Bridgwater is the Key to Labour victory in Somerset

Friday, 5 April 2013
Labour candidates for the crucial 7 Bridgwater divisions
Labour candidates for the crucial 7 Bridgwater divisions

Candidates have been announced today for the Somerset County Council elections scheduled for May 2nd and for the first time ever Labour is standing everywhere and running a countywide campaign. While the County has been fought over in recent years by the Tories and Lib Dems, now they are both in bed together in Government a real alternative is needed and Labour is in the strongest position to break the coalition’s grip.

In the Bridgwater area Labour’s hopes are strongest. At their height in recent years Labour have held all 4 Bridgwater seats –North & Central, South, East & Bawdrip and West and need to win all of these on May 2nd if they are to regain influence on County. In addition, to gain actual control Labour need to win the 3 neighbouring seats of Huntspill, North Petherton and Cannington.

Of the 7 Bridgwater/South Sedgemoor seats the battleground is Labour v Tory with the moribund and compromised Lib Dems only standing token candidates in 6 of the seats while the Tories are threatened by the far right conservative UKIP in 4 of them.

Labour ‘must take the 4 Bridgwater seats ‘

Dave Loveridge
Dave Loveridge- Labour’s sitting councillor for Bridgwater North and central

Labours strongest seat, Bridgwater North & Central , contains the Sydenham estate and Eastover and the candidate is long serving Town,District and County Councillor Dave Loveridge, shortly to become next Mayor of Bridgwater. Dave is up against Tory John Harwood and Cannington Lib Dem, Janice Beasley.

Leigh leafletting
Leigh Redman (Bridgwater South) leafletting outside of the Library .

In Bridgwater South, a long standing Labour seat , the Party is standing fireman and Hamp resident Leigh Redman. Labour lost this seat for the first time ever at the last election where a poor turnout and voter resistance to all parties saw a collapse of votes for everyone with the Tories winning by just 20 votes, which must have shocked voters who thought it didn’t matter who got in and now witness the effects of the Con Dem Government. The salutary lesson meant one-man coalition Steve Gill got in as a tory and then within a month left and joined the Lib Dems. And then lost interest in politics altogether. The South division,which includes Hamp and Westover wards-currently represented by Labour at town and district level, is a crucial ‘must gain’ for Labour. This time round there’s only 2 candidates –Leigh for Labour and Tory Lance Dudderidge. Apparently there was meant to be a Lib Dem but the candidate failed to submit a correct registration form.

Richard Hampson Labour candidate for Bridgwater West
Richard Hampson Labour candidate for Bridgwater West

Bridgwater West will see a decisive ‘Battle of the Titans’ between shaky sitting Tory Ann Bown and Labours experienced local boy Richard Hampson. The division, for county purposes, is an odd amalgam of traditionally Labour Victoria ward and traditionally Tory Quantock (now Wyndham) ward. Currently held by the Tories, Bridgwater West was Labour not so long ago. Thrown into the midst of this is a token Lib Dem candidate, Alan Beasley (who usually stands in Cannington) and that dangerous thorn in the side of the tories, Victoria Gardner standing for the far right conservative UKIP. Bridgwater West will be an epic contest and former Local Government administrator Richard is determined to see what life is like on the members side of the fence finally.

Barbara O'Connor-challenging Tory Portfolio Holder David Hall in his Bridgwater East seat.
Barbara O Connor -Bridgwater East and Bawdrip

In Bridgwater East and Bawdrip, 80% of the division consists of Bower Manor and the Bridge estate plus the villages of Bawdrip and Chedzoy plus this time round adds in the village of Weston Zoyland. A Labour held seat in recent years, the candidate Barbara O’Connor is seeking to retake it from unpopular Tory county Portfolio holder David Hall who was kicked out of his Town and District seats just 2 years ago . Barbara, who lives in Bower, is also facing Lib Dem , Bob Bryant, from Axbridge and an additional right wing challenge from UKIPper Richard Scammell. Continue reading “Bridgwater is the Key to Labour victory in Somerset”

