Bristol

Splitting town council into three may cost thousands

The three new council areas
Image caption More than 90% of residents did not vote in a referendum on the changes

Splitting a North East Somerset council into three could cost local taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds, it has been claimed.

Norton Radstock Town Council will be broken up in May 2011 after residents voted in favour of the change.

Supporters of having separate councils described the existing council as dysfunctional.

Opponents of the move said it would be expensive at a time when everyone is trying to make savings.

The area's main authority, Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council, carried out a review following pressure to change Norton Radstock.

It decided the single council should be replaced by three separate ones, split up using old parish boundaries.

Hundreds of people, especially in Midsomer Norton, had put their names to petitions demanding change.

A local referendum was also held and found considerable support for separate councils, but more than 90% of people in the area did not take part.

'Legal work'

Chris Watt, a Conservative councillor at BANES, said: "Not very many people are satisfied with the performance of the existing town council.

"It's been dysfunctional for a long time. It didn't seem to have the wit or the will to be better."

He said he could not put a figure on the cost of the change, but estimated "tens of thousands of pounds".

Part of this cost would be for redundancy payments to staff.

But Rob Appleyard, a Labour councillor at BANES and the existing town council, said: "We are probably talking £300,000 to £400,000 by the time it's finished up because there's a lot of legal work to be done, so obviously our lawyers will get rich from this.

"It's not the type of work we should be undertaking at this time."

Community activist Sally Bailey said she thought it was all about a clash of personalities on the council.

"I think you've got some really strong characters who've got various ideologies which don't agree," she said,

"I personally think all of them are reasonable people individually, it's just when they get together they don't see eye to eye."

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