FOLLOWING the results of the recent poll over the future of local government in Somerset, two district leaders have come together to discuss the next steps.

Leaders of Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) and Sedgemoor District Council (SDC) met after the non-binding poll revealed almost two thirds (65.3%) of the 111,108 votes counted, backed the two-council, Stronger Somerset proposal.

The One Somerset, single-council option - as supported by Somerset County Council - received 34.7% of the vote.

At the poll, voters were asked to choose between the two options being considered by Government to replace the existing five councils – Somerset County Council and the four districts.

The options were one council for Somerset, the One Somerset plan proposed by Somerset County Council, or a two-council solution: Eastern Somerset and Western Somerset, the plan proposed by Somerset West and Taunton Council along with the other district councils, known as Stronger Somerset.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, will now make a decision of which proposal will get the green light.

In the meantime, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, leader of SWT and Cllr Duncan McGinty, leader of SDC, have begun arrangements to ensure a smooth transition, saying this will involve “closer working together as two district councils and joint working with the county council”.

“We are working to have the new councils up and running in April 2023,” said Cllr McGinty.

“While that might seem a long way off, there is an awful lot of work to do before then and we have to get cracking.”

“We will need an agreed implementation plan in just a few months’ time, so there is no time to waste,” Cllr Smith-Roberts added.

“We invite our colleagues from the county council to now join us in this important work.”

In response, a spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “The Secretary of State will make his decision in the next few weeks based on the three tests set out in his letter inviting proposals for LGR – any proposal must improve local government in the county, have a credible geography between 300–600,000 population and command a good deal of local support in the round.

“We are confident that our proposal fully meets these three tests.

“The district councils’ deeply flawed and biased poll was widely condemned including by the Secretary of State who will be making the final decision.

“Three quarters of Somerset residents did not participate and we call on the district councils to publicly pledge they will abide by the Secretary of State’s decision and work together for the good of all of Somerset.

“We have been working on detailed implementation plans for several months and continue to do so.

“We look forward to working with our colleagues in the district councils, wider town and parish council sector and partners to deliver our One Somerset proposal should it be chosen by the Secretary of State.”

Robert Jenrick's decision on the future of local government in Somerset is due before the summer Parliamentary recess on July 22.