Yesterday a Government Minister told West Somerset and Taunton Deane Council leaders to go back to the drawing board and start talking to Sedgemoor District Council. Otherwise, Marcus Jones MP implied, he might not be prepared to support any merger plans. This was the clearest message yet from the Government about what could happen if West Somerset opts to disband and form a new authority. Taunton Deane council has already voted for the idea. It now appears that the Government will have the last word on any deal proposed via the new Cities and Local Government Devolution Act. This could have by-passed the normal process by which the Boundaries Commission review the area and order a full referendum to test local opinion first. The Minister also indicated that the Boundaries Commission could be asked to review all three council areas, West Somerset, Taunton AND Sedgemoor if talks with Sedgemoor are not started swiftly.
I sincerely hope that the message from Marcus Jones, the Minister, will be heeded. Tomorrow I will also be talking face-to-face with the Prime Minister about what is at stake. I have no doubt at all that she will echo the opinion of her Minister and appeal for common sense.
Local democracy is a vital element of our lives. It would be a tragedy if the future of West Somerset was put at risk by a hasty decision.