In My View - The Importance of a Unitary Authority

Plans for the creation of a Unitary Authority for Somerset are under the spotlight at the moment. For those not particularly interested in the political world this might seem like a subject that doesn’t really affect you but if you care about school places, roads, bin collection, planning of local housing developments and a whole lot of other services then Councils really matter. I draw on my experience serving as both a District and County councillor almost every day in my role as an MP.

Establishing one single tier Local Authority across county areas is something that has already been carried out with success in other parts of the country including some of our neighbours in the South West. Although research shows that across the country billions of pounds can be saved through driving efficiencies in the organisation of local services, the plan is not just about that. Simplified processes and allocations of responsibilities, with better, pooled resourcing, can lead to a better experience for residents.

It is clear that local District Councils have not in the past been capable of working together effectively to save money, and local performance has not always been what residents might have hoped, for example planning and enforcement in our local area has left a lot to be desired. It therefore makes sense to look very seriously at a structure which can take on dedicated and experienced local personnel but not the council entities.

I would like to reassure our hard-working Town and Parish Councillors as to their place in any new structure. I have discussed the issue directly with the Secretary of State and will continue to do so as the plan develops. Firstly, it is not the case the everything will be run from Taunton. Clear channels for local input will be created and the influence and standing of Parish Councils will increase. This will come with greater resourcing from the Authority including in terms of direct officer support and guidance. This is important to me as the MP; I have been campaigning for a long time for more meaningful community engagement particularly within the planning process and will continue to make the case for local input and accountability.

In the Yeovil constituency 105 restaurants took part in the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, with 56,000 meals being served. It’s been a huge success, supporting so many jobs in the restaurant and pub industries and encouraging us back out in a way that has really helped rebuild community spirit since the lockdown. It’s a shame it had to end but I know many places are looking at deals for Mondays to Wednesdays having seen how popular it is.

Finally, if you are a business looking to grow in the next few months why not look at the new Kickstarter scheme. If you take on a 16-24 year old currently out of work the Government will pay their wage, National Insurance and pension contributions for 6 months. That’s a great opportunity for companies and also young people. For more details go to https://www.gov.uk/government/news/landmark-kickstart-scheme-opens As always, if I can be of any help please do get in touch on marcus.fysh.mp@parliament.uk or call 01935314321.