Labour Councillors across the country have launched a major campaign to protect working people from more Conservative Council Tax rises at next week’s Budget. Leader of the Labour opposition on Sedgemoor District council Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater, Westover) says “The background to this is the removal of rate support grants by the Tories which has led to a combined funding gap of £3bn for the financial year 2022/23. Councils in England face extra cost pressures of almost £8 billion by 2024/25 just to keep vital local services running at today’s levels. But this apparently is what the Tories mean by ‘Levelling Up’. In reality, having a Tory Government and a Tory council means ‘Holding Back’ and it’s a policy that has already left families hundreds of pounds worse off thanks to an Autumn triple whammy – the hike in National Insurance, higher energy prices and a £1,000 cut to Universal credit.”
Somerset Labour members gathered outside the Clarks warehouse in Street this week, in support of the 100+ workers facing the imminent threat of ‘fire and rehire’. Local groups from Bridgwater, Taunton, Wells and Yeovil, stood alongside employees who were protesting at the prospect of being sacked and re- employed for vast pay cuts and inferior conditions. The threat comes from Clarks new owners, Lion Rock Capital – a private equity company based in Hong Kong – another in a long list of employers using the ‘fire and rehire’ tactic in the UK to slash wages and save money. Some of the conditions that Lion Rock Capital want to impose include a 15% reduction in hourly pay, cuts in sick pay and overtime rates, abolition of coffee breaks, and no pay rise for at least four years.
Appalled by the Sarah Everard case, Sedgemoor Labour has called for a review at Avon and Somerset Police, prompting an immediate response from new Commissioner, Mark Shelford. Speaking at the meeting of the full council last week, Alexia Bartlett, Labour District Councillor for Dunwear and Shadow Portfolio Holder for Communities and Wellbeing, raised the issue of a local standards review. “At a national level, the horrific kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard are stark reminders that the Police Service itself is also capable of the most appalling of crimes. In the light of Cressida Dick’s move to organise an independent review into the standards and culture at the Metropolitan Police, are there any plans by the new Police Commissioner to establish a similar and regular system of review of the standards and culture at Avon and Somerset?”
One Hundred Plus workers at Clarks boot and shoe warehouse, Street, Somerset, are on an all-out strike against the company’s “Fire and rehire” threat. Mendip Trades Council sent solidarity greetings to the strikers as outrage and support grows, “The strike is no ‘ordinary’ industrial dispute: indeed, it would be no exaggeration to claim, that the future of this country, and the way its citizens who have to work for a living are treated by those who employ them, is in the balance. Don’t turn a blind eye to what is going on, not just at Clarks, not just in pretty ‘affluent’ rural Somerset, but all over the UK; speak out, insist on fair and accurate media reporting of “Fire and Rehire”; support Barry Gardiner MP’s Private Members Bill against Fire and Rehire”. Strikers today, up to 80 strong at both gates of the Street works , made their presence felt with placards and flags while motorist after motorist honked their horns in support.
11,855 people in Somerset £220 down by Christmas – the true impact of Universal Credit Cut revealed in new analysis. As the Conservative Government prepare to slash Universal Credit for 11,855 people in Somerset, new analysis reveals the cut will leave families £220 worse off by Christmas. The Universal Credit cut comes in on Wednesday 6 October, leaving recipients facing 11 weeks of reduced support before December 25th. The cut comes amid a wider squeeze for working families including rising energy prices, the proposed National Insurance hike and widespread fears that the Conservatives plan to raise council tax to fund its social care commitments. Cllr Kathy Pearce, Deputy Leader of Bridgwater Town Council, said “The timing of this cut is particularly callous and an absolute disgrace, given that it will hit the lowest paid just a time when we are going into the winter months. Rising fuel bills will be a double whammy and will cause severe hardship to the most vulnerable in our society.”
