Devolution Dawns in Bridgwater

Bridgwater Town Council at it’s annual general meeting on 9th May 2024 unveiled a new council structure to deal with its massive increase of responsibility.  Somerset Council has transferred considerable  assets and services in a joint deal that will ensure much-valued facilities continue for residents including street-cleaning, road-sweeping, the management of parks and open spaces,fly-tipping, footpath repairs, market Rights, bedding plant provision and carnival clean-ups. On top of this Bridgwater now has an in-house workforce of 70 people, considerably up from the 3 which it had in 2016. The new look Town Council will now feature 3 directorates for service delivery -Finance, Amenities and Community and whilst Somerset Council declared a financial emergency and have been making redundancies   and reducing services, Bridgwater Town Council is financially sound and raring to go. Re-elected Town Council Leader Brian Smedley (Westover) said “This is an outcome we’ve worked for since the abolition of the Borough Council back in 1974 when Bridgwater really could control its own destiny. The reality has come quicker than we expected but that’s clear -abolition of Sedgemoor, creation of new Unitary, collapse of new Unitary, Town steps into the gap. We’ve done that and it’s onwards and upwards with a great team of councillors and the best of the workforce rescued from the scrapheap. From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success” (He’d seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that week)

Deputy Leader of Council Kathy Pearce

At the annual meeting the new Chair of the Town Council -the Mayor of Bridgwater, was Cllr Jacqui Solomon (Eastover, Labour) and her deputy mayor would be cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover, Labour). Kathy, also Deputy Leader and Vice Chair of Amenities, said “Bridgwater Town Council can now take back control of services.  We are starting our new grass cutting and street cleaning schedules and are already being able to be more responsive when calls come in.  So, we are confident that residents will see an improvement in our surroundings in the long term. However, in the short term, we are dealing with a backlog, so please bear with us whilst we get up to speed.”


Chair of Amenities Ctte cllr Tim Mander

The all powerful Amenities Committee which includes the vast majority of new services such as Property and Environment, will be chaired by Cllr Tim Mander (Westover, Labour) who said “The Town Council that has stepped forward to accept the devolution challenge at a very difficult financial time for Local Authorities. Bridgwater Town Council is closest to the people and is confident it can deliver improved and enhanced street cleaning; Grounds maintenance; gullying emptying plus of course the management of the two cemeteries as well as the direct management of allotments. On top of this the Town Council have taken on direct management of both the historic Arts Centre and Hamp Recreation with the Rollercoaster on Parkway to follow shortly.  Frankly it is incredible how over a period of just over two months a whole new staff team has been recruited, equipment acquired or leased and depot accommodation secured. Clearly things will take time to bed in but the challenge to Councilor’s and staff is to ensure that the service delivery is in place and is maintained at a level where the public see and notice the improvements. The budget process was very challenging and I know that the increase in precept was a concern to many but the Town Council is now in a strong position to demonstrate how services can be improved to the point where excellence is the norm.”

Town Clerk David Mears with newly elected Mayor Jacqui Solomon

David Mears, CEO and Town Clerk of Bridgwater Town Council, in expressing his confidence in the devolution process, said: “As we transition these vital services from Somerset Council to Bridgwater Town Council, we are committed to maintaining and improving high standards.Our focus remains on the well-being of our community, ensuring parks and open spaces thrive under local management.”

Scott Mason, the newly appointed Director of Amenities at the town council, added: “Taking charge of street cleansing and road sweeping is a significant responsibility. We are dedicated to making Bridgwater a clean, safe, and attractive town for residents and visitors alike.”


Cllr Irena Hubble vice chair of Communities

The second key directorate will be Community Services. This will come under Community Services Director Rob Semple and the Committee Chair will be Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover Labour) and his vice chair will be Cllr Irena Hubble (Fairfax West Labour)

Highlighting Bridgwater’s role as a local hub for neighbouring parishes and major employment development Cllr Brian Smedley, said: “Bridgwater has grown in terms of housing and employment over the last decade and is continuing to grow. We have had the ambition to take over parks and open spaces and to improve street cleaning and that ambition has been realised. Bridgwater Town Council is now running our own services, and owning our own assets. It naturally follows we are also now accountable for those local services too. Our main focus will be the people of Bridgwater. Our community.  And we will continue to operate and expand our Forum system whereby people can get involved in setting the key priorities for the Town.”

Finance & Corporate

Cllr Mick Lerry, Chair of Finance

The third Directorate will be Finance & Corporate Services. Director will be Sally Jones and Chair of the Committee will be outgoing Mayor Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour, Victoria). His vice chair will be Cllr Jacqui Solomon.  Cllr Lerry said “This is a real opportunity to take on more assets and services from the Somerset Council. Bridgwater Town Council did not want to be in a position where our parks were locked up and the public unable to use the green spaces available, along with public buildings, if Somerset Council went bankrupt. There was a great danger that this would happen. Bridgwater Town Council had previously taken the cemeteries over from Sedgemoor District Council, to make sure there was an improvement in both maintenance and costs. The devolution of further assets and services such as street cleaning, community buildings, Parks and green spaces for the people of Bridgwater will allow the Council to improve facilities, rather than let them fall into decline. The Bridgwater Town Council is ambitious and aspirational and will be seeking to build a new vision for the people of Bridgwater”

Cllr Jacqui Solomon. Mayor of Bridgwater

Services and assets transferred from Somerset Council to Bridgwater Town Council from May 2024

  • Mansfield Park
  • St Matthew’s Field and Fair
  • Blake Gardens
  • Victoria Park
  • Eastover Park/Cranleigh Gardens
  • Coronation Park
  • King Square
  • Market Rights and on-street trading concessions
  • West Street Market (part of Bridgwater fair)
  • Roller-coaster Community Building
  • South Bridgwater Pantry
  • The Docks and associated public realm (transfer in 2025/26)
  • Street Cleaning across Bridgwater including highway channels, Road Sweeping, Drain jetting/Gully cleansing, and litter removal from verges
  • Fly tipping
  • Provision and collection of litter bins and dog waste bins
  • Carnival clean-up
  • Bedding planting
  • Management and maintenance of open spaces assets – including both green spaces as well as “hard” open spaces and over 1,800 trees
  • Grass cutting and open spaces management
  • Grass cutting in Wembdon Road Closed Cemetery and St Mary’s Closed Churchyard, however responsibility and maintenance of paths and walls will rest with Somerset Council
  • Play parks (26)
  • Winter Service – filling grit bins
  • Roadside verges maintenance including grass cutting
  • Vegetation clearance and cutting on the Rights of Way network
  • Non-illuminated sign cleaning and maintenance
  • Weed treatment
  • Minor Highways functions such as footway and footpath repairs
  • Planned path safety inspections
  • School crossing patrols funding contribution (Westover Green, Hamp Nursery and Infants’ School, and St John & St Francis Church School)
  • Blake Gardens’ toilets
  • Local tourism
  • Local economic development

For the new structure of Bridgwater Town Council click here

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