Moving forward together

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Moving forward together

Highlights from the sixth LGR Advisory Board Meeting, a hybrid meeting held at Williams Hall, Stoke St Gregory and also online 17.03.22

It was an evening of firsts. Our first Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) Advisory Board in-person meeting for 2022, post covid. Our first official hybrid meeting (more than 50 of you joined us online), our first foray into live polling, and a first-class guest in BBC political journalist Ross Pollard, who joined us throughout the proceedings. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, we opened the meeting with a breaking-news first, too…

Legal basis for new council confirmed

The public meeting began at Stoke St Gregory with an important announcement that the Somerset Structural Changes Order 2022 had been made. Following consideration by both Houses of Parliament, a new Somerset Council will be established on 1 April 2023.

The Order gives approval to the local elections on 5th May for 110 councillors to the County Council and to the elections for city, town, and parish councils across Somerset. The countdown begins!

Culture is key

Culture in the workplace is a critical part of how an organisation works. A great culture will have a hugely positive impact on how staff enjoy their work – and that in turn will help to deliver great services. That was the message from Chris Squire, Director of Customers, Digital and Workforce at Somerset County Council.

He explained that, alongside Human Resources leads from the four District Councils, a series of staff workshops are planned, looking at workplace culture and the new Somerset Council.

He said: “Culture has a key part to play when you are bringing together five organisations to create one new one.

“Over the next few months, we will be listening to staff talking about their experiences of culture and their hopes for the new organisation.

“A culture cannot be imposed from the top. It cannot be bought ‘off the shelf’. It absolutely needs to be created by those who work at all levels in the organisation.”

This was an interactive session where Advisory Board attendees were asked to comment on various aspects of the presentation, including what they felt the corporate culture should be based on. Words like ‘honesty’ and ‘empathy’ were fed back – as was ‘not being a jobs worth’.

Devolution – it’s evolution, not revolution

One of the common questions posed by city, towns and parishes has been ‘what assets and services can we devolve?’ In the discussion on asset and service devolution, presented by Strategic Manager, Ollie Woodhams, delegates were encouraged to flip their thinking, and consider the following questions instead:

  • What do we want to achieve for the people who live in our locality?
  • What is the vision for the place where I live/serve?
  • What services and assets fit within that vision?

When asked by those who felt ‘scale was everything’, and it was a ‘postcode lottery’, the response was that different places will have different assets available to them, and different places will have different service needs. It’s about delivering at a really local level, for the needs of their areas. Devolution is not about ‘you must do this, or you must take that,’ Ollie explained.

It’s evolution, not revolution. The conversations will continue and the work will evolve as we hit Vesting Day (1 April ) and we move forward as a new Council.

It’s good to talk

The meeting ended and 6.30pm. Two hours of top talk that went on well after the final few chairs were folded, and the last mug rinsed.

A new, single council for Somerset begins, on 1 April, 2023. In preparation for that day, we will continue taking the unitary conversation to residents, communities, the emergency services, our partners in health, education, and the voluntary sector. As well as to our members, our city, towns and parishes, and our staff.

We’re asking the questions now, early on, so we can address any difficulties and make the right choices – and ensure the new Somerset Council starts off on the right foot.

The clear message from the meeting was that with every change there is opportunity for improvement. We will take all the very best parts and move forward together.

All PowerPoint slides presented at the sixth LGR Advisory Board on March 17th, can be found HERE.

Next meeting

The next meeting will be held on 19 May. Come and join us! Venue, timings and a live link will be available nearer the time, HERE.

Contact us

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

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

A final word about elections 2022…

Somerset County Council has issued a leaflet explaining the importance of the upcoming elections. You’ll find the pdf here.

The deadline for nominations for election is on 5 April and there will be a final briefing session for candidates on 30 March. You can see the details here

News item added: 21 March, 2022