SOMERSET is set to be run by ONE local government authority within two years.

The countywide unitary council is the preferred option for the future of Somerset, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced today (Wednesday, July 21).

That system was the one backed by Somerset County Council.

Mr Jenrick, in a written statement released this evening, rejected a rival suggestion from the county's four district council to set up two separate councils - one in charge of the east of the county, the other covering the western half.

His proposals are expected to be accepted in a vote by MPs and would come into effect in 2023.

In his statement, Mr Jenrick said: "For Somerset I have decided to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, the proposal for a single unitary council for the whole of the existing administrative county of Somerset.

"I considered that this proposal met all three of the criteria, strongly meeting the improving local government and service delivery criterion.

"I have also decided not to implement the proposal for two unitary councils - one council comprising the existing areas of Mendip District and South Somerset and the other council comprising the existing areas of Sedgemoor and Somerset West & Taunton.

"I considered that this proposal did not meet the improving local government and service delivery and credible geography criteria."

Somerset County Council has welcomed today’s announcement from Government that the five existing councils in Somerset will be replaced by a new single unitary authority.

Mr Jenrick’s decision means all five councils in Somerset – the county and the four district councils – will be abolished and a new single unitary authority created and in place in 2023.

Cllr David Fothergill, leader of Somerset County Council, said: “We’re delighted the Secretary of State has backed our ambitious plans to give Somerset the resilient, unified, and dynamic system of local government it deserves.

“The success of partnership work throughout the pandemic to support our most vulnerable and roll out the vaccination programme has clearly demonstrated what we can achieve in Somerset when we work together.

“One Somerset is simple, it is clear, and it delivers what our residents want – better services, better value for money, decisions made locally, and an end to the confusion and bureaucracy of having multiple overlapping councils.

“We are now calling on everyone to get behind One Somerset – and we look forward to working with our district councils, partners and everyone who lives or works in Somerset to deliver our vision of improved services for all.”

The One Somerset business case sets out how a single council for Somerset will benefit everyone, with:

  • One council listening to the needs and concerns of residents, businesses, and communities, providing clear accountability.
  • One point of contact for all local services, ending confusion and frustration for the public.
  • One strong voice to champion Somerset on a regional, national, and international level and secure funding to help the county recovery from coronavirus.
  • One council but with 15 to 20 new Local Community Networks (LCNs) established reaching every corner of Somerset to give local people the chance to shape their own communities. These will have real constitutional powers to scrutinise, impact and take decisions.
  • One plan to free up £18.5 million of funding every year which can be reinvested in improving public services and lives across Somerset. With one-off implementation costs of £16.5m, this means a unitary bonus of £52.6m in the first five years.

“We want all our residents and communities to be a part of this too,” said Cllr Faye Purbrick, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for transformation and local government reorganisation.

“There will be lots of opportunities for everyone to get involved as the new council is set up. We’re already organising consultative groups and I would encourage anyone with an interest to please get in touch now and help shape the future.”

To receive further information or to get involved in one of the consultative groups, email or write to: One Somerset, County Hall, Taunton TA1 4DY.

The next steps will be for Parliament to make a formal decision to set up the new council ahead of elections anticipated in 2022 and then the new unitary council officially in place in April 2023.

In a joint statement, the eaders of Somerset’s four district councils said: “The Secretary of State is riding roughshod over the people of Somerset who voted 65% to 35% in favour of the Stronger Somerset plan over the other scheme chosen by the Secretary of State.  

“That vote was the third time in recent history that the people of Somerset have decisively rejected proposal for a single unitary – following the referendum in 2007 and the Ipsos MORI survey in 2020. 

“By ignoring the will of the people, the Secretary of State is breaking the bond of trust between elected representatives and those they represent. The opportunities to address the real challenges our county faces – how to reduce demand on expensive crisis services, to break the cycle of inequality and under-achievement, to invest in local solutions to local issues – risk being squandered by foisting a manifestly unpopular new local government on our residents. 

“We are duty bound to represent the interests of our constituents to our fullest ability. We will continue to seek to ensure that their voices are heard. There is still chance for Parliament to see sense and force a rethink. We just cannot understand why the wishes of the people of Somerset are being ignored.”