Councillors meeting in Williton voted this evening to wind up West Somerset Council. Their vote was the latest step in a process which should lead to the creation of a new council in 2019, covering the areas which are now West Somerset and Taunton Deane.
Labour councillor and opposition leader Peter Murphy, backed the proposal, saying:“This council is being asked to vote itself out of existence for the greater good of the people of West Somerset. Financially, the council is not viable in the short or long term.”
Behind the vote was a history of deepening money problems for West Somerset. There has been joint working between West Somerset and Taunton Deane for some time and leaders of both authorities judge that a full merger is now the only way services can be safeguarded.
The meeting took place against the background of a typically theatrical intervention from the Bridgwater and West Somerset Tory MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger. He claimed last week that prime minister Theresa May was personally concerned about the future of West Somerset and hinted that she might come up with money to save the council.
UKIP and independent members asked for the decision on the council’s future to be delayed, in the hope of help from Mrs May. But Tory members did not appear to take Liddell-Grainger’s claim seriously. And for Labour, Cllr Murphy said: “I don’t think we should duck this because somebody says he knows what the prime minister thinks. I don’t think she gives a monkey’s”
Cllr Murphy also spoke about suggestions that a three way link-up involving Sedgemoor Council would be a better solution. He said he would be in favour of this – but that the route towards it should be staged, starting with a West Somerset-Taunton Deane merger.
Not that it will be a merger. Oh, no! What will result from the elections in 2019 will be a completely new authority – which one councillor said tonight should be called “Greater West Somerset.”