THE new leader of Somerset County Council has promised a unitary authority to “care for all and listen to all our residents”, writes Daniel Mumby.

The county council met on Wednesday (May 25) for the first time since the Liberal Democrats were swept to power in the local elections earlier this month.

Leader Cllr Bill Revans announced his executive, invoking Somerset’s past and pledging to steer the county through the transition to the new Somerset Council.

He also pledged to address the cost of living crisis and climate change and make urgent improvements to the county’s roads and vulnerable children in the authority’s care.

Cllr Revans said: "England started here on a small island called Athelney. In a much, much smaller way we will make history this year.

“The first priority of this administration and all of this council is to ‘get unitary done’.

"I am not sure whether the phrase ‘oven-ready deal’ is really appropriate, but there is a recipe and ingredients left behind for us to work with.”

Mr Revans plans to devolve power to towns and parishes as part of the transition to the unitary, saying he wants to “give residents a genuine role in shaping how the new council will operate".

He added “It is crucial that we give local people the confidence that this very large council will not be distant and unresponsive.

“Many of us on this side of the chamber took a different view on the future of local government to the secretary of state.

“However, he has made his decision and we will pick up the baton and do the job to the best of our ability.

“I am determined that within the boundaries set by the government, this administration will strain every part of what a unitary council can do to support our vision of a fairer Somerset, a greener Somerset, a more flourishing Somerset. A Somerset that cares for all and listens to all its residents.”

The new executive will be responsible for all county council services and will  oversee the local government reorganisation programme to establish the single unitary council, which will formally take charge on April 1, 2023.

After that, they will be responsible for all services currently delivered by the county and four district councils, ranging from adults’ and children’s social care to highways and housing, and from libraries to planning and licensing.

Mr Revans said: “In just ten months, this council will become the first unitary council for Somerset.

"That’s one single council, providing all the services currently managed by the county and district councils.

“It is a new future for Somerset. This is a historic moment – maybe not on a par with King Alfred in the 9th century, but we will do all we can to make it great.”

READ MORE: New leader and top team announced at county council.