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Government confirms new ‘unitary’ Somerset Council

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Following consideration by both Houses of Parliament, the Secretary of State has made the Somerset Structural Changes Order 2022 which paves the way for the new Somerset Council to be established on 1 April 2023.

The Order came into effect on 16 March 2022 and gives approval to the local elections on 5 May for 110 councillors to the County Council and to the elections for city, town and parish councils across Somerset. It also hands responsibility for building the single unitary council to a new Implementation Executive, while setting the legal basis for the new council that will replace Somerset County Council and four district councils (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton and South Somerset) on 1 April 2023. 

Councillor Faye Purbrick, Somerset County Council, Cabinet Member for Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) said: “I am delighted that we have secured a new unitary council for Somerset and all the opportunity to improve the lives of our residents that comes with it. This is the result of more than two years’ hard work by a group of people who share the vision for a stronger, healthier and more prosperous Somerset. The case is simple, a more powerful council can speak up for our county, listen to and deliver joined up public services for our residents across the whole county – delivering better jobs and opportunities, better care and wellbeing, and better resilience against climate change.

“I want to thank the Leaders of the Somerset councils David Fothergill, Val Keitch, Federica Smith-Roberts, Ros Wyke and Duncan McGinty – all of whom have worked with us, in good faith, to put the interests of residents and Somerset first. We owe thanks too, to first-rate council officers, our Chief Executive, Pat Flaherty and former Programme Director, Dr Carlton Brand among many others. Thanks also, to the energetic groups and service providers, such as the Somerset Association of Local Councils, Spark Somerset, the NHS and Police who have been engaged throughout this process.

“The opportunity, to drive real change for the future of this county is now in all our hands – let’s make it count.”

Following the approval of the Structural Changes Order, the notice of elections will be published on Monday 21 March and nomination papers for prospective candidates will need to be submitted by 5 April.

The new Implementation Executive, which includes the five existing council leaders and four cabinet members of the county council, will maintain oversight of the new council’s development until the new administration is appointed. The executive will meet for the first time on Friday 25 March. The new Implementation Executive exists until the 9 May.

Following the election day on 5 May, 110 councillors will be elected at county level, first with responsibility for county council services and the transition to the new council on 1 April 2023. At that time, they will assume responsibility for all council services in Somerset, including those of the districts.

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