Somerset County Council

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Somerset County Council
Coat of arms
John Osman (Conservative)[1]
David Fothergill (Conservative)[1]
29 / 55
18 / 55
3 / 55
3 / 55
2 / 55
First past the post
Last election
2 May 2013
Next election
4 May 2017
Meeting place
County Hall, Taunton.jpg
County Hall, Taunton

Somerset County Council (established in 1889) is the county council of Somerset in the South West of England, an elected local government authority responsible for the most significant local government services in most of the county.

Area covered

From 1889 the County Council administered the whole ceremonial county of Somerset, except for the county borough of Bath.[2] With the creation of the county of Avon in 1974, a large part of the north of the county (now the unitary authorities of North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset) was taken out of Somerset and moved into the new county. However, Avon was disbanded on 1 April 1996 and the two new administratively independent unitary authorities were established.[3]

The area now covered by the county council consists of the five remaining non-unitary districts of Somerset – Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset, Taunton Deane, and West Somerset.


County Councils were first introduced in England and Wales with full powers from 22 September 1889 as a result of the Local Government Act 1888, taking over administrative functions until then carried out by the unelected Quarter Sessions.[4] The areas they covered were termed administrative counties and were not in all cases identical to the traditional shire counties, but in Somerset the whole 'ceremonial county' came under the authority of the new council.

The new system of local democracy was a significant development and reflected the increasing range of functions carried out by local government in late Victorian Britain. Schools (both primary and secondary) were added to the County Council's responsibilities in 1902, and until the 1990s it was also responsible for operating Colleges of Further Education.

Until 1974, Somerset had a large number of urban district and rural district councils. In 1974, local government was reorganized in England and Wales generally, and in Somerset the former urban and rural districts were amalgamated into a much smaller number of district councils.

In 2007, proposals to merge the surviving district councils with the county council into a single unitary authority were rejected at a referendum following local opposition and were subsequently abandoned by the Department for Communities and Local Government.[5]


Somerset County Council is responsible for the more strategic local services of Somerset, with a changing pattern of lower-tier authorities existing alongside it within its area and responsible for other more local services, such as waste collection. The Council provides a wide range of services, including education (schools, libraries and youth services), social services, highway maintenance, waste disposal, emergency planning, consumer protection and town and country planning for matters to do with minerals, waste, highways and education. This makes it one of the largest employers in Somerset.[6] The Council outsourced some work to a joint venture with IBM, SouthWest One, created in 2007.[7] In September 2012 the Council prepared to sue Southwest One as a result of a procurement quality dispute.[8]

Somerset County Council contributes to encouraging businesses to relocate to the county through the inward investment agency Into Somerset.

Somerset County Council appoints eight members to the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority.[9]


Somerset County Council operates the local government cabinet system which was introduced by the Local Government Act 2000. Previously called the "Executive Board", the Cabinet consists of six county councillors and is the county council's main decision making body, taking most important decisions about its functions.[10] Each of the members of the Cabinet is directly responsible for a particular area of county council activities.[11]

Decisions to do with the planning matters dealt with by the county council and other regulatory matters are still taken in a committee called the Regulation Committee.[12]


The first elections to the new county council were held on 23 January 1889. Since then, members have been elected for a term of office (initially three years, now four), with elections held all together on the "first past the post" system.

Until the early 1970s, the County Council still included aldermen. Of a total of 92 members, 69 were elected every three years by ratepayers, and 23 were aldermen, chosen by the 69 elected members. The aldermen served for six years, so after each triennial election either eleven or twelve were appointed, these numbers alternating.[13] Until 1910, the outgoing aldermen could also vote on such appointments. As voting members of the council, aldermen were finally abolished in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972[14] so that there are now only the elected members, each of the fifty-five present county divisions electing a single member.

Elections to the county council in May 2013 returned Councillors in the following numbers: - 29 Conservatives, 18 Liberal Democrats, three Labour members, three UKIP members and two independents. The council is led by John Osman (Conservative). One of the UKIP Councillors joined the Independent Group in February 2014.

Party Councillors
Conservative 29
Liberal Democrat 18
Independent 3
Labour 3
Total 55
Source: Election results at Somerset County Council website

Notable members

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Key Political Figures at
  2. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  3. "The Avon (Structural Change) Order 1995". HMSO. Retrieved 2007-12-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Edwards, John (1955). 'County' in Chambers's Encyclopedia. LONDON: George Newnes. pp. 189–191.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "A unitary council for Somerset". Somerset County Council. Retrieved 2007-06-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Working for Somerset". Somerset County Council. Retrieved 2009-10-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Ballard, Mark (31 August 2012). "Somerset Council braces for lawsuit from Southwest One shared service venture". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 6 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Southwest One sues Somerset County Council". BBC News. 5 September 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Cabinet page at, accessed 11 August 2011
  11. Cabinet Members' Responsibilities November 2010 at, accessed 11 August 2011
  12. About the Council and its Constitution at, accessed 11 August 2011
  13. Geoffrey Boumphrey, Somerset (1963), p. 168 online at
  14. Minors, Michael; Grenham, Dennis (March 2007). "London Borough Council Elections 4 May 2006" (PDF). Greater London Authority. ISBN 9781852612320. Retrieved 29 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Christine Bellamy, Administering central-local relations, 1871-1919, p. 77
  16. Obituary Sir Arthur Hobhouse: A long record of public service in The Times, 21 January 1965
  17. Tributes paid, 12/17/2009 by Firstonline
  18. Sir Chris Clarke, editorial dated 16 December 2009 at
  19. ‘GASS, Elizabeth Periam Acland Hood, (Lady Gass)’, in Who's Who 2012 (London: A. & C. Black, 2012)
  20. Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer at

External links