The Somerset Flood Summit , which took place on Friday 15 March ostensibly to learn lessons from November and Decembers flooding incidents across the county, was organised by the five Somerset District Councils and Somerset County Council, and was hailed as a great success by the organisers. However, Labour councillors disagree and talk of missed opportunities .
The morning session, which included presentations from agencies and organisations involved in flood management such as the Environment Agency, Met Office, Somerset County Council, Somerset Internal Drainage Board, Wessex Water and the Country Land and Business Association, included a panel question time session where delegates could put their questions to the panel which included MPs Ian Liddell Grainger (Bridgwater/Con) and Tessa Munt (Wells/LibDem). Jeremy Browne (Taunton) was also present, but had to leave before the question session began.
‘Most of Bridgwater in Flood Plain 3’ warns Sedgemoor Labour Leader
Cllr Mick Lerry– Leader of Sedgemoor Labour Group asked whether or not Sedgemoor District Council could receive financial support to build the Parrett Barrage. Cllr Lerry told us “The answer from Liddell -Grainger was no and he said that the Environmental Agency should use its own money. Tessa Munt did not respond to the question. However, it is extremely important for this infrastructure project to go ahead if there is to be development on the flood plain, as most of Bridgwater is in flood plain 3″. Continue reading “SOMERSET FLOOD SUMMIT: Labour claims “Key Issues not addressed””
May’s County Council elections will land just over half-way through a widely-reviled Coalition government. After two years of slash-and-burn austerity, the Tories and Lib Dems are peaking in unpopularity, and, with destructive cut-backs from Tory-held County Hall hitting Somerset’s most vulnerable, Labour is gearing up for its most ambitious election campaign in a decade.
Somerset is all too often misconstrued as a uniformly Tory green and pleasant land. But time doesn’t stand still. In Conservative-held North Petherton ward, for example, recent social and economic change plus an appropriately young and dynamic Labour candidate mean there’s a real chance of the Blue seat going Red come election day, particularly as the seat now extends to the major new housing developments of Wilstock/Stockmoor which adjoin Bridgwater .
The hapless Work and Pensions secretary IDS’ next great welfare reform, the Bedroom Tax, appears to be disarray today as he announced a partial U turn of his failed policy, Now foster parents and people who have service children will be exempt. Chris Inchley, Labour candidate for Shepton Mallet says “The real problem with the Bedroom Tax is that it is fundamentally flawed. It is based on a theory that people with lots of spare rooms in the socially rented sector are blocking properties for others who need homes and that those with spare rooms should move into smaller properties.”
Chris believes that the reason why the Bedroom tax is flawed is because there are not enough smaller houses to fill those who have spare rooms and those in the private sector are more expensive then the larger socially rented homes and these houses are peoples homes. “So effectively this will mean a living standard cut or rent arrears.The amended proposals from the Government for the Bedroom Tax is not being applied to those people with disabled children, that’s almost half a million households that are home to a disabled person who are set to lose over £700. Tenants affected will face a 14% cut in housing benefit for the first “excess” bedroom and 25% where two or more bedrooms are “under-occupied”. The government, which estimates the average household affected will lose £14 a week, says the policy will save the exchequer £500m a year” Continue reading “Bedroom Tax ‘Fundamentally flawed’ says Shepton candidate”
Somerset Labour is pulling out all the stops in 2013 and fielding its most impressive slate of candidates in recent memory. While some might be relatively new to elected politics, they can draw on decades of invaluable life experience to take the fight to the Tories across the county.
Local government veteran Richard Hampson is one such candidate of experience, spearheading Labour’s efforts to re-take Bridgwater West from Wembdon based sitting Conservative Ann Bown. Bridgwater West contains the traditional Labour ward of Victoria and the currently Tory ward of Wyndham but not long ago it was one of Labour’s four Bridgwater County seats. It is now a key marginal which Labour needs to win.
A father and grandfather, Richard was born in Bridgwater, went to Dr Morgan’s Grammar School (now Haygrove), and found his first job with the former Bridgwater Rural District Council.
‘A Long and Distinguished career’
It wasn’t long, though, before the local boy decided to fly the nest: “I served with the Councils in Taunton then Seaton in Devon before moving to the London Borough of Hillingdon, where, after various promotions, I became the head of a large department with 225 staff and a £5million budget”. But after a long and distinguished career, the Conservatives intervened: “When the Tories took control of Hillingdon huge savings were required, and I took voluntary retirement on the grounds of redundancy. I am proud that I achieved the savings required from my department without any compulsory redundancies”. Continue reading “Richard Hampson-Spearheading Labour’s efforts to re-take Bridgwater West”
This week Nick Clegg said “The Lib Dems are a party of Government not protest and we should be judged on our record.” It looks like people are doing just that. As High-Profile candidates publicly quit the Party on stage at their Spring conference their disillusioned voters are looking elsewhere for an alternative.
In Yeovil the Labour Party believes it can be that alternative and is contesting every single seat in May 2nd’s Somerset County Council elections.
