West Somerset Council looks to Taunton for a way ahead
Beleaguered West Somerset Council looks more likely to find a future with Taunton Deane Borough Council than any other neighbouring authority.
West Somerset has been told it has no long-term financial future and councillors wrestled with the way ahead at a special meeting at the council’s headquarters in Williton yesterday.
Its leader, Councillor Tim Taylor, had recommended that the council become a commissioning authority, buying in all its services to save cash. Yesterday councillors also decided to keep an alternative way ahead alive. It will investigate both commissioning and becoming a collaborative authority, sharing all management and services.
The meeting recognised that there is no time to be lost and, at the suggestion of a strategic alliance of its neighbours, including Sedgemoor, Somerset County Council and Exmoor National Park Authority, the meeting approved working together with Taunton Deane on a draft business case for commissioning or sharing services, management and staff.
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The council is also turning to the Local Government Association for an independent financial expert to help in its deliberations.
Whichever decision is made it will have a huge impact on staff numbers. West Somerset currently has 80 staff, 60 fewer than in 2006. It has the smallest population of any council in England, which means it cannot generate the income it needs. It would need a 39 per cent rise in council tax to achieve a balanced budget over the next three years.
The council agreed that a referendum should remain an option to provide a reasonable level of services.