Labour candidate calls for ‘County-Wide Fightback’ as cuts begin to bite

Sunday, 31 March 2013
Richard Hampson Labour candidate for Bridgwater West
“Send a message to the Conservatives and their Lib Dem allies that their welfare policies are unacceptable” Richard Hampson, Labour candidate for Bridgwater West

This hasn’t been the best of weeks to be on the breadline, and it’s about to get worse. Today, the Coalition’s new budget comes into force. Approximately 13,000 millionaires will receive a £100,000 tax cut. For every one of those millionaires, 137 families will be hit by the new bedroom tax. In total, about 660,000 households with spare rooms, including some of the most disadvantaged in the country, will lose an average of £14 a week at a time when they are already struggling to weather the deepest recession in eighty years.

Earlier this week, 50 of the country’s most senior experts in social policy wrote an open letter to David Cameron. The professors’ message was stark – cancel your welfare cuts or cause the poorest tenth of households to lose 38% of their income, pushing 220,000 children into poverty. This was the same week church groups hit out at “the systematic misrepresentation of the poorest in society” by government and the media, housing federation chief David Orr described the bedroom tax as “one of these once-in-a-generation decisions that is wrong in every respect” and Labour estimated that the combined impact of Coalition cutbacks would cost the average family almost £900 a year.

And it was also the week that, here in Somerset, Bridgwater Town Council voted to support the establishment of the town’s first food bank since the 1930s. The bank will be run by volunteers from the Tressel Trust, and, like those recently established in nearby Highbridge and Taunton, will run on a referral system. GPs and Social Services offices can refer people they deem in sufficient need to the new bank –to be located in the former Enterprise Centre on Northgate – where they’ll receive vouchers they can exchange for food.

Candidate hit’s out at ‘Destructive social policy’

The Labour controlled Town Council has earmarked £1,500 to the bank, which is doing crucial work for the area’s most vulnerable at a time of real hardship for some. Labour’s Richard Hampson, standing for Bridgwater West in May’s County Council elections, has praised the individuals taking the time to help needy members of the community – but he has also hit out at the kind of destructive social policy that leaves it to unpaid volunteers to ensure the most needy have enough food to eat.

“Setting up a food bank in Bridgwater is another sign of the disastrous effects of this Conservative-led, Liberal DemoPrat supported government” said Richard. “While the efforts of many concerned and caring people in setting it up are to be highly commended, the fact that it is necessary in the 21st century is a damning indictment of this pathetic apology for a Government

“David Cameron talks about ‘the Big Society’. But actions speak louder than words. His ‘Big Society’ has amounted to little more than the poorest getting poorer through cuts in benefits and pay freezes and being left to flounder by a government that slashes vital state services while the richest enjoy tax cuts”. Continue reading “Labour candidate calls for ‘County-Wide Fightback’ as cuts begin to bite”

South West One experiment ‘a financial disaster’ says Chard Labour candidate

Friday, 29 March 2013
Graham Forsyth
Graham Forsyth,Labour candidate for Chard North says “Lib Dem Somerset County Councilors are no different and offer no opposition to the Somerset County cuts being pushed though by this Tory administration.”

The news that Somerset County Council has spent millions of pounds to settle its dispute with South West One is just the latest twist in a scandalous story of misjudgement and waste. Right from the start, when the deal was negotiated by the Liberal Democrats, it should have been obvious that the idea of letting a multi-national company handle the council’s money was a bad one.

It has now cost £2 million in legal fees alone to reach a settlement. And the council will be paying over millions on top of that – though we are not allowed to know how much.

Under the deal, services such as procurement and property management are being taken back in house by the council. But the bad news is that the contract with South West One in many other areas will continue.

“Lib Dems simply did not do their homework”

Graham Forsyth, Labour candidate for Chard North in the forthcoming Somerset County Council elections, is not alone in believing that it is shocking to think that front line services for people in Somerset are being cut, while money lines the pockets of lawyers who have renegotiated a contract that should never have been signed in the first place.

