On Saturday 20th April the Yeovil Constituency Labour Party launched it’s campaign to win power at County Hall. Labour says.’People in Somerset have been hit hard by the combined impact of decisions made at Westminster and at County Hall.The Tory/Lib Dem coalition government has failed to effectively tackle the financial institutions and practices that caused the global financial crisis, and failed to carry out the ‘U-turns’ that really matter.’
Labour at County Hall will protect Youth services ,reverse the Tory cuts (80%) and protect libraries from closure. The Tory run council tried to close them costing the taxpayer £200,000 in legal fess. Protect local bus services and develop an integrated transport system.Open recycling centres everyday (except Christmas day). Fly tipping is costing taxpayers a fortune.
Our vision is a county where there is equality of opportunity; where no-one is excluded; where people have the support they need to fulfil their potential – whether educationally, creatively or when recovering from disabling events.Our vision is of a county of opportunity for local businesses to thrive and grow, and a Labour County Council would seek to procure goods and services from local companies. The Lib Dems ran up debts of £240,000, the Tory’s have slashed services and wasted money.
Murray Shepstone Yeovil Labour party vice chair said, “The Tory and Lib Dems have let the people of Somerset down, we in the Labour Party offer a real alternative of hope instead of complacency.”
Bridgwater’s Sydenham and Eastover together form the County Council division of Bridgwater North and Central. Dave Loveridge has been Town, District and County Councillor here at various times since the 1980’s. Dave was the only Labour councillor to keep his seat in the 2009 massacre and is standing again for County on May 2nd but warns ‘Don’t take your voters for granted!’.
Dave is ‘getting on a bit’ it’s fair to say, and he’s done pretty much everything there is to do in local politics. On County Council he’s the Chairman of the Standards committee and from May this year he will become the next Mayor of Bridgwater. Despite recovering from a serious illness, Dave is determined to hold the seat for Labour and has been out daily with leaflets and meeting people.
“In 2009 we were at the tail end of a Labour Government and at the same time the ‘expenses scandal’ hit the headlines which sent all politicians popularities plummeting,” said Dave “The most common refrain you got on the doorstep was ‘I don’t know why you’re bothering mate, no-one’s voting round here’. And the turn out dropped.”
‘Of 4 Bridgwater seats only Dave survived’
In fact the turn out dropped almost off the scales. In Bridgwater, where Labour had not long ago held all 4 County seats, only Dave survived. This was as much to do with his track record and the fact that he is well known locally. But there was another factor which was special in North and Central ward – in 2009 the Far Right BNP stood a candidate for the first time ever alongside another right wing group UKIP. The danger of these parties getting a toehold in the town inspired non-party supporters out to back Dave as well. Students from the College turned out to deliver ‘Hope not Hate’ leaflets warning of the truth about the BNP along with a sizeable anti-Nazi group in the town enraged at the prospect of a BNP campaign .
“Important to get out and vote-we’re NOT all the same!”
“The campaign proved to people that there really was a point to getting out to vote” says Dave “Those that were saying it didn’t make a difference to who got in can see now how close they were to a surprise Tory win due to apathy or even worse.”
This time round neither BNP nor UKIP have dared to stand a candidate against Dave – leaving just Tories and Lib Dems, but he remains determined to campaign as hard as ever. “I don’t believe in being complacent. If you’re going to represent people you’ve got to get out and talk to them and keep in touch. Whatever you do, don’t take people for granted“
Somerset Labour Party is backing campaigners who have fought to keep libraries in the county open. Labour has given its support to a statement by Friends of Somerset Libraries, which says a quality service should continue to be delivered through 34 libraries across the county.
Friends of Somerset Libraries (FOSL) mounted a successful legal challenge when Somerset County Council proposed to withdraw funding from 11 small and medium sized libraries in 2010. Watchet library was at the centre of the case in the High Court.
FSOL is now asking all parties in the county election where they stand. And Labour was delighted to respond. Labour has told FSOL:
• We support a guarantee of no library closures in 2013-14 and would seek to keep all 34 libraries open in future.
• We believe the proposed 25 per cent savings in the library service is too much, in the context of years of underfunding
• We support the retention of the Enquiry centre, which helps people who cannot get to a library
• We support piloting of new ways to bring the library service to smaller communities
• We believe the library service should be professionally run.
