Posted: 02.12.21 at 10:11 by By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Mumby
Somerset residents will go to the polls in May 2022 to elect representatives on the new unitary authority, the government has confirmed.
Somerset County Council and the four district councils (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, and South Somerset) will be replaced by the new Somerset Council in April 2023 following a decision by central government in the summer.
While the transition towards creating the new council is under way – with £16.5M being set aside to fund the process, including £8M for redundancies – uncertainty remained as to whether the elections would be pushed back to 2023.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has now confirmed the elections will go ahead in May 2022 – with May 5 being the most likely dates.
Local government minister Kemi Badenoch MP confirmed the elections would take place on the existing division boundaries of the county council, with the number of councillors being doubled from 55 to 110.
This means that after the election, every part of the county will have two representatives – except for Glastonbury and Street, which will double from two to four.
Following this election, a full boundary review will be conducted by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) – the findings of which will be implemented ahead of the following elections in May 2026.
The news has been welcomed by representatives of the three main parties, all of whom will be hoping to increase their share of the vote in five months’ time.
County council leader David Fothergill (Conservative) said: “I welcome the minister’s decision and the clarity it brings to the coming months.
We now all know when the first election to the new Somerset Council will be, and the confirmation of our continuing authority status will make the process of building a new council far more straightforward.”
South Somerset leader Val Keitch (Liberal Democrat) added: “I am very pleased to see that the structural change order (SCO) published today [December 1] ends any uncertainty and confirms that elections must take place in May 2022.
“It is vital that Somerset’s voice is heard throughout this process. We will continue to work together as five councils to ensure we create a new authority which delivers the best future for Somerset.”
Councillor Leigh Redman, leader of the county council’s Labour group, said the decision was “the only choice that made sense”.
He elaborated: “The people we represent will have an opportunity to elect the councillors that will put in place the building blocks of the new Somerset Council.
“This council had passed its ‘best by date’ six months ago; we need to give the people the chance to elect a new one and we can now all aim for May 2022.”
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