Dear sir,

For over a year, a group of councillors has been planning the new Unitary Council for Somerset, a group with a built-in majority of Conservative County Councillors. The Tory plan for the new Unitary Council is now becoming clear.

First promise to devolve lots of services to Town and Parish Councils – sounds good, but hang on, the savings predicted for the Unitary depend on ‘economies of scale’, having one council delivering services rather than one county and four districts. If services are being delivered in different ways by scores of parish and town councils, where will the savings come from?

This comes with a ‘promise’ that devolution of services will be ‘cost neutral’, meaning that residents wouldn’t see their council tax go up to pay for the ‘devolution’. I asked a Tory cabinet member how this would be done, at a council meeting.

Would the Unitary pay back to the Town and Parish Councils all the money they were spending on services? No! Would it mean that the Town and Parish council charges to residents would go up but residents would get the money back from the Unitary in reduced Council tax? No!

So it is clear the promise means nothing. The Tory plan is to promise ‘savings’, win the Unitary elections, then go back to cutting services as they have done for the last twelve years. Then when the Town and Parish Councils opt to help their residents by restoring the cuts, residents will find their Town or Parish charges rise by a huge % .

The Tories know they can’t win Town Council elections. So they will say to the voters ‘See ! We have kept council tax down while your local Town or Parish council has let it soar’.

We have been here before. Twelve years ago, the Conservative Administration running the County Council tried to persuade Towns and Parishes to pay for some County Council services. The Tories called this ‘Community Engagement’ but it was really ‘Cost dumping’ to bail out the Tory Administration that led the County Council to the edge of bankruptcy by 2018.

And what if the Tories lose the Unitary elections?

Well, they will be passing over a ‘Poisoned Chalice’ of promises that can’t be kept and savings that can’t be made to another Party.

Yours faithfully,

Alan Paul