Elections – The Battle for Sedgemoor

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The battle for Sedgemoor

On May 2nd 2019 there will be local elections -District Council, and Town or Parish elections. Currently Sedgemoor is controlled by the Conservatives whose strength is in the North of the District (Cheddar and Burnham) and the rural areas, whilst Labour is the dominant party in Bridgwater-with 10 of 15 councillors on District (and 14 of 16 on Town), and therefore the main opposition party.

The current position on Sedgemoor after the 2015 elections;-

35 Conservative 10 Labour  1 Lib Dem 2 UKIP

What does control of Sedgemoor mean?

This clear majority allows the Tories to control Sedgemoor outright. As a result they can appoint the LEADER of the council (Duncan McGinty) and to choose his Cabinet  – that’s a group of Portfolio Holders also known as the Executive.

Labour, as the main opposition party, is in a strong position as it is able to not only nominate the Leader of the Opposition (Mick Lerry) Shadow Portfolio Holders (Shadow cabinet) but also holds the Chairs of two key committees –Corporate Scrutiny (Brian Smedley) and Community Scrutiny (Kathy Pearce) and with these powerful committees are able to ‘call-in’ Council (Tory) decisions and put them under scrutiny.

Sedgemoor is run by decisions of the Executive fed by the committee structure, which includes key responsibilities such as Development Control (planning), Licensing, Grants etc. Each of these committees are politically balanced proportionally to the election result, so for instance the Development Committee is chaired by a Tory and has 15 members of whom 11 are Tory, 3 are Labour and 1 is UKIP or Libdem . In this way the Tories control the council and all the committees.

How can we change this?

Sedgemoor has 48 seats. The Tories have their biggest majority in many years. Labour fell back from 13 seats in 2015 – largely due to a rise in UKIP splitting the vote and either letting the Tory in or taking a Labour seat.

Labour must gain 15 seats to take control of Sedgemoor or if the Tories lose 11 seats the council becomes ‘hung’.

‘Hung’  means an agreement between parties needs to be reached to provide a working majority. The last time this happened was in 1995 when Labour(13) and LibDems(12) took control with a slim majority of 1 over the 24 strong Tory group for  the following 3 years. Sadly, this failed to last as the Lib Dems never voted the same way twice. We maintained that control by taking Chairs and Vice Chairs of committees to give us casting votes.

To win control of Sedgemoor and end years of Tory misrule, Labour needs first to hold it’s 10 seats in Bridgwater and then to make gains in other wards.

The town of Bridgwater is the core of the Labour vote. Currently Labour has 13 out of 15 councillors there

To win a Labour Sedgemoor we need to win 25 seats -these are our best hopes.

Bridgwater Eastover 2

Bridgwater westover 2

Bridgwater Hamp 3

Bridgwater Dunwear 2

Bridgwater Victoria 2

Bridgwater Fairfax 3

All have been Bridgwater Labour seats. Thereafter we need to find 9 seats where we have strong local labour candidates. See below for our targets – but Highbridge has to be top of them

Bridgwater Eastover (2 Labour). Eastover is the east side of the river as far as the railway line including the old terraces of Wellington rd and Polden st stretching up the Bristol road and part way up the Bath road plus the Colley lane and Wylds road industrial areas, the ‘Duck’ estate and the Eastover shopping salient which includes Asda and the bus station. Eastover has been Labour for most of the last 50 years. During the past 4 years Labour councillor Moira Brown resigned and we had to fight a by-election – both at Town and District. We won both but by reduced majorities. One reason was disillusioned Tory David Preece standing against his own party as an independent

Eastover  has 2 Labour councillors  Chelsea Chadwick & Dave Loveridge

Bridgwater Eastover Ward

  • Linda Bareham-Stanley (The Conservative Party) 514
  • Moira Brown (Labour Party) 648 Elected
  • Michael David Hall (The Conservative Party) 506
  • Camael King (Liberal Democrats) 240
  • Dave Loveridge (Labour Party) 708 Elected

 Bridgwater Westover (2 Labour) Westover is the ward formed around the town centre and including West street, the upper-Hamp area around Taunton road and the streets off North street to the Docks and back to the Brewery Field and the Coalyard estate. Only created in 2011 Westover returned 2 Labour councillors in it’s first election. The ward has seen much activity these past 8 years with the West Quay wall collapse , the Northgate Tesco campaign and the various town centre initiatives. The Westover Labour councillors also run a web site for the ward. www.westoverward.co.uk . The ward also includes most of the Bridgwater-Taunton canal.

