Sedgemoor Supports Stronger Somerset

Cllr Brian Smedley makes the case for Stronger Somerset and the advantages of flying the flags from the Town Halls

With less than a week to go before the ‘Stronger Somerset’ bid has to be submitted to the Secretary of State to provide an alternative to the County’s One Somerset Bid, the District Council’s have been passing their alternative proposal Council by Council. Today, Sedgemoor District Council passed the Stronger Somerset bid by 39 votes to 0 with 1 abstention. All parties backed the bid and Labour Leader also managed to issue a word of warning about ‘strange bedfellows’ (referring to a less than helpful contribution by Bridgwater MP Ian Lidell-Grainger). The Stronger Somerset Bid meets the challenge of creating Unitary Authorities by providing a new system across the county which will see 2 Unitary Authorities, East (Mendip and South Somerset) and West (Sedgemoor and Somerset West & Taunton). There would be locality agreements empowering Towns and Parishes and even a £3 million discerned better net value to the One Somerset option. In recent surveys it also seems that the public also share the Districts vision as opposed to the County one. When asked to choose between the two, polls showed 58% favouring Stronger Somerset and 20% for One Somerset. The survey also showed that the existing District were more popular with the public than the County by a poll of 67% v 45%. At  Full Council meetings across all districts, councillors voted 149 in favour and just 24 against .

At Sedgemoor the Leader of the Labour Opposition, Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Bridgwater Westover) summed up the position. “The Labour group are happy to support the Stronger Somerset Business case going forward. We did raise concerns about the delivery of adult and children’s care services.  We are concerned that the ‘alternative delivery model’ mustn’t be just a children’s trust by any other name. The key to reassurance is that the membership will be made up of local authority directors and local people and  that there has been some added mitigation that  is visible in the final business case. We are reassured by the presentation today that this is in hand and so we welcome that.”

Stronger Towns and Parishes

More power at grassroots

Cllr Smedley continued “The ‘One Somerset’ business case as submitted is a massive step backwards for local government and as such it has to be stopped. A more local and more democratic solution needed to be found which reflected the multitude of interests across the correct geography and at the right levels. One Somerset doesn’t offer this, it simply offers an overlarge authority with less accountability and less representation that is too remote.  The welcome solution has been provided with Stronger Somerset, and crucially that’s stronger towns and parishes  and with that inevitable mix of a variety of politics at various levels and not one big overweening monolith. Stronger Somerset has cross party support from the 4 main party groups across Somerset and also if the indicated  level of public support presented today is correct then we were right there too.  So I Commend the approach of the leader here at Sedgemoor and members standing up for this proposal even though it might mean a less certain political future  for them– but that’s good because the smaller the representational base the more variety of political viewpoints, community to community and ward to ward and that’s the essence of democracy.”

The Stronger Somerset Case can be visited here.

‘With Friends like these…..’

The ‘lion’ rises from his slumber…and insults everyone

Cllr Smedley then turned to a recent speech in Parliament where Bridgwater & West Somerset MP Ian Lidell-Grainger had used (as often is the case) intemperate language to try to advance the case of Stronger Somerset.. The Labour Leader continued “But I would add a word of caution…..and I have a little request….. It’s never easy and in fact  almost unheard of, to be on the same side as Ian Liddell-Grainger…but….although we might support the same solution for local government I cant help being very very worried every time he opens his mouth on this subject….only yesterday he spoke in parliament…ostensibly to support our case…..and I don’t want to get involved in Conservative infighting (although your MP doesn’t seem to worry about it) and I genuinely commend the Sedgemoor Leader and members for taking a strong, open and moral position on opposing  One Somerset and working to bring about Stronger Somerset, which is clearly a fairer, more pluralistic and democratic option and which ensures multi party representation across Somerset….BUT…I would please urge him to attempt to reign in the unhelpful utterances of ILG…these are all recorded verbatim in Hansard…which means they’re not just inside his head…..the public can actually read them…..and I won’t repeat them here because I’m pretty sure I’m not covered by parliamentary privilege to abuse and insult opponents but I have to say that public comparisons of the leader of the county council to ‘historic fascist sympathising traitors’ and recalling the role of ‘Albert Pierrepoint the hangman’ really doesn’t help our case…please…’have a word’…”

The House of Commons and all the MPs that ILG hasn’t offended yet

In Parliament the Bridgwater MP not only compared Cllr David Fothergill to hanged Nazi traitor William Joyce (‘Lord Haw Haw’) but accused him of  being a ‘ruthless smash and grab monster‘, ‘polishing his ego’ and getting his ‘leg over his personal hobby horse’. He also called him a ‘Class A jackass’ and hoped that the county council ‘is not found to have blood on it’s hands’. For good measure he also insulted Police Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens who he claimed had a ‘reputation for dishonesty that matches Mr Fothergill’. 

Cllr Smedley added after the meeting. The one sensible thing he said was  “The people will always punish stupid decisions and stupid people at the ballot box”….sadly we’ve seen no evidence of that in his case….yet.  .

What Next?

  • The councils will now have until 9 December to submit their proposals in full
  • Consultation will be in early 2021 unless the Government decides at that point not to take a proposal further.
  • Following the consultation, the Secretary of State will consider the proposals.
  • Where the Secretary of State decides that a proposal should be implemented, he will seek parliamentary approval for the necessary secondary legislation.
  • If Parliament approves the implementation of such a proposal, it is likely that a new unitary council will be established from 1 April2023.
  • The majority of  the implementation work that councils will undertake will be in 2022-23, with elections to  shadow  councils in May 2022.
  • The Secretary of State has the power to postpone local elections, therefore councils may request that the May 2021 local elections in the area be postponed for a year.
Overwhelming backing for Stronger Somerset when the original case was put shows cross party support
Politics becomes more varied the lower the level  (figures based on current representation)

Find your ward using the SCC ward finder

Privacy Policy

To read our Privacy Policy and GDPR compliance statement click here.