IF you’re confused about where to pay your council tax or unsure how to get hold of Social Services, things could become simpler if two councils agree to move in together.
Taunton Deane Council – which collects council tax, determines planning applications and takes away household rubbish – could sell its Deane House offices and rent space at County Hall, home to Somerset County Council, which is in charge of education, Social Services and highways.
A report to the Deane’s corporate scrutiny committee today (Thursday) recommends the move as the authority’s current HQ is ageing and needs millions spent on maintenance and repairs.
Another option is a new building at Firepool, although the report says renting in A or B Block at County Hall is “the best option for customers and the optimum value for money”.
Other public sector organisations, including the Charity Commission and the police, are considering being based at County Hall, where space has been freed up by efficiencies.
If a public sector hub is established there, people would be able to access several services at a single location.
Sharing arrangements between public organisations in other parts of the county have produced savings.
The report says: “Sharing has brought the additional significant benefit of closer working between organisations and improved access for customers by introducing one-stop shop approaches.”
Property consultants commissioned by the district council favour the County Hall option, with Firepool second and staying put last.
The county would fit out the offices, while Deane House could be sold for development.
A final decision will be made at the end of next month.
Cllr Simon Coles, LibDem opposition leader on Taunton Deane Council, is worried the move is being rushed through.
He said: “I can’t see how it is sensible, practical or good value for the taxpayers of Taunton Deane.
“It seems like a marriage in all but name and a movement towards some kind of unitary authority.”
A county spokesman said the authority welcomes the recommendation to Deane councillors.
He added: “The creation of a multi-agency public service hub at County Hall is subject to county council councillors agreeing the development proposals. They will be considering this over the next few months.
“Although a formal decision is yet to be made, the co-location would benefit local residents by giving them a single point of access for both councils and other public sector services.
“This will no doubt bring considerable benefits for a number of public services, our customers and the public purse for many years to come.”