Councils apologise after 'offensive' website appears on leaflet sent to residents

The link to the parody website has been included on thousands of leaflets sent to residents in Somerset Credit: ITV News West Country

Four district councils in Somerset have apologised after a link to a website featuring what they described as 'some offensive content' was sent to thousands of residents.

The authorities are running a poll to get the views of people in the county on proposed changes to local government.

The pack, which was sent out in the mail, includes leaflets with information about the two suggested plans - one of which, the 'One Somerset' plan backed by Somerset County Council, include a link to a spoof version of the official website.

The link on the leaflet takes people to a site featuring doctored versions of One Somerset campaign material and fake 'merchandise'.

Investigations are underway to get the website taken down and the police have been contacted.

Somerset County Council is behind the 'One Somerset' campaign, whilst the four district councils are behind 'Stronger Somerset' Credit: ITV News West Country

The leaders of Somerset West & Taunton Council, Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council and South Somerset District Council have issued a joint statement.

It says: "We are aware of the issue that has been raised regarding one of the leaflets included in the public poll ballot pack. It is being taken very seriously and would like to apologise for any distress this has caused."

It added: "For clarity, the leaflet was drafted by an independent third party and sent to Somerset County Council in advance of the poll for proofing, but we did not receive any comment on the content.

"However, we are also clear that more efforts should have been made when the documentation was being produced and independently verified to ensure all information was correct.

"We are investigating how the error occurred and will make efforts to ensure that the website which currently features some offensive content is taken down. We have contacted the police."

The correct websites for people to visit are or

The pack has been sent to every registered voter in the four district council areas of Somerset Credit: ITV News West Country

A spokesperson for Somerset County Council said: “We’ve had no involvement with this poll but have always been concerned about the biased nature of its approach and the waste of tax payers’ money.

"Now we’ve also been contacted by residents raising concerns about the accuracy of the information provided. Clearly action will be required and we will be seeking legal advice.”

The county and district councils have been split about how they want the future of local government in Somerset to look. Somerset County Council backs the scrapping of the five biggest authorities and the implementation of one new unitary authority. Meanwhile, the four districts would prefer that two new unitary councils are the replacements - one for the east of Somerset and one for the west.

A public consultation on the changes to local government in Somerset ended on 19 April 2021 and a decision by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is due shortly.

The four district councils commissioned the poll saying local people "must be allowed to have the opportunity to have their say clearly and unambiguously". They have stated that it could cost up to £310,000, which they will share the cost of.