Somerset County Council - History


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. 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.

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