“Tories and Lib Dems letting us all down.” says Bridgwater East Candidate

labour manifesto-18
East meets West;- Barbara O Connor & Richard Hampson-Labour candidates for East & West Bridgwater plan their campaigns

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”.

“Since 2010, the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in Westminster has enacted some of the harshest cuts in public spending in recent history, hitting disadvantaged towns like Bridgwater and rural villages like Bawdrip and Westonzoyland the hardest of all. The destructive cuts agenda has also been pushed closer to home, with Tory-run Somerset County Council slashing funding to some of its most vital services.”

Barbara and Ricky
Labour candidates standing across the County. Here Barbara O’Connor (Bridgwater East) chats with Ricky Holcombe (Highbridge)

Coalition ‘doesn’t care about the most vulnerable’

Barbara is particularly concerned with the cuts to the County welfare budget, and the effect this will have on Somerset’s vulnerable: “Let’s look at what the Conservatives are doing at County Hall – they’re proposing £7,690,000 of cuts to the welfare budget in just three years, money that goes to pay the care providers who look after the elderly and disabled at home. This is bound to make a massive difference in our community. People who have worked hard and paid their taxes shouldn’t have to worry about the availability of care when they get old – society should value their past contribution.”

But it’s not just the old who are hurt by some of the most wide-ranging cut-backs in recent memory: “As a mother, I’m appalled that we find ourselves in a society where a third of food bank recipients are children, and where 1 in 5 mothers are forced to skip meals to help feed their families. Who would have thought that food banks are now opening at a rate of 3 every week? This is the result of a Coalition government that clearly doesn’t care about the most vulnerable, and that is consistently hurting the people it claims to serve.”

Barbara cites the recent libraries debacle as an example of Somerset’s Tories mishandling its finances: “A recent High Court judgement saw Somerset County Council fined £200,000 for trying to rush through library closures. It just goes to show what happens when cuts are made by a Conservative majority. What could that money have achieved for Bridgwater, Bawdrip, Chedzoy and Westonzoyland?”

Barbara O'Connor-challenging Tory Portfolio Holder David Hall in his Bridgwater East seat.‘I want my son to grow up in  a caring society’

Most of all, though, Barbara is motivated by what the destructive cuts agenda might do to her son’s future life prospects, and those of other children his age: “I want my son to grow up in a caring society – where he gets an education that helps him fulfill his potential, and supports children whatever their social background. I want him to be able to keep fit and healthy, with access to leisure facilities and high-quality state healthcare. When he gets old, I want there to be care homes that offer compassion and value the elderly.”

It’s this kind of caring society that’s being dismantled from above. In standing for County, Barbara hopes to be part of the alternative: “Nationally and locally, the Tories and the Lib Dems are letting us all down. They’re both implicated in a destructive economic policy that harms the majority. The County Elections are our opportunity to tell them we’ve had enough of their policies. Only a vote for Labour is a vote for a real alternative in County Hall”.

Barbara O ‘Connor is Labour candidate for Bridgwater East & Bawdrip


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