunton’s households.

I have corresponded with the county council leader, David Fothergill, about this parochial and “behind closed doors” approach to forming a Taunton Town Council and received the following reassurances, should the One Somerset unitary be approved by the Secretary of State for the MHCLG in July: “We are absolutely committed to setting Taunton Town Council up as part of the unitary process and see a really important role for consultation, participation and most importantly transparency.”

Taunton needs to “punch its weight” if we move to a unitary council and, for that to happen, we need a Taunton Town Council to be geographically coherent and sustainably funded.

READ MORE: Councillors push for creation of Taunton Town Council

It is bad enough that the Boundary Commission wants to cut Taunton back by removing Staplegrove and Norton Fitzwarren into a new Tiverton and West Somerset constituency, without a sub-optimal town council proposal from this Lib Dem-led council.

This council insisted on a referendum for citizens to have their say on the two unitary proposals for Somerset, so will this council now pledge to have a referendum for all Taunton households to vote for one of the various viable options for a town council?

Taunton needs a town council big enough to stand up for Taunton - and one we can be proud of.

Vivary Ward