Residents vote new unitary authority should be based in Wells in World Cup of Somerset
By Tim Lethaby
25th Nov 2021 | Local News
The people of Somerset have voted for their new unitary council to be based in Wells – though no formal decision on the matter has yet been made.
Somerset County Council and the four district councils (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West & Taunton and South Somerset) will be officially replaced by the new Somerset Council when it formally takes charge on April 1, 2023.
Hundreds of residents have taken to Twitter over the past two weeks to vote in the light-hearted 'World Cup of Somerset', organised by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, to pick where the new council's headquarters should be.
The final saw Somerset's smallest city narrowly beat the county town of Taunton – but we'll have to wait many months to see whether elected officials win honour this result.
A total of 32 settlements were entered in the World Cup of Somerset, with each of the four districts receiving eight entrants and the top two from each group advancing.
Wells won its group, with Street finishing a close second and both Pilton and Shepton Mallet (home of Mendip District Council's main base) being left behind.
The city annihilated Axbridge in the last 16, with Street also winning its poll to knock out Bridgwater, where Sedgemoor District Council is based.
Wells and Street met again in the quarter-finals, with the cathedral city triumphing over the homes of Clarks Village, before Wells charged past Castle Cary in the semi-finals.
In the grand final, Taunton and Wells traded the lead for much of the day before the latter emerged triumphant.
The One Somerset business case (the basis for the new unitary council) does not commit to the new council being head-quartered in a specific location.
While the county council backed the One Somerset case (which was ultimately approved by the government in July), there is no guarantee that the new authority will use County Hall in Taunton as its main base.
A new Somerset Council spokesman said: "The key issue here is how we devolve decision-making and services to be as local as possible and how we use technology to open-up council services.
"We want to involve communities, parishes and towns in decisions about services, rather than focus on a central base.
"The new advisory board that brings together councillors with the NHS, police, schools and the voluntary sector, will be meeting in towns and villages across the county to discuss how we might go about this. These are public meetings, so please join us.
"We can't pre-empt decisions, but there will likely be a spread of staff across the county.
"The local government reorganisation joint committee, that includes the five council leaders and four county councillors, will make decisions. A date for discussion on property assets has not been set."
The committee met for the first time on November 5, where a £16.5M budget for the transition to the new council was agreed – with just over £8M being set aside for redundancies.
There are currently six official council headquarters in Somerset:
- Bridgwater House in Bridgwater (Sedgemoor District Council)
- Brympton House in Yeovil (South Somerset District Council)
- County Hall in Taunton (Somerset County Council)
- Deane House in Taunton (Somerset West and Taunton Council – former HQ of Taunton Deane Borough Council)
- Shape Mendip in Shepton Mallet (Mendip District Council)
- West Somerset House in Williton (Somerset West and Taunton Council – former HQ of West Somerset Council)