MIDNIGHT on Friday marks the end of an era for local government across West Somerset and Taunton Deane as a new unitary council is created for the whole of the county.

Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT), which was created in 2019 by merging Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council, will be abolished along with the county’s three other districts, Sedgemoor, Mendip, and South Somerset.

Somerset County Council will also technically be disbanded as a new authority named Somerset Council takes over all five local authority roles.

Independent and Green councillors who have served on SWT will meet one last time outside the council’s Deane House headquarters in Taunton on Friday morning to celebrate what they believe were the authority’s achievements.

The group of councillors formed the official opposition to the Liberal Democrat administration and were initially led by Milverton Cllr Gwil Wren and subsequently by Watchet Cllr Loretta Whetlor.

Cllr Wren said: “Over the council’s short existence, Independent and Green councillors were consistently robust, but constructive, in opposition, challenging the ruling Lib Dem group to make sure they got things right for the people of the district and their environment.”

He said despite occasional disagreements such as over the establishment of a Taunton Town Council and the retro-fitting of council houses, the group supported positive initiatives such as the Seaward Way zero-carbon homes development in Minehead, and the ongoing challenges with Fox’s Mill, in Wellington, and with Watchet Harbour.

The most difficult period without doubt had been the Covid pandemic when all council business went online.

Cllr Wren said: “It was a real privilege to lead a group of people who stood for election because they really felt they could make a difference and fulfil the potential of the new council.

“Individually and collectively we punched above our weight and in a very short time believe we made a real difference to the people in this area.”

Cllr Whetlor said: “I am very proud of our group and our role in making SWT a success and particularly ensuring that West Somerset was properly represented.

“I am sad that it has come to an end but wish the new council well.”

The four Somerset districts have marked the end of their nearly 50-year existence with legacy gifts to their local communities.

They range from ‘talking benches’ and grants for village halls to a 13 feet high public art cedar wood dragon sculpture in Taunton High Street carved by Exmoor chainsaw artist Matthew Crabb in reference to Somerset’s dragon folklore.