The merger of Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset Councils has been approved by Sajid Javid, Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Whilst the merger still needs Parliamentary approval, it looks certain that the new council – Somerset West and Taunton District Council – will be implemented on 1st April 2019 with the election of councillors being held on 2nd May 2019.
In a written statement, Mr Javid said: “On November 30, 2017, I told the House (of Commons) that I was minded to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, the locally-led proposal I had received from West Somerset District Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council to merge, and I invited representations before I took my final decision on this proposal.
“Having carefully considered all the representations I have received and all the relevant information available to me, I am today announcing that I have decided to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, the proposal to merge West Somerset District Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council to become a new single district council named Somerset West and Taunton District Council.
“I have reached my decision having regard to the criteria for district council mergers that I announced to the House on November 7, 2017.
“I am satisfied that these criteria are met and that the new district council is likely to improve local government and service delivery in the area, commands a good deal of local support, and that the new council area is a credible geography.
“I now intend to prepare and lay before Parliament drafts of the necessary secondary legislation to give effect to my decision.”
Both existing councils voted earlier this week to give their consent to the start of the legal process. The respective executive and cabinet agreed the name of the new authority, the number of councillors and to request a boundary review.
The two councils have been working in a formal partnership since 2013, sharing a chief executive and a single set of staff – the One Team. The partnership claims to have delivered annual savings of £1.8 million used to maintain important frontline services and states that streamlining and modernising will deliver £3.1million in saving annually.
Taunton Deane MP, Rebecca Pow, said, “I welcome the news that the Secretary of State has approved the merger of Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset District Council. This is something both councils unanimously supported themselves, having followed due process. The two councils have already been successfully sharing services and merging means further savings can be made. I have always made the case that if a merger will benefit residents in my constituency, and if it ultimately means a more efficient council service, then it makes sense.”