Stronger Somerset Update

The Leaders of Somerset’s four District Councils have written to Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in the wake of the Local Poll which showed overwhelming support for Stronger Somerset from residents in the county.

The letter can be viewed here.

In the letter, the Leaders confirm that the districts have a transition team ready to engage with Government officials on the next stages towards implementation.

In the recent Local Poll, 65.3% voted for two unitaries delivering services close to the communities of Eastern and Western Somerset. Just 34.7% supported a proposal for a single unitary with a turnout of more than 111,000.

The Leaders state: “There is a crystal-clear majority for two unitary authorities, not one. And this is the third time the Somerset public have rejected a County Council single unitary; In the 2007 referendum where 82% opposed a single unitary council, in the Ipsos MORI poll late last year where a single unitary was the last option people wanted, and now in the recent referendum. These results are not anomalies. There is consistent, longstanding and deeply felt opposition to a County Council unitary expressed several times over many years. Each time the people of Somerset are asked they repeat exactly the same answer.

“Our judgement is that it is vital to the credibility of the decision-making process and to the delivery of the Government’s goal of ‘levelling up’ that you now declare Stronger Somerset the preferred option.”

Additionally, a week on from victory in the Local Poll, the Leaders of Somerset West and Taunton Council and Sedgemoor District Council met to discuss next steps in the establishment of a new Western Somerset unitary council.

Stronger Somerset, the plan for two councils, Western Somerset and Eastern Somerset, to replace Somerset’s existing five county and district councils, was the overwhelming choice of local residents in the poll, winning 65% of the vote.

While the Council Leaders now await the decision of the Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick, they know they must begin making arrangements to ensure a smooth transition.

This will involve closer working together as two district councils and joint working with the county council.

“We are working to have the new councils up and running in April 2023,” said Cllr Duncan McGinty, Leader of Sedgemoor District Council. “While that might seem a long way off, there is an awful lot of work to do before then and we have to get cracking.”

“We will need an agreed implementation plan in just a few months’ time, so there is no time to waste,” said Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council. “We invite our colleagues from the county council to now join us in this important work.”

The decision of the Local Government Secretary on the future of local government in Somerset is due before the summer Parliamentary recess on 22 July. It is expected that the Stronger Somerset proposal will be the future if he listens to the people’s verdict.

Coronavirus update from Hinkley Point C – 15 March

Coronavirus update from Hinkley Point C – 15 March
Following the Government’s publication of its roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions, I want to keep you up to date with Hinkley Point C’s plans to keep the community and workforce safe.

In January, I told you that we were increasing testing as workers returned after the holiday period. Since then we have expanded our mass testing programme in order to stamp out infection at the earliest opportunity. This has helped us uncover and isolate asymptomatic cases which would otherwise not have been recorded. The programme’s effectiveness is highlighted by latest figures which show that of the almost 1,500 tests carried out last week, we found just one asymptomatic infection.

Meanwhile, all the existing health measures at Hinkley Point C around social distancing, self-isolation, personal behaviour and hygiene remain in place. Falling infection rates show the site is following the steadily improving national and local situation. It is good news that many of our workers and many people in the community are already benefitting from vaccination. The majority of our workforce will have had a first vaccination by the end of April. As national lockdown measures ease, this will offer vital protection to those that need it most.

Despite the good news, I want to assure you that we will not be complacent or simply wait for the virus to go away. The measures we are taking reflect our determination to keep a constant downward pressure on Covid-19. We will follow Government guidance in planning an end to the lockdown, using a measured step by step process when conditions allow. Like you, we are looking forward to better times and hoping for a return to more normal life. However, as the deputy chief medical officer so memorably put it, no-one should relax until the final whistle is blown, even if the game seems to be going in the right direction.

We continue to work closely with Public Health England and our industry regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation who recently undertook a site inspection. We are grateful for their constructive and open attitude and pleased that they endorse our approach to tackling infection and stopping transmission.

I will continue to provide you with the latest information and as always, the team and I are here to answer any questions you may have. We are always interested to hear your views on how we can continue to improve.

Nigel Cann

Construction Delivery Director, Hinkley Point C