I am announcing today that having carefully considered all the material and representations I have received, I am “minded to” implement two locally led proposals for merging district councils in Somerset and Suffolk.
The first of these is a proposal Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset District Council submitted to me in March 2017 to merge into a new, single district council. The second is a proposal Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council submitted in September 2017 similarly to merge into a new, single district council.
I am satisfied, on the basis of the information currently available to me, that each of these proposals fully meets the criteria that I told the House on 7 November 2017, Official Report, column 48WS, I would use for assessing proposals for merging district councils, namely that:
the proposal is likely to improve local government in the area concerned;
the proposal commands local support, in particular that the merger is proposed by all councils which are to be merged and there is evidence of a good deal of local support;
and that the proposed merged area is a credible geography, consisting of two or more existing local government areas that are adjacent, and which, if established, would not pose an obstacle to locally led proposals for authorities to combine to serve their communities better and would facilitate joint working between local authorities.
Before I take my final decisions on these proposed mergers there will now be a period until 19 January 2018 during which those interested may make further representations to me, including that if a proposal is implemented it is with suggested modifications. The final decisions would also be subject to parliamentary approval.