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29 May 2018, 14:45 | Updated: 29 May 2018, 14:48
Plans for two Somerset councils to merge have been approved by the Government.
Taunton Deane and West Somerset will become one authority from April 2019, with elections taking place a month later.
The Leaders of the existing councils, John Williams (Taunton Deane) and Anthony Trollope-Bellew (West Somerset), said: “We are delighted that the SCO has been signed and that the new council will come into being next year.
“This has been a long – and not always easy – process. We both have long affiliations to our respective areas and we remain proud to have led Taunton Deane and West Somerset through some turbulent times.
“Our focus is – and always has been – on our people: our residents, businesses, partners and our staff. The single new, modern and fit-for-purpose council will enable us to make savings of at least £3.1m for the taxpayer and help us to protect services people value, cut red tape, reduce duplication and keep council tax bills low.
“It means that our One Team of officers will, in future, be serving a single council and that will deliver significant financial and efficiency benefits as staff will no longer have to divide their time between two separate councils.
“While savings are important, this is also about being stronger together. Our shared, single team of staff has increased our capacity and made us more resilient. The creation of a new council will strengthen this. And we need that resilience and purpose to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
“We are going to change the way we work and deliver services – a process known as transformation – so that we can work far more closely with our residents and businesses with the focus firmly on them.
“This is about creating a new council that puts local people first and is fit for the 21st century. It won’t be a bolt-together or merger of the old. Council boundaries and names do not create identity – after all the current councils are not even 50 years old. Identity lies in our people, our landscape and our character. That will not change.''
Until the new council comes into being, a shadow council will be in place.