Somerset

Merged Somerset councils awarded £750,000 by government

Two councils in Somerset have been given £750,000 of government money to help them work together.

It comes six months after Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council's application for funding was rejected.

The announcement they would receive the money towards shared staff and services has been described as "tremendous".

The government said it was awarding the funding due to their commitment to "delivering transformational changes".

In a joint statement, council leaders John Williams and Tim Taylor said: "It makes absolute sense that we work with one team of senior management and officers while remaining democratically independent."

The Department for Communities and Local Government, which made the funding announcement, said the councils had "narrowly missed out" on receiving funds last year.

Plans to merge staff and services were announced at the end of last year - a move which will lead to the equivalent of 37 job losses.

Taunton Deane's chief executive Penny James was appointed as joint chief executive for the two Conservative-run authorities last October.

A joint management team came into effect on 1 January and work on bringing other staff and services together is currently under way.

The change will cost £2.7m including redundancy payments, but is hoped to save £1.9m annually.

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