In 2015 the  Labour councillors were Kathy Pearce ,Brian Smedley.

Bridgwater Westover Ward

  • Barbara Fisher (Liberal Democrats) 373
  • Kathy Pearce (Labour Party) 954 Elected
  • Jeffrey Searle (The Conservative Party) 767
  • Brian David Smedley (Labour Party) 878 Elected
  • John Douglas Watts (The Conservative Party) 634

Bridgwater Dunwear (1 Labour 1 UKIP ) Dunwear was created at the 2011 election and consists of the Bridge estate and the South Sydenham area. Largely residential, the ward also includes the Rollercoaster youth facility which councillors have fought hard to save. In 2015 Labour lost a Dunwear seat to UKIP .and so the only Labour councillor there is  Leigh Redman ,

Bridgwater Dunwear Ward

  • Pele James Barnes (The Conservative Party): 541
  • Lorna Ann Phillippa King (Liberal Democrats): 295
  • Christine Louise McGinty (The Conservative Party): 377
  • Leigh Paul Redman (Labour Party): 748 Elected
  • Diogo Rodrigues (Labour Party): 438
  • Richard Scammell (UKIP) 554 Elected

Bridgwater Hamp (2 Labour) Hamp has been a solidly Labour ward for all of the past 50 years in town and district terms – although in 2010 the county seat fell to the Tory candidate Steve Gill by a handful of votes. And to confound that he suddenly went Lib Dem. And then Labour’s Leigh Redman retook the County seat in 2013 and again in 2017. The ward includes the ‘old’ Hamp estate stretching from Rhode Lane through to Wills Road and includes Taunton road from the shops to the town boundary. In 2015 the 2 Labour councillors were   Wes Hinckes & Adrian Moore

Bridgwater Hamp Ward

  • James Cockram (The Conservative Party) 719
  • Andrew Ivor Danniells (The Conservative Party) 703
  • Wesley John Hinckes (Labour Party) 956 Elected
  • Adrian John Moore (Labour Party) 946 Elected

Bridgwater Victoria (1 Labour1 CON ) Victoria ward has always been Labour. The boundaries stretch from the Docks  through to the roads off and including Kendale road and Chilton street and now include the new houses along the NDR. The centre of the ward is the Victoria park where the community centre is a focus for ward activity. In 2015 a UKIP candidate split the vote and let in a hard working local Tory, Lance Dudderidge.   Labour’s sole Victoria councillor is  Mick Lerry

Bridgwater Victoria Ward

  • Barrie Clive Crow (The Conservative Party) 654
  • Lance John Duddridge (The Conservative Party) 812 Elected
  • Mick Lerry (Labour Party) 763 Elected
  • Roderick Silvester Sidney Lukins (UKIP)  621
  • Siobhan Wilson (Labour Party) 636

Bridgwater Fairfax (2 Labour 1 Con ) Fairfax is a newly created ward formed from the north Sydenham estate and the Bower Manor area. It includes the East Bridgwater schools site and the Bridgwater College site plus the football and rugby  fields. It also includes the former Cellophane site and the new houses nearby. In 2015 the Tories retook one seat and their victor,Mike Cresswell, is now Chair of the district) The 2 Labour councillors are   Alex Glassford , and Graham Granter 

Bridgwater Fairfax Ward

  • Janice Joanna Somers Beasely (Liberal Democrats) 545
  • Mike Cresswell (The Conservative Party) 986 elected
  • Jim Donoghue (The Conservative Party) 765
  • Alex Glassford (Labour Party)  1081 elected
  • Graham John Granter (Labour Party)  1135 elected
  • Wayne John Pearce (The Conservative Party) 844
  • Reginald Charles Winslow (Labour Party) 844

If Labour drop votes or seats in any of their Bridgwater wards it’s fair to say they won’t be taking Sedgemoor, and pretty much no other party has the strength to displace the Tories.

