Town Tories Appear to Declare UDI on Budget Process


In the ‘olden days’, if you had money, you could basically buy your voters. The old Tories and Liberals of  19th century Bridgwater  were so good at this that the town  got itself disqualified from electing anyone at all after bribery scandals involving the payment of voters. From 1869 to 1885 Bridgwater constituency was abolished for corruption. In the Middle Ages, rich land owning squires could basically pull money out of their own pocket and decide what got spent on what. By the 18th century rich factory owners could do just the same. This is called ‘largesse’ . The ‘philanthropic giving of sums of money to buy influence and circumvent the democratic process’ (originating from a time there wasn’t a democratic process to speak of). But these are things of the past. Today we have a democratic system where Councils are voted in with a mandate from the people to create budgets and spend public money in the local area. Or are they? Bridgwater Town Tories (there’s 4 of them) (in a council of 16) seem to be saying they’re reintroducing the concept of ‘largesse’ into the budget process in what Labour town council Leader Brian Smedley has described as looking very much like ‘a shameless attempt to buy votes by a bunch of hypocrits’.

In today’s Bridgwater Mercury the Leader and deputy leader of the Town Council Conservative group Gill Slocombe and Diogo Rodrigues both have personal columns side by side. In Councillor Slocombe’s column she again revives the issue of the introduction of an allowance system (as recommended by an independent remuneration board to recognise the massively increased workload of the Town Council)  in yet another attempt to ‘weaponise’ the decision against the ruling group. The first attempt, promoted across social media by councillor Rodrigues, saw a petition of up to 600 names presented to the town council.

Tories being ‘a bit Hypocrital…’

Graffitti on the old Taunton Rd workhouse at the time of the Bridgwater Corruption scandal of 1869

This was incredibly hypocritical stuff” says Town Council Leader Brian Smedley (Labour) “These two Tory councillors alone were drawing over £40,000 between them from their County Council roles yet they were trying to make people angry about 16 Town Councillors being awarded just £1,000 a year. This created a dreadful atmosphere at the Town Hall and we refused to co-operate with them while they behaved like that.”

The petition was nevertheless received by the Town Council, debated at the Executive committee and resolved to accept the recomendation of the Independent Remuneration Board. “This is because the workload of the Council has very much increased  since the end of Sedgemoor and the taking on of large numbers of new staff and considerably greater number of key services” explains Smedley “It also has to be said that councillors do get paid. The Labour Party supports that concept, ‘payment for work’ , and so, we thought, did the other parties. Seems the Tories..or some Tories when it suits them..don’t.”

Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Durleigh?

Not having learnt the lesson the Tiny Town Tory Group have had yet another go at bringing the issue into the public eye to try to relight the flame of outrage. In Councillor Slocombe’s column she says “Instead of letting the town council keep our allowances, the conservative group has decided to allocate these funds to address the specific needs of our respective wards”. She goes on to say that they could pay for ‘defibrilators and dogbins’.

Cllr Smedley’s subtle message across the council chamber…

Cllr Smedley says “This is astounding. They’re taking town money into their pocket, which is their personal money once it leaves the council and then offering it to pay for public items for their own wards! They presumably know that we have a budget and a system of allocating  this to the town as a whole where it’s needed. This is some incredibly outrageous form of UDI where they use their own money to buy things outside of any democratic accountability and expect the council to support them.The thing is, you can’t spend private money on public projects without the agreement of the council. If she buys a defibrilator then she has to ensure ongoing maintenance costs and if she buys a dog bin she needs an agreement to empty which has an ongoing revenue cost.  Is Cllr Slocombe going to empty the dog bins? Is Cllr Rodrigues going to service the defibrilators? “

Cllr Smedley concluded “I hope the Tories do stop trying to make capital out of people’s private money though. To pay allowances for ALL the town councillors doesn’t even equal their own personal  allowances as County Councillors, yet they don’t say that when they’re trying to point the finger at someone else.”


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