WEST Somerset residents can now have their say on whether their council should merge with Taunton Deane.
A new website was launched on Tuesday (December 13) to provide online consultation on the decision.
But only hours after the website went live, local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, a fierce opponent of the two-council merger, launched a rival internet site claiming that the council’s campaign “is not a consultation at all. It is a scandal”.
On his site, yournewcouncil.wordpress.com, Mr Liddell-Grainger wrote: “The councils are trying to con the public. Their website includes a questionnaire the results of which will be sent to the Government.
“But the form fails to ask for names and addresses. That means that Cllr John Williams [leader of Taunton Deane council] could get all his mates to write in favour of the merger even if they live in Stornaway or Timbuktu.”
As part of their public consultation campaign to persuade people to back the merger, the councils will launch a series of roadshows in the New Year.
And they say that their website – www.yournewcouncil.org – will provide information on the implications of a merger and invite debate and comments.
Mr Liddell-Grainger said this week that his website insists on full names and addresses, and added: “I want to offer genuine local people a genuine voice on this very important question. All the responses I receive will be sent direct to the Minister.”
He added that residents could write as much as they wished on his site, but claimed that the councils’ website only allowed people 200 characters per question.
A West Somerset Council spokesman said that joint management and shared services had achieved £1.8 million annual savings and the decision on the creation of a new council lay with the Secretary of State.
Residents, partners, towns and parishes and businesses were being invited to take part in a public consultation that would help inform the Secretary of State’s decision.
The spokesman added that the new council website would provide a wealth of information on the proposal to create a new council and provides an online feedback facility.
“A series of public roadshows, across both council areas, is due to get under way in the New Year. This will give people the chance to ask questions, voice opinions and get the information they may need,” the spokesman said.