With this in mind Labour’s main target seat is the final Tory toehold in the town Bridgwater Wyndham (2 Con)  which once returned a Labour councillor (Bill Munn) but has been otherwise Conservative. Wyndham ward was created in 2011 from the former Quantock ward and includes the houses in West Bridgwater between the Durleigh and Quantock roads from Northfields to the boundary. However, in 2015 the Tories failed to stand candidates for TOWN and as a result Lib dem and Labour grabbed one apiece – the Labour Town councillor is  Liz Leavy

Bridgwater Wyndham Ward

  • Rachael Helen Caswell (The Conservative Party) 1293 Elected
  • Peter Ian Johnstone (Liberal Democrats)  476
  • Liz Leavy (Labour Party) 620
  • Gill Slocombe (The Conservative Party) 1322 Elected
  • Caroline Ann Wilkins (Labour Party) 516

Outside of Bridgwater, Highbridge (2 Con 1 UKIP) is the most marginal seat in Sedgemoor and changes political control at every election. Once it was a safe Labour seat regularly returning 3 Labour councillors. It swang to the Tories at one stage, back to Labour and then to the Lib Dems. In recent years the Lib Dems, beset by internal problems, split –In 2015 the Tories -and 2 rather right wing ones – plus a UKIP (Lorna Corke) took the seats.  Labour needs to regain all 3 Highbridge seats to have a chance of winning Sedgemoor

Highbridge & Burnham Marine Ward

  • Alan Beech (Labour Party)  499
  • Lorna Corke (UKIP) 907 elected
  • Forrester Shiela Rachel (Labour Party) 550
  • Bill Hancock (Independent) 436
  • Fiona Joan Hector (Liberal Democrats) 640
  • Janet Anita Keen (The Conservative Party) 937 elected
  • Roger Charles Keen (The Conservative Party) 876 elected
  • Graham Alan Kennedy (Liberal Democrats) 549
  • Tony Lynham 370
  • Mike Mansfield 493
  • John David Parkes (Liberal Democrats) 599
  • James Roughton (The Conservative Party) 564
  • Lucy Emily Scanton (Labour Party) 366
  • Chris Williams (Independent) 536

Puriton & Woolavington (2 Con). Historicaly 2 seperate seats but now combined. Woolavington had been a Labour seat for 20 years but was recently combined with Puriton (once a Lib Dem seat) so there is potential to retake these seats. The ward also now includes the village of Cossington. Labour came within 400 of winning last time and UKIP made an intervention here at county level to eat into the Tory vote whilst the LibDems are collapsing.

 Puriton & Woolavington Ward

  • Valerie Bannister (Green Party) 477
  • Alison Jane Hamlin (The Conservative Party)  1052 elected
  • Richard Cecil Hampson (Labour Party) 542
  • Mark Healey (The Conservative Party) 1204 elected
  • Pete Hollings (UKIP) 877

 KINGS ISLE  (2 Con) Returns 2 councillors. This Weston Zoyland, Chedzoy, Bawdrip and Middlezoy based ward  saw a good challenge from Labour last time round but still a long way short of the long established local Tories. However, the ward now includes the new Kings Down estate on the edge of Bridgwater and

therefore the voting patterns will change.

Kings Isle Ward

  • Derek Stanley Alder (The Conservative Party) 1520 elected
  • Liz Perry (The Conservative Party)  1592 elected
  • Mike Senior (Liberal Democrats) 827
  • Josephine Sally Smoldon (Green Party) 792

North Petherton (2 Con 1 Lib Dem ) Returns 3 councillors and  currently held by 2 Tories with a surprise Lib Dem by Bill Revans. Labour has never held Petherton although does have members on the town council. In the past the ward has also been represented by independents and liberals but since it was expanded to include the rural areas of Moorland, North Newton, East and West Lyng and the Quantock foothills around Broomfield it has strengthened the Tory hold. The ward now however, also includes the new ‘Bridgwater’ housing estates of Stockmoor and Willstock , which of course should have a ward of their own, but currently these urban/non-rural votes will go into the Petherton mix and could cause an upset.

