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Nimbyism v the greater good part 2

We were asked by the Comms team at South Somerset District Council why we had not gone to them for a response to our first piece Nimbyism v the common good  Just so readers are crystal clear on this, SSDC has consistently denied that any project looking at the Future of Local Government exists. We have asked them several times and always been fobbed off. That is the only reason there seemed no point going to the for a comment.

What follows is their statement. It is long on words but offers no solutions of any description for the funding of childrens’ services, or adult social care.  This is the statement they have now given to us:

All the councils in Somerset recognise the need for change in local government in Somerset. The County Council is struggling to meet the demands on both its adult and childrens’ services and has had to make cuts in important areas which have impacted on communities and, particularly, the most vulnerable in society.

“The District Councils recognise that there are significant challenges in Somerset in terms of economy, the environment, supporting older and vulnerable people, the provision of affordable housing, improving social mobility and alleviating poverty. Addressing these challenges can be best achieved by the Councils working together and better engaging with our communities.

“The editor writes about the savings which can be achieved through a unitary authority, neglecting to mention that the research to date show that comparable if not greater savings can be achieved through better collaboration*. But this is not about savings. This is about achieving the best result for our communities. There are a wide range of benefits which can be realised through greater collaboration between the councils.

“It will entail, for example:

  • One set of strategies and strategic outcomes
  • Integration of leadership and management
  • Shared internal support services
  • Integrated teams providing support to communities as part of a joined-up approach
  • A single commercial strategy to provide financial security and increased funding for projects in our region

This work will go a long way to addressing the issues of funding vital services at all levels and the inference that the Districts do not our communities’ best interests at heart is irresponsible. There is no evidence that the unitary councils that have been created have produced the financial savings they were forecast to save** and many have left a ‘democratic deficit’ being distant from the communities they are meant to serve.

“Instead, comparable savings and benefits can be achieved through efficient collaborative working*** and more community benefit can be achieved this way than could ever be achieved by a Unitary. A big Unitary council, distant from communities, will not be able to deal with the big challenges facing our communities. A more collaborative and devolved approach to local services is needed if the different needs of communities from Porlock to Frome and Chard to Cheddar are to be met.

Through collaboration and integration of the councils, the time it will take to realise the benefits and financial savings is much faster with savings starting to be delivered within a year. In contrast, the experience of other Unitary councils shows that it takes years for savings to be achieved, (typically five to ten years) if they are achieved at all.

But the District Councils recognise this is also not the easy option. The Districts are committed to extensive change and reform, and there will need to be sustained, unified, determined and consistent political and senior managerial leadership to deliver the benefits.

*The Report on the Future of Local Government p36 suggests £32M can be saved through collaborative working, p39 suggests that savings are estimated to be in the range £35M to £47M. If you would like to check for yourself you can read the full report here: FLGS-Options-Report-Final-Leaders

** we asked the Comms team to provide evidence of this research (none is mentioned in the Report on the Future of Local Government). Thus far they have been unable to provide any.

*** as we have mentioned elsewhere, the experience of collaborative working with South West One and at Mendip District working with three other geographically remote councils demonstrates otherwise

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