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Proposed South Hams council merger

September 9, 2017 8:17 PM

Proposal imageThe Conservative-run South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council want to merge.

They are jointly promoting this merger, giving an expected shortfall in income as the principal reason.

However, the proposed merger has disadvantages for the residents of the South Hams.

Here are the key issue we want to draw to your attention:

  • The key point is that you're going to be charged 41% more for the District Council element of your Council Tax but get worse District Council services: The extra charge would be to raise the currently lower figure in the South Hams up to the West Devon level.

  • This extra council tax would raise an extra £2.3 million a year - almost 5 times the expected annual savings made from the merger. In other words this is all about putting the council tax up way above the present 2% cap.

  • South Hams Council leaders are denying there is a financial problem at West Devon. But at a recent West Devon Council meeting its councillors voted overwhelmingly in support of the proposed merger; and some councillors said that the future financial position of West Devon was unsustainable without a merger. Other West Devon councillors have admitted that their council is too small to survive in current conditions.

  • West Devon councillors have decided, in principle, to embark on a £80 million commercial property investment policy, with an initial £25 million to be borrowed to start off with. South Hams has decided that such an investment policy is too risky. A merger would result in South Hams taxpayers taking on this risk.

  • The area covered by the joint council would stretch from Dartmouth to Tavistock, and from Salcombe to beyond Okehampton (see map image below). This is a very large area with widely different communities and individual economies. Overall, the merger would make local government even more remote.

  • A new council headquarters may well be needed, with major cost implications associated with it.

YOU HAVE A LIMITED TIME TO MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

To oppose the merger proposal, and therefore seek to keep your Council Tax as low as possible, make your views known to South Hams District Council by going to https://www.onecouncil.org.uk and completing the questionnaire, or by writing to The Executive Directors, SHDC, Follaton House, Plymouth Rd, Totnes TQ9 5NE.

To be kept informed about the opposition to this merger proposal, send us an email with your contact details (mail@south-hams-libdems.org.uk). We will only contact you in connection with this campaign. Liberal Democrat councillors are leading the fight against the proposed merger. They have unanimously spoken and voted against it, arguing that it does not have any benefits for South Hams Council Tax payers. They will continue to fight this ill-conceived proposal.

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