North Petherton

  • Lucy Miranda Allen (The Conservative Party) 1,874
  • Jen Bayford (Green Party) 941
  • Alan Sydney Earnest Bradford (The Conservative Party) 2,316 elected
  • Marion Denham (Labour Party) 1,155
  • Anne Elisabeth Fraser (The Conservative Party) 2,078 elected
  • Revans Bill (Liberal Democrats) 1,891 elected

Berrow (1 Con)  A Tory seat which is basically the coastal area north of Burnham to Brean Down ,has in the past been held by independents. Labour challenged last time and came within 300 of winning.

Berrow Ward

  • Tony Grimes (The Conservative Party): 799 elected
  • Andrew William Nisbet (Liberal Democrats): 443

East Polden (1 Con) Seen as a safe Tory seat, and currently home to the leader of SDC, this Ashcott based seat, which also includes Greinton and Moorlinch, saw Labour fielding a local candidate last time round who came  second –of course this could have been closer had the LibDems and Greens not also stood thus splitting the anti-Tory vote.

East Poldens Ward

  • Ian Richard Horsfield (Green Party) 408
  • Duncan McGinty (Conservative Party) 814 elected

Quantocks (2 Con)  This rural hilly ward which stretches from Goathurst through Spaxton to Nether Stowey and coastally to Combwich and Steart has never had Labour representation beyond parish level and is often seen as a lost cause as the Tories hand down seats as they have since feudal times.  Last time round however,local Labour members stood here and built up a sizeable vote which bodes well for the future…unless the opposition to the Tories is split…

Quantocks Ward

  • Lindy Booth (Green Party) 766
  • Michael Graham Caswell (The Conservative Party) 1458 elected
  • Philip S T Lawrence King (Labour Party) 662
  • Julie Annette Pay (The Conservative Party) 1605 elected

Cheddar & Shipham  (3 Con) This solid Conservative ward is some distance from Bridgwater yet has a strong influence on this area along with surrounding Tory duchies.

Cheddar & Shipham Ward

  • Peter John Shilton Downing (The Conservative Party) 1765 elected
  • Suzanne Mary Green (Liberal Democrats) 1523
  • Dawn Hill (The Conservative Party) 1889 elected
  • Will Hims (UKIP) 783
  • John Outhwait (Liberal Democrats) 1,303
  • Jeff Savage (The Conservative Party) 1,720 elected
  • Norma Scanlon (Labour Party) 809

Axevale (2 Con)  This single member ward based around Axbridge  has been Tory held in recent years although once was a Liberal seat and the town itself often polls well for Labour. The area also includes the parishes of Badgworth, Chapel Allerton, Compton Bishop and Weare.

Axevale Ward

  • Jean Margaret Bevis (Liberal Democrats): 1021
  • John Henry Denbee (The Conservative Party): 1236 elected
  • Jake Flood (Green Party): 562
  • Liz Scott (The Conservative Party): 1325 elected
  • Tom Scott (Labour Party): 361

Burnham North (3 Con) This consistently Tory seat is one of their safest and would probably take a hard campaign with popular local candidates to dislodge them.

Burnham North Ward

  • Cheryl Lesley Burnett (The Conservative Party) 1,620 elected
  • Peter Laurence Burridge-Clayton (The Conservative Party)  1,883 elected
  • Paul Herbert (The Conservative Party) 1,256 elected
  • Helen Hims (UKIP) 823
  • Alexander Begg Lawrie (Green Party) 422
  • Beverly Milner Simonds (Liberal Democrats) 1,029
  • Tom Nichols (Liberal Democrats)  861
  • Victoria Weavell (Liberal Democrats) 798

Wedmore & Mark (2 Con) A rural ward which has been pretty much Tory all it’s life, although there was a Lib Dem there in the mid 90’s.