Graham says “So the longstanding dispute between Somerset County Council and services provider South West One has been settled. The county council says an agreement has been reached to resolve not only the legal dispute between the parties but also service issues raised by the council.

The SouthWest One experiment was set up by the Lib Dem group led by Chard’s own Jill Shortland, it has proved to be a complete and utter financial disaster. Asking an American multinational company like IBM to run and manage so many critical ‘back office’ services was always a strange call, but the Lib Dems simply did not do their homework and this has given in the current Tory administration the ‘perfect storm’ of opportunity to wield their cost cutting axe.” Continue reading “South West One experiment ‘a financial disaster’ says Chard Labour candidate”

“There’s no such thing as the bedroom tax” says Tory leader as Sedgemoor Labour Group moves motion to ‘think again’.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Leigh Redman
Leigh Redman-Labour candidate for Bridgwater South addresses Sedgemoor Council meeting calling for Government ” to drop the bedroom tax and think again”

With the Coalitions disastrous ‘Bedroom tax’ almost upon us, Sedgemoor Labour Group attempted today to put a motion to Full Council calling for the Government to drop the policy and think again. Sedgemoor Labour Group –the strongest in Somerset with 13 members representing 6 wards in Bridgwater , claimed the tax  was ‘unworkable’ and would ‘hit the most vulnerable’ and asked the council to ‘use discretionary payments to make sure that families and people are not made homeless or forced into debt because of the bedroom tax’.

Labour Group leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) opened the debate saying “This Council will have to deal with the consequences of this punitive tax. The ‘under occupancy penalty’, does exactly what it is supposed to, it penalises. According to the government’s own figures, 63% of those penalised are disabled. Nearly one quarter of those penalised are lone parents.The Government has already made U-turns on this. People are facing large tax bills simply to continue living in their own homes. It’s a tax knowing that people are trapped and by a Government knowing that it will put people into hardship.”

Labour Councillor Leigh Redman (Bridgwater Dunwear) who is standing for Bridgwater South in the County Council election,  supported the motion and seconded the amendment. “The National Housing Federation has calculated which constituencies will be hit hardest by penalties for under-occupation of social housing that come into force on 1 April. Under the under-occupation penalty, or ‘bedroom tax’, social housing tenants who are of working age and in receipt of housing benefit will have their payments cut if they have one or more spare bedrooms. Housing benefit will be cut by 14 per cent for one spare bedroom, and 25 per cent for two spare rooms.”

‘Estimated 700 tenants hit by this proposal’

“The Department for Work and Pensions has calculated 660,000 households across Britain will be affected by the policy, with an average reduction of £728 per year. The National Housing Federation has used the regional breakdown provided by the department of work and pensions to estimate the number of people who will be affected in each constituency. Although mid table Bridgwater and West Somerset would still see an estimated 700 tenants hit by this proposal! Continue reading ““There’s no such thing as the bedroom tax” says Tory leader as Sedgemoor Labour Group moves motion to ‘think again’.”

“Lib Dems insulting the intelligence of Somerset residents isn’t anything new” Labour goes on the offensive in South Somerset

Monday, 25 March 2013

lib dim newsGiven their skyrocketing unpopularity in government with the Conservatives, the Lib Dems will unsurprisingly spend County Election season frantically trying to distance themselves from their coalition partners.

In Somerset especially, the Lib Dem spin-machine will be running at full tilt. Losing County Hall to the Tories was a huge blow four years ago, and the Liberals are now desperate to wrest it back to rejuvenate their flagging fortunes as Labour stages a determined come-back.

Somerset needs a political turnaround

There’s no doubt that Somerset urgently needs a political turnaround. County residents have been hit by eye-watering cutbacks to vital council services. Not only do rural councils face bigger reductions in central government grants than urban ones, the services lost as a result are crucially important to the wellbeing of often isolated communities. But local Tories have obediently followed the national Cameron-Osborne agenda, shredding welfare budgets in a bid to make average earners, the elderly, disabled people and the poorest pay for an economic crisis caused by some of society’s wealthiest.

