Majority of residents in Somerset prefer some form of local government reform

Residents in the county of Somerset show their preferences when it comes to local government reorganisation

The author(s)

  • Matthew Bristow Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs
  • Holly Day Public Affairs
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A new report by Ipsos MORI shows most residents in Somerset want some form of change in how local government is structured within the county. The research, which was commissioned on behalf of the four district councils of Somerset, found that when residents were presented with four options to replace the current structure of local government, the proposal to create two new unitary councils of Eastern and Western Somerset, known as the Stronger Somerset proposal, was the most preferred option with three in ten (29%) choosing this option. This came out slightly ahead of the option to have more collaboration between district councils (27%) while 15% said they preferred the creation of a new single unitary council for all of Somerset. Just under a quarter (23%) said they preferred no change therefore maintaining the status quo.

Somerset residents recognised that there is a difference between Eastern and Western Somerset when it comes to landscape, infrastructure and people. A majority (54%) agreed there is a difference while only 18% disagreed. A majority in both the areas of what would become Eastern and Western Somerset agreed (51% in Eastern Somerset vs. 56% in Western Somerset).

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Somerset residents found each of the challenges set out within the Stronger Somerset Outline Business Case to be a concern, the most pressing being challenges facing young people (72%), challenges facing the economy (71%) and disadvantages of older people (70%).[1]
  • Residents were more likely to think that the ability to address these challenges won’t change if the proposal to create two new single unitary councils goes ahead, however, few thought that it would make things worse. For example, when it comes to the challenges facing young people, half (50%) said things would stay the same if the proposal went ahead, 23% said it would make it better while 16% say it would make things worse.
  • Sentiment was more divided when it came to the Stronger Somerset proposal improving local democracy. For example, when it comes to the ability of local government to make decisions for the local area 36% said having two councils would make things better, 24% said worse and 33% said it would stay the same.
  • Those who preferred the Stronger Somerset proposal against the other three presented options were much more likely to think that the proposal will improve both the ability to address the challenges facing Somerset and strengthen local democracy.
  • When it comes to support for the principles of devolution and localism, residents were very much in favour of these principles. Two-thirds (66%) said they support devolution (in line with both national and local polling) while 71% support said they support localism.
  • Somerset residents showed higher levels of satisfaction with their district council than they did with Somerset County Council. Two-thirds (67%) said that they were satisfied with their district council (15% dissatisfied) compared with 45% who were satisfied with the county council (31% dissatisfied).
  • The public services people were most satisfied with are waste and recycling collection (79%), parks and green spaces (71%) and street cleaning (64%) while they’re mostly dissatisfied with road maintenance (52% say dissatisfied). The district councils were also more trusted than the County Council to deliver all services asked about in the survey, including services and support for young people. The only exceptions where the County Council was more trusted was the delivery of road maintenance and environmental provisions.

Notes to Editors:

Ipsos MORI carried out 2,049 telephone interviews conducted across the County of Somerset with adults aged 18+ between 26 October – 22 November 2020.

Quotas were used for gender, age, work status and district council so that the data represents the population profile of Somerset County.

Data has also been weighted by gender, age, work status and district council to match the population profile of Somerset County.

All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.


[1] The Stronger Somerset Outline Business Case is available at https://www.strongersomerset.co.uk/case-for-change

The author(s)

  • Matthew Bristow Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs
  • Holly Day Public Affairs

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