And where better than Yeovil to seal the lid firmly on the LibDem coffin of betrayal. It was in this constituency some 30 years ago that Paddy Ashdown re-launched the modern ‘grassroots’ Liberals with a message that ‘Labour will never get in here so vote for us and we might’. 30 years later Ashdown is a nervous fellow traveller in a Tory Government that is doing everything that Libdem voters fought against yet now with their official blessing and running their own party into the ground in the process. Continue reading “Lib Dems in Freefall as Labour look to Gain in County Elections”
Labour’s Barbara O’Connor has spoken passionately about her motivation for standing in May’s County Council elections, and her fears about the grim future her young son’s generation could inherit from the Tories and their Lib Dem coalition partners.
Barbara, who’s standing in Bridgwater East and Bawdrip against County Tory Portfolio Holder David Hall, was born in Dublin, and spent her childhood in Ireland. Fourteen years ago she moved to Somerset, firstly living in Cossington where she got her first real taste of local politics as a parish councillor, before moving onto Bridgwater’s Bower Manor Estate where she currently lives. For twelve years she has worked as a civil servant in Taunton, and is a dedicated single mum, balancing a hectic work life with caring for her ten year-old son and, increasingly, politics.
“Bridgwater has great potential”
Barbara speaks fondly of her adopted home-town, and helping often-neglected Bridgwater weather rough economic waters would rank highly on her list of priorities if elected in May: “Bridgwater has great potential and I want to help shape the future of all our children. I want to bring local issues to the table at county-level, and fight for the things that matter to us – be it road maintenance and highways, leisure facilities, our children’s’ education or stopping the devastating cuts being made to the vital public services our families need, for now and for the future”. Continue reading ““Tories and Lib Dems letting us all down.” says Bridgwater East Candidate”
At the recent launch of the Somerset Labour Party Manifesto for the elections on May 2nd, candidates from all over the county got together to discuss the issues that will dominate the forthcoming campaign. In Shepton Mallet, a town with a strong Labour history, Chris Inchley is the candidate and he has already made known his forthright views on the failings of the Coaliation Government on his blog and in local papers. At the Taunton launch he shared his perspective with other delegates.
“So the Conservatives with the Lib Dem poodles are launching their next phase of punishing low paid people. Poll Tax 2 is landing on many low paid people of working age door mats.In Mendip, they will pay a minimum 20% of the Council Tax with the previously exempt, now having to pay a minimum of £4 a week.”
The Labour Party launched its campaign and manifesto for May’s Somerset County Council elections on Monday in Taunton. Labour councillors, candidates and activists were joined outside County Hall by Mary Creagh MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Addressing candidates and activists Mary Creagh said:
“We all know it’s time for a change here in County Hall, and in May Somerset will have the chance to vote for a clear, credible alternative. Today, we are setting out Labour’s priorities for Somerset, and I’m confident that over the coming weeks, as Labour candidates and activists pound the streets and talk to people right across the County, voters will soon see that these priorities represent the right choice for Somerset.”
Conservative and Lib-Dem councillors are backing cuts to the fire and rescue service that would put lives in Somerset at risk.
Members of West Somerset Labour Party heard the frightening details of the planned cuts at their February branch meeting. Jez Rawlings – the Fire Brigades Union representative for retained firefighters in Somerset – said the proposed cuts would drastically reduce the ability to deal with major fires, road crashes and other emergencies.
The corporate plan drawn up by Devon and Somerset Fire Authority would slash the number of full time firefighters by 149. Taunton fire station now has two fire engines crewed by full-timers. That would be cut to one.
The government has said front line services will not be hit. But Jez told the West Somerset meeting that in making savings the authority had gone “straight to the front line.” He said that although no fire station closure are provided in this round of cuts, he expects to see closures in the next stage of the process. Continue reading “Lives at risk as Tories and Lib Dems back cuts”
Alexia Bartlett, Labour candidate for the Huntspill ward in the Somerset County Council election scheduled for May 2nd, has reacted angrily to today’s news that Somersets flagship theatre the Brewhouse is to close.
“When are those in positions of power going to acknowledge the importance of the arts? The 100% cuts to arts funding throughout the county, and now the closure of the Brewhouse, have made it clear to the electorate that artistic and creative expression have no place in 21st century Somerset. Never mind that theatre and writing has its roots in ancient Greece – the great country which established democracy. Never mind that performance extends back to Sanskrit cultures. Never mind the artistic expressions etched on Stone Age walls. Forget that theatre was witnessed years ago in the Passion plays of Christ. Hey, let’s just forget Shakespeare. Throughout life, art, writing, theatre, music,dance and all means of creativity have been fundamental to people’s emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical well-being. Artistic creativity is recognised medically as necessary for certain cases of recuperation. It is often a social activity, binding together communities and building skills of compromise and communication. And yes, it can be highly academic, requiring abilities of analysis, evaluation and articulation. I should know, I teach ‘A’ level Drama. My students are intelligent, responsive, reflective individuals who are passionate about the arts and theatre. I would hate them to infer that what they regard as important, is actually completely irrelevant to life. It’s not. Art underpins life, and has done for centuries.”