For the Lib Dems, success or failure will ride on how well they can convince people that they would deliver that turnaround. The facts certainly suggest otherwise – without Lib Dems in Westminster whole-heartedly signing up to Tory-brand economic vandalism, Cameron’s slash and burn austerity drive wouldn’t have got off the ground. Continue reading ““Lib Dems insulting the intelligence of Somerset residents isn’t anything new” Labour goes on the offensive in South Somerset”

“Breathtaking cynicism of Tory propaganda” says Dunster candidate

Sunday, 24 March 2013
newspaper
Tory propaganda being ‘appropriately filed’.

The latest attempt by the Tories to portray themselves as a responsible administration in Somerset has drawn scorn from Labour candidates.

A “newspaper” called Bridgwater and West Somerset Matters is being delivered across the constituency. It tries to claim that the Tories are investing in Somerset – but the claims fall apart under examination.

The half-truths start on the front page, Tory leader John Osman is pictured at the topping off ceremony for the new Chilton Trinity School in Bridgwater. No mention of the fact that the building work at Chilton Trinity was approved under the Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future programme. Since the Tory-Lib Dem government came to power, it has done its best to stop investment in schools. To try to claim credit for investment agreed under Labour is a sign of desperation.

Brazen cheek

The other front page story shows even more brazen cheek. Under the headline “Library Book Boost” Cllr Osman says “despite what people may have read, the Conservatives have not closed any libraries in Somerset.” Most readers will remember that the only reason the Tories didn’t close any libraries was because the courts wouldn’t let them. After a tireless campaign by library supporters, the plan to shut libraries down was declared illegal.

It’s the same on the inside pages. A story on community grants highlights a payment of £2,153 to Home-Start in West Somerset, to help families with young children. Grants like this are welcome – but they won’t go far to recompense for cuts of £1.4 million in the budget for family support workers and teachers at children’s centres. Continue reading ““Breathtaking cynicism of Tory propaganda” says Dunster candidate”

Tory vote collapses in Shepton Mallet as Labour take two Town council seats

Friday, 22 March 2013
Labour victors in the Shepton West By-Election Deborah Towner and John Gilham
Labour victors in the Shepton West By-Election Deborah Towner and John Gilham

A sensational Labour victory in the Shepton Mallet West By-election this week gives a boost to the Somerset County Campaign and shows that Labour are genuine contenders. Labour took 2 seats in the By-Election with the Tory vote dropping by 30% and Labour up by 25%. The Lib Dems didn’t even dare to stand.

Victorious Labour candidates were County veteran John Gilham and May candidate for the Mendip South division Deborah Towner winning  294 & 281 votes to the Tory candidates 240 & 231- a drop of 100 votes by the ruling group..

Result shows Labour can win in Somerset

Labour’s candidate for the County elections in May, Chris Inchley, said “Shepton Mallet Labour scored a great  victory in Shepton West on Thursday evening. This result proves that Labour can win in Somerset, it is clear Labour offers a very real alternative to the Conservative Liberal democrat failed government.” Continue reading “Tory vote collapses in Shepton Mallet as Labour take two Town council seats”

Bridgwater County Councillor attacks Budget “How long are we going to let this shambles continue!?”

Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Dave Loveridge
“Bridgwater is crucial to Labour success in the County elections” Cllr Dave Loveridge,Bridgwater North and Central

Dave Loveridge,Town and District Councillor  and Somerset County Councillor for Bridgwater North and Central , watched today’s budget with a deep sense of anger ” Yet again George Osborne has let the wealthy off by yet again cutting front line services. This means that the unemployed – by his doing- will suffer along with the low waged and part time workers. How long are we going to let this shambles continue? If either of the ruling parties win again at County Hall this May we know they will just continue  cutting services to the extreme.  We need to vote them out on May 2nd  and that vote this time has to be Labour. “

Councillor Loveridge has been in the minority at County Hall since the 1980’s apart from a short period when a larger Labour Group held the balance of power and could influence the decisions. “This was at a time when a Labour Government was actively building up support services such as Sure Start  and genuinely helping working people and families. Today the Tories and the Lib Dems are in it together and it’s time for a change. Eight years ago we had all 4 Bridgwater county seats, This year we plan to re-take them. Bridgwater is key to Labour influence on County and the swing is back with us since we took 14 of the 16 Town seats 2 years back at the most recent elections. So we can do it!”

‘Millionaires laughing all the way to the bank’

Dave supported Shadow Chancellor Ed Ball’s summary of todays budget. Mr Balls said “The message of George Osborne’s Budget today was clear: growth down, unemployment up, borrowing up and millionaires laughing all the way to the bank. This was a more of the same Budget from a downgraded Chancellor.” Continue reading “Bridgwater County Councillor attacks Budget “How long are we going to let this shambles continue!?””

Billy Bragg asks Lib Dem MP to ‘remove his image’ in dispute over plans to abolish Agricultural Wages Boards

Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Somerton and Frome Labour candidates join the picket outside Lib Dem MPs surgery
Somerton and Frome Labour candidates join the picket outside Lib Dem MPs surgery

Somerton and Frome Labour Party members who have been supporting farm workers in their campaign to save the Agricultural Wages Board have been given a boost this month as singer Billy Bragg weighs into the dispute calling for  Liberal Democrat farming minister David Heath to remove his image from his website.

Billy Bragg wrote “I am very dissapointed to find that you are driving through legislation that will undermine agricultural wages here in the south west. Plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board and replace it with the national Minimum Wage will take millions of pounds out of labourer’s pay packets and have a severe knock on effect for the rural economy. At a time when our high streets are suffering from an acute lack of demand, abolishing a board which has ensured that farm labourers take home a reasonable wage will not help address that problem.”

Singer Billy Bragg performing at the Tuition fees demo in Taunton
Singer Billy Bragg performing at the Tuition fees demo in Taunton

 

‘An ideological attack on workers ability to earn a fair wage’

The singer continued ” This is an ideological attack on workers ability to earn a fair wage and you should be ashamed to be putting through a policy that will only benefit large land owners such as Prince Charles. I notice that you feature a picture of me on your website. If you are not prepared to reconsider this legislation. I’m afraid I must ask you to remove my image.” Continue reading “Billy Bragg asks Lib Dem MP to ‘remove his image’ in dispute over plans to abolish Agricultural Wages Boards”

HINKLEY ‘C’ GETS GREEN LIGHT:LABOUR CAMPAIGNERS CAUTIOUS WELCOME

Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Leigh Redman
Leigh Redman-Labour candidate for Bridgwater South ‘Bridgwater and Somerset must benefit from the development’

With today’s announcement from the secretary of state granting the Development consent order (DCO) giving the green light to EDF allowing construction of Hinkley point C,Labour Town & District Councillor Leigh Redman, who is the Party’s candidate for the County seat of Bridgwater South, welcomed the news but with it outlined the work that now needs to be done.

Cllr Redman said “ It is important that Bridgwater residents are involved fully in all aspects. Life for Bridgwater is about to change with an influx of hundreds of workers. The construction traffic will be starting to increase on the already busy road network and firms will be looking for sites to house their operations for the construction project. The largest national infrastructure development this country has ever seen will start to ramp up on our door step. Now more than ever will the need for local representation be top of the agenda for any elected official to ensure that Bridgwater is kept at the top of any list for fair and reasonable mitigation. We need to monitor closely any increase in local rents, increases in traffic congestion and all aspects of this project to ensure that EDF honours its pledges!” Continue reading “HINKLEY ‘C’ GETS GREEN LIGHT:LABOUR CAMPAIGNERS CAUTIOUS WELCOME”