COUNCIL MERGER THUMBS UP?

Tonight Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, telephoned me. He said he was now “minded” to approve the merger plans of Taunton Deane Bough and West Somerset District – plans which I believe are undemocratic and dangerous. Presumably, there will be champagne corks popping in Taunton. The formal announcement will be made tomorrow. But the fight to maintain West Somerset’s independence is very far from over.  Being “minded” to accept the plans is not the end of the story. There now follows a period during which the Secretary of State must listen to all parties before reaching a final conclusion. I intend to use every conceivable method to demonstrate my contempt for this merger proposal. It is based on false arithmetic. It has virtually no public support. It will deprive 35,000 of my constituents of proper representation at council level and it makes no more sense today than it did when the plans were announced 18 months ago. I have campaigned in the House of Commons to highlight what is wrong. Here’s an extract from my most recent debate on the tactics of Taunton Deane Council:

“I have said it before and I will say it again: this council is bent. Its revenue department is under investigation by the district auditor; the fraud squad is waiting for a full report; the council leader, whom I should perhaps call the supreme leader, pretends that there is nothing wrong, and has ordered a multi-million pound refit of the tired old council buildings, for which my constituents will pay. He runs his administration with a cabinet of weak yes-men. Frankly, he would not be out of place in Pyongyang.”

I will intensify my campaign during the weeks ahead. It is also your chance to tell the Government what you think and I urge everyone to do so.