South Hams and West Devon district councils consider merger

Owl says: presumably this is not an option open to East Devon District Council, as no council would want to merge with one that is going to take out a big loan for its own new headquarters.

“Two Devon councils are considering a merger into one authority in a bid to save money – but the move could see your council tax increase.

South Hams and West Devon councils are considering joining forces, with a formal proposal to be put to councillors later this month, to make up for a budget shortfall of £1.9million each year after 2020.

South Hams leader John Tucker says there would be “severe consequences” if he cannot produce a balanced budget, suggesting his council could “run out of money”, reports plymouthherald.

“We know that there are some key concerns that the public will have, and in the proposal you will see how we plan to address those concerns,” he said.

“The biggest one for our residents in South Hams is likely to be the difference between our council tax rate and West Devon’s, which is approximately £63 a year on a band D property.

“If the proposal goes ahead we would need to bring the two council tax charges to the same level and this may mean that South Hams residents will see an increase over the next few years, until they are at the same level.

“In the proposal we have laid out some different options for how this could be dealt with.

“If we do not do this, there is a risk that South Hams will run out of money after 2020, due to the lack of funding, we therefore want to make sure we consider all options to continue funding those services we know are vital to our local communities.”

The merger could save up to £500,000 every year, excluding extra income from council tax.

“These savings would not be made through cuts to services, but because a single council will cost less to operate,” a spokesman said.

“Over the last few months a working group of councillors from both authorities, with representatives from across the political parties in South Hams and West Devon, have been exploring if the creation of one new council would be possible.”