Wedmore & Mark Ward

  • Polly Costello (The Conservative Party) 1686 elected
  • Rosemary Joan Hasler (Liberal Democrats) 1034
  • Gabrielle Kathleen Hector (Labour Party) 474
  • Will Human (The Conservative Party) 1280 elected
  • Dave Wills (UKIP) 391

Burnham Central (3 Con  )This seat , based around the town centre of  Burnham, was historically a liberal stronghold but gradually chipped away at by the Tories until now it appears a battleground seat between the 2 parties. Last time round the Tories kicked the Lib Dems out completely.

Burnham Central Ward

  • Maria Clarke (The Conservative Party) 1,367 elected 
  • Michael Clarke (The Conservative Party)  1,372 elected
  • Eve Harriet Courtney (Green Party) 445
  • James Donnellan (UKIP) 883
  • Mike Facey (Conservative Party) 1,239 elected
  • Phil Harvey (Liberal Democrats) 1,076
  • Katie Georgina Lawson (Liberal Democrats) 1,029
  • Sarah Milner Simonds (Liberal Democrats) 909

Cannington & Wembdon (2 Con) – A 2011 creation formed by merging  2 distinct seats and creating an odd new ward. Cannington is one of the safest Tory seats, although historically has had a strong liberal challenge whilst Wembdon has largely been Tory but with some distant history of ‘Independents’.

Cannington & Wembdon Ward

  • Alan James Beasley (Liberal Democrats) 809
  • Ann Bown (The Conservative Party) 1455 Elected
  • Ian Dyer (The Conservative Party) 1588 Elected
  • Allan Jeffrey (Green Party) 546

West Polden (1 Con) The Polden villages of  Edington, Catcott, Sutton Mallet, Stawell, Burtle and Chilton Polden form this ward which has been consistently Tory since the first Tory was carved out of Avalon Peat back in the dark ages. That may be overstating the case though..

West Poldens Ward

  • Charles Graham (Green Party)  545
  • Stuart Arthur Kingham (The Conservative Party) 963 elected

Huntspill & Pawlett (1 Con) –This ward stretches from Bason Bridge to Stretcholt and round the Parrett bend and was once a liberal stronghold for years. Boundary changes have slapped it back into the Tory camp.

Huntspill & Pawlett Ward

  • Susanna Louise Peel Craig (Liberal Democrats) 286
  • Terry Peers (Green Party) 217
  • John Charles Woodman (The Conservative Party) 793 elected

 Knoll (2 Con) This ward basically follows the M5 motorway through the middle of Sedgemoor taking in the rural communities of  Brent Knoll, Edithmead, East Brent, East Huntspill and Lympsham. It’s Tory.

Knoll Ward

  • Bob Filmer (The Conservative Party) 1888 elected
  • Isobel Fotheringham (UKIP) 647
  • Andrew Gilling (The Conservative Party) 1,433 elected
  • Tony Gore (Liberal Democrats) 922

The Town and Country divide

Sedgemoor District Council was created back in 1974 by merging the Rural District Council that held sway in the largely Conservative countryside and the solidly Labour Bridgwater Borough Council along with other town councils such as Burnham and Highbridge and North Petherton.

This combination has proved the key factor in Tory dominance of Sedgemoor and therefore Tory dominance over Labour Bridgwater since the 1970’s. Many might say this also exactly mirrors the towns decline as clearly the figures show that Bridgwater is the poor relation in Sedgemoor and is no longer in control of it’s own destiny.

An attempt to rectify this was the creation of Bridgwater Town Council in 2002 in a bid to bring some powers back to the town. This has meant a council closer to the wishes of local people but without the key powers to affect major change. The town council has nevertheless led on major issues such as the fight against Sedgemoor’s attempts to force an unwanted Tesco superstore into the town centre and has saved community assets by taking on  funding when Sedgemoor withdrew it. This has been the case with the Art Centre, the Museum and the Hamp and Sydenham Community centres. A map of the election results in the town of Bridgwater shows starkly the fight ahead and why a Labour vote is crucial to challenge and eventually defeat the Tories.

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