The City of Wells is holdings its 8th by-election since May 2019 on September 30th. Only 9 of the original 16 Councillors are still in place. Jenny Williams is standing as Labour candidate in St Cuthbert Ward, as she did in May 2019 and May 2021 and has pledged to serve her full term so you can see that she is committed. Jenny is standing on a platform of delivering against the climate emergency promises, safeguarding and improving green spaces, including allotments, children’s play parks and cycle paths, improving bus services and revitalising the High Street. She is also emphasising the importance of working now with the new Unitary Authority to ensure the best transfer of decision-taking, assets and resources from Mendip District Council to Wells City Council. Jenny says “Wells Labour would have preferred a co-option this time, in order to save the £2,500 each by-election costs. But that was not to be. Keir has set out our path: work, care, equality, security. Take the first step on that path by voting for me in St Cuthbert’s today. “
Homeowners in Somerset hit more than 4 times harder than richest parts of the Country by Government’s botched social care plan –new analysis. As the scale of the hit working people face thanks to the government’s botched social care plan continues to emerge, new analysis reveals the extent to which the plan hammers ordinary families while leaving the assets of the wealthiest relatively untouched. In the richest part of the Country the proposed cap on care costs means homeowners in some of the richest parts of the Country face losing just 6.5% of their assets. Yet in Somerset, the average homeowner would lose more than 30%, forcing many to sell their homes and more to pay for care. This comes despite a guarantee in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto “that no one needing care has to sell their home to pay for it”. This follows analysis by the Resolution Foundation, who found that “the cap, which does not benefit households with less than £100,000 in capital, will be of relatively more help in the more affluent areas…it will offer most protection to those living in high wealth parts of England. This is not just because of the obvious reason that a cap set in cash terms offers far more protection to those with higher-value assets to lose.”
Labour councillors have welcomed the party’s Childrens Recovery Plan and say it will substantially benefit teachers. Bridgwater Town Councillor and former Teacher Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) says “In Somerset Labour wants to shape the future of education for the benefit of teachers, support staff, leaders and pupils. There is a crisis in education, due to the past 10 years of school funding cuts and Covid. Workload is at a record high and the assessment and accountability system is broken. Add to this eight years of barely rising pay and it is no wonder there is a recruitment and retention crisis in our schools. This country’s over-reliance on a rigid, one size fits all exam system, and government’s continued insistence on defunding BTECs and CAMTECs, in defiance of all expert opinion and evidence, is unsustainable and doesn’t meet the various challenges facing young people, our society and our economy in the 21st century. The assessment system needs to change, and the teaching profession is brim full of experts who understand the lessons we can learn from the pandemic. Labour will work with teachers and school staff to build a new, fairer and more robust assessment and qualification system. The high-stakes testing system in primary schools is not fit for purpose. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted even further the flaws in this system. After two years in which SATs and other formal tests have been cancelled. Schools should not return to the previous system of primary tests. At the moment the Conservative government, with a new Secretary of State for Education, are not prepared to meet the challenge, but Labour is.”
Somerset Liberal Democrats attending their party’s annual conference (17-21 September) must face up to some tough tests , says the local Labour Party. Their part in the Conservative-led coalition government, the forthcoming Somerset unitary authority and their party’s lack of a clear role are all threats to their future, says Yeovil Labour spokesperson Terry Ledlie.
The tactical voting “con trick” has been exposed
“In the 1980s, many local people were encouraged to vote Lib-Dem to “get the Tories out”. Lord Ashdown made Yeovil a ‘safe’ Liberal Democrat seat for a while by capitalising on the unpopularity of Tory leaders Thatcher and Major. The line that the Lib-Dems were an alternative to the Labour Party was badly damaged when they joined the coalition government (2010-2015), which led to the Lib-Dems abandoning most of its election promises, including a key pledge on tuition fees. In Yeovil, their position was further undermined by the exposure of Lib-Dem MP David Laws as a serious expenses cheat. The net result has been that Yeovil has now elected a Conservative MP three times in a row. Clearly tactical voting no longer works, yet the local Lib-Dems continue to promote this line. This increasingly looks like a “con trick” says Labour’s Terry Ledlie. Continue reading “Lib-Dems face hard challenges, says Yeovil Labour Party”
‘Oh good they’ve sacked Robert Jenrick. Oh God they’ve replaced him with Michael Gove! And out goes inept Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, fresh back from sunning himself on a Mediterranean beach as Kabul fell, and there goes appalling education secretary Gavin Williamson, and now it’s the turn of ….well, it doesn’t matter does it. Leader of Sedgemoor Labour group, cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) thinks it’s all a smokescreen anyway “It doesn’t matter which inept half wit they sack there’s always another waiting in the wings to take their place and carry on the work of this devastating Tory government. They sack your least favourite Tory, they bring in another Tory . in fact this isn’t the story of the week, the real Tory Story this week is hidden away behind it. It’s the Tory £20 cut in Universal Credit uplift which will hit 6 million people and push half a million into poverty. You vote Tory, you get Tory and then they act like Tories. Surprised?”