SOMERSET County Council has claimed the credit for making the park and rides free during the upheaval of the major roadworks at the Creech Castle junction.

In fact, this is only possible because the district council has bailed out SCC by funding the park and rides since 2018, when the county withdrew its funding as part of a £15 million package of cuts.

The county council is the Highways Authority, but if it weren’t for SWaT there would be no more park and ride service at all for those inconvenienced by the road works.

Of course the leader of the county council somehow forgot to acknowledge this or express any thanks when announcing the free service.

SCC has previously sought to persuade parish councils to pay for some SCC services in their local area, as part of the cuts that began in 2010 and continued through the decade, so it has ‘form’ in trying to dump responsibility for some of its statutory services onto other councils.

I fear this might become the norm if the Conservatives win control of the new unitary council.

READ MORE: Taunton park and ride buses free during roadworks
READ MORE: Park and ride services in Taunton saved by district council

With no district councils and all local services coming under the unitary umbrella, who can they dump on? Clearly, town and parish councils throughout Somerset.

This is the unspoken motive behind the county Tories’ unitary agenda.

After a decade of financial turmoil, during which they were one of only two councils in England which came close to having their financial management taken over by the Government, they are desperate for a bailout.

How? Easy - take over the funds and assets of better-run district councils and if some services cost too much, dump them onto town and parish councils, who will be left with the hard choice of raising their share of the council tax or accepting even more cuts to local services which the unitary should provide.

One last point. If the county council can’t afford to guarantee to keep the two existing park and rides open, how will they subsidise the third ‘park and bus’ site in Rumwell, planned to accompany the new Comeytrowe/Trull development?

The developer claimed it will be funded by “voluntary contributions” from residents. Perhaps Father Christmas and his elves will help?