Bridgwater is a Labour town. In this series we look at the people that have shaped our town and our party and the people still doing it today. To launch the series, current Town Council Labour leader Brian Smedley interviews five times Mayor Ken Richards.
When I first stood for council in 1990 Labour was at a low ebb. Having fought with ourselves over the nuclear issue in 1987 we were down to 4 councillors. And now even one of those was standing down and causing a by-election in the Victoria ward. It was the height of the Poll Tax and I was selected to fight the seat. On my first day I went to Brendon Road and was astounded to find every single window had a ‘Vote Labour’ poster in it. What a morale booster! And from there we went on to win the by-election with more votes than all the other 3 parties combined. Continue reading “Labour Lives: No.1 KEN RICHARDS”
The 3 -week strike of 280 Unite members at the Huntworth ARGOS warehouse is still on, after ACAS talks broke up on Thursday without agreement.
Bridgwater Trades Union Council is asking all local trades unionists to show their solidarity over the next few days by helping give out the Unite strike leaflet , helping give out the Bridgwater TUC solidarity leaflet, turning up for the Unite ARGOS strike picket SOLIDARITY HOUR on Tuesday 29th August from 1.30pm to 2.30pm and sending messages of support/solidarity to the Bridgwater Unite ARGOS striker.
Local Labour members have been joining supporters on the picket line and in solidarity action in the Town Centre and outside the Argos store. Cllr Brian Smedley, Bridgwater Town Council Leader, said ” This strike is not just about workers defending their terms and conditions, which they have every right to do, it’s about the openess of the dealings between the management and workers and the potential of losing the Argos brand in Bridgwater and people may not be aware that Argos has been bought out by Sainsburys. I would urge Labour members to support the solidarity action and stick up for our town and its future.”
UK catalogue retailer Argos faces three weeks of strikes across its distribution network in a dispute over the failure of the company to negotiate a national agreement covering redundancy and severance packages.Unite, the country’s largest union which represents the 1,100 workers affected, warned that deliveries to customers will be severely hit. Strikes by the warehouse staff began early in the morning of Tuesday 15 August and will continue until early in the morning of Tuesday 5 September.
Bridgwater Trades Union Council Secretary Dave Chapple urged local people to support the action saying “Unite ARGOS Bridgwater picket lines are from 5.30am till 3pm so try and get along to give solidarity from your union.” His call was backed by UNITE delegate and Bridgwater Labour Councillor Brian Smedley who said “Argos are clearly being unreasonable and the Union is simply seeking guarantees about their members futures including relocation packages, agreed redundancy or severance terms and challenging future attacks on their terms and conditions. They should be supported.”Continue reading “Argos Workers Strike at Bridgwater Depot”
Weston Labour Party are calling on comrades across the South West for help in their campaign to protest A&E Closure in their town. A statement today read “Bridgwater, Wells ,North Somerset, and of all Constituencies fighting the cuts to our NHS imposed by this Conservative Government. What happens to one of us today will surely happen to another tomorrow.”
West Somerset Labour Party says the unprecedented demand being placed on the local food bank is evidence that the Conservative government is driving up child poverty. Labour is calling for a halt to the roll out of the discredited Universal Credit, an end to the public sector pay cap and better help for families in need.
Labour says the Bridgwater and West Somerset Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger should fall into line with new standards in public life and stop employing his wife to help him with his work in parliament.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority says employing family members is “out of step” with modern employment practices. It says the need for transparency and good employment practice outweighs the benefits MPs find in hiring relatives. Continue reading “Labour Tells MP: Stop Employing Your Wife”
West Somerset Labour Party is calling on the government to use common sense to end the chaos surrounding provision of public toilets. And it says there should be an end to the charging of business rates for this vital public service.
West Somerset is one of many parts of the country where the future of public toilets is in doubt because of the squeeze on council budgets. Until this year the district’s toilets were owned and run by West Somerset Council. But, faced with a financial crisis, the council decided it couldn’t afford to run them. The buck was passed to towns and parishes. Continue reading “Labour calls for common sense on toilets”
The Bridgwater Citizens Advice Bureau has highlighted the huge problems in the roll out of Universal Credit, which is forcing many working families into debt, homelessness and towards food banks, due to the inadequacy of the implementation of the system. Universal Credit is failing to support many vulnerable people locally. Growing income inequality and insecurity accentuated by austerity is not needed in a modern society. Sedgemoor Labour Leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) says “We should not be experiencing a time when those people who rely on “hard work” are facing a decline in their living standards.”
Cllr Lerry launched a major attack on the failings of Universal Credit saying “Unemployment does not appear to be the problem locally it is in fact low wages. All people should be entitled to a basic income that allows individuals and families to live without the fear of debt and homelessness. Such a policy would allow families and individuals to investment in their future and the local economy. Business and employers can rely on Welfare to boost the wages of employees, which is really a subsidy for employers while employees remain on low wages. Citizens who pay their taxes are paying for this subsidy.”Continue reading “Sedgemoor Labour Leader attacks ‘failing’ Universal Credit”
Labour is telling the Bridgwater and West Somerset MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger he should be telling ministers what a disaster Universal Credit has been.
Universal Credit (UC) is a replacement for a group of other benefits, including Jobseekers Allowance and Housing Benefit. Bridgwater has had early experience of UC, because the district of Sedgemoor was chosen as a pilot area. UC is due to be rolled out in many other parts of the country later this year. The experience in Sedgemoor has been a terrible one for claimants. Payments are delayed for weeks and it is nearly impossible to get sensible answers to queries.
Putting Pressure on ILG
Andy Lewis of West Somerset Labour Party worked for several years with benefit claimants. He has written to Liddell-Grainger saying:
As you know, Sedgemoor has been a pilot area for Universal Credit. As I am sure you also know, there have been many problems with its implementation.
Citizens Advice Sedgemoor, in a report last year, highlighted problems including long waits for payment, difficulties with the online claiming system and the near-impossibility of meaningful contact with Universal Credit by phone. It concluded that people are falling into rent arrears and other debt as a direct result of the shortcomings of Universal Credit. More recently, Citizens Advice nationally has made clear that the problems with Universal Credit are continuing.
Universal Credit is scheduled to be introduced in other parts of the country this autumn. I am writing in the hope that you will tell ministers that based on the experience in Sedgemoor, wider implementation should be delayed until the many problems have been ironed out and it has been made into a system that is fit for purpose.
Universal Credit has caused much hardship in Bridgwater and other parts of Sedgemoor. I hope you will agree that it would be wrong to put other people through this, and that Universal Credit must be seen to work properly in the pilot areas before it is extended further.
A sensational surge in the Labour vote in the Bridgwater and West Somerset area saw local councillor Wes Hinckes achieve a tally of 16,663 , a brilliant 29% of the vote, yet at the same time Tory incumbant Ian Lidell-Grainger increased his own vote and clung on to his feudal seat.