Future Somerset Council ‘on track’ for success

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Future Somerset Council ‘on track’ for success

Highlights from the fifth Advisory Board Meeting, held virtually via Microsoft Teams 03.02.22

A unitary Council for Somerset will be in place in just over 12 months.

Preparations are ramping up to ensure residents continue to receive the local services they rely on from day one, on 1 April 2023.

Some 350+ services currently run by the five Somerset councils (the County Council and four District Councils), will be delivered by a single, new authority.

So what needs to be achieved in the coming weeks and months ahead, and how will the new Council work?

To answer those key questions, step forward the new Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) Programme Director, Alyn Jones. Addressing an audience at the February LGR Advisory Board, he said: “We’ve a huge programme of work to do, and we must now motor-on through every aspect of our business case.

“Timing is tight, but we’re energised, and we’re on track.”

A blueprint is being drafted which will set the direction of travel for the new local authority, and outline the aspirations, opportunities and benefits that a single Somerset Council will bring to the county’s residents, communities and businesses.

Alyn Jones said: “We must set a strong budget, identify and prioritise ‘must have’ projects, while also ensuring the all-important County Council, city, town and parish elections, take place in May.”

More than 130+ people attended February’s virtual Advisory Board. The meetings provide an informal environment in which residents, councillors, public sector partners and other interested groups can feed in to the new Council process and share ideas about the shape of the future Somerset Council.

LCN pilots push on

Also on the Advisory Board agenda this month were Local Community Networks (LCNs).

Three LCN pilots are under way across Exmoor,  the Frome area, and in the Wincanton, Castle Cary and Bruton area. Guest speakers from each pilot gave presentations on their progress to date, and answered questions.

LCNs will be ‘committees of the council’ with powers, including spending. They’ll shape policy and take action to improve their local area. It’s envisaged up to 20 LCNs will be established on April 1st, 2023, consisting of residents, councillors, town and parish councils, community groups and partners such as the NHS, education, and the Police and Fire Service.

Discussions around LCN boundaries will be the next big conversation. Options for initial consideration go out to consultation during summer 2022, with geographies (lines on maps) finally agreed by year end.

Communication matters

LGR Communications Lead, Steve Coomber, wound up the two-hour session with a communications update.

He reported that crucial messages about the May elections, the biggest and most significant in Somerset for many years, will be going out to encourage residents to vote, and candidates to stand.

And as the LGR programme shifts to ‘implementation stage’, residents will be hearing much more about the vision and culture of the new Somerset Council, the service approach, plus benefits.

He said: “The Leaders of all five Somerset Councils agreed change was needed to reduce duplication, provide value for money, improve services, and to ensure Somerset speaks with one, strong voice on the national and international stage.”

Matters concluded with a review of next steps and the forward plan. Next month’s hot topic? Due to popular demand, a discussion on devolution.

All PowerPoint slides presented at the fifth LGR Advisory Board on 4 February can be found HERE.

Next meeting

The next meeting will be held in person on Thursday, 17 March 2022,  4.30pm at Williams Hall, Dark Lane, Stoke St Gregory, Taunton TA3 6EU.

An agenda will be made available seven days before the meeting, as will confirmation as to whether the event will be recorded, or live streamed. You’ll find the latest updates HERE.

Contact us

Please visit our website www.newsomersetcouncil.org.uk, for the latest news and updates.

And if you have a question, don’t hesitate to contact us. We have a dedicated inbox to ensure your enquires about the LGR Programme are dealt with quickly and efficiently. Email info@newsomersetcouncil.org.uk

 

News item added: 2 March, 2022