Labour’s response was drafted by Dunster candidate Andy Lewis. He said:
“This part of the county has been at the forefront of the fight to keep libraries open. West Somerset Labour Party gave financial and moral backing to FOSL in its court challenge. As FOSL has pointed out, Somerset has one of the highest levels of library use in the country. We believe Somerset people have a right to a high quality service wherever they live.”
Alexia Bartlett, the Labour Party candidate for the forthcoming Somerset County Council election in Huntspill ward, has been out and about around her widespread constituency meeting people and connecting with issues. The ward includes various Polden villages from Puriton through to Cossington and Chilton Polden and then down along the vale of Avalon to East and West Huntspill.
The Huntspill ward has been Tory in recent years but could become a crucial marginal as the far right UKIP are mounting a challenge for the dark soul of Conservatism, fronted here by local landlord Mark Healey. Meanwhile with the Lib Dems in decline , Labour standing a local candidate could cause an upset. Alexia, from the Polden village of Ashcott, started her campaign today in Woolavington, the largest settlement in the ward and one which had been Labour for the past 20 years .
Earlier this month, Sedgemoor District Council approved a new doctor’s surgery in Woolavington. Proposed by nearby Edington Surgery and BAE systems, owner of the old ROF site, the development will also bring 45 new houses to land alongside Crockers Hill, not far from Woolavington Primary school.
“I’m glad the matter has finally been settled” said Alexia. “The confusion about where the surgery was going to go – a previous proposal for a new building at the top of the village was turned down – or if the village was going to get one at all wasn’t good for anyone.” Continue reading “Labour launches campaign in key Polden marginal”
Education. One of the hottest of hot-button issues in politics, and something Labour’s man in Bridgwater West, Richard Hampson, cares passionately about. Quality teaching in quality schools is something society should strive towards. But halfway through the most socially destructive government since Thatcher’s, our embattled education system is looking increasingly under threat.
Led by Education Secretary Michael Gove, Tories and Lib Dems alike have constantly run down state education and children’s achievements in the classroom.Teachers have been slurred from Whitehall. Instead of incredibly hard-working professionals deserving respect, they’ve been portrayed as bumbling amateurs who need to be told how to teach by self-righteous politicians who’ve not spent a day in a classroom since they were in short trousers.
Somerton and Frome Labour Party members joined with members of the UNITE union to lobby their MP, the Liberal Democrat minister for agriculture and food David Heath , now increasingly under pressure as farm workers intensify their campaign in the run-up to MPs voting on the future of the Agricultural Wages Board.
Unite activists are campaigning for the Agricultural Wages Board’s retention, to protect the incomes of 150,000 agricultural workers. Coalition minister, Heath, was lobbied at his constituency surgery which was held in The Library, Justice Lane, Frome..
Unite will be mounting an intensive lobbying campaign in the run-up to the crucial Commons vote on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform bill on 16 April – and points out that David Heath, the MP for Somerton and Frome, had previously expressed his support for the Agricultural Wages Board’s retention.
‘Abolition will drive down workers wages to poverty levels’
Unite national officer for agriculture Julia Long said: “David Heath is being lobbied as he is responsible for driving through the proposed abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, having previously supported for it. The crunch vote on the Agricultural Wages Board is on Tuesday– when MPs vote on whether to maintain the board which has been effective in the last 65 years in protecting the incomes of some of the lowest paid workers in the country. Unite will be campaigning strongly in the run-up to the vote to retain the Agricultural Wages Board. Supermarkets and the growers, who supply them, are behind the AWB’s abolition proposal as they want to drive down workers’ wages to poverty levels.”
Labour Candidate for Yeovil South, Terry Ledlie, believes that the Liberal Democrat vote has peaked , is now in decline and he is convinced that change is just around the corner.
Terry says “In the County election in 2001 the results for the South Ward were as follows, Liberal Democrats, 1782, Conservative 1391, Labour 700.In 2005 the Liberal Democrats hit the dizzy heights of 1938 votes to the Conservatives 1366 and Labour came in third with 700 votes. This was the Lib Dems at their best gaining more of the vote than in 2001. However,their majority has been in decline ever since.”
‘Lib Dem vote plummeting’
The first signs of Lib Dem decline came in 2009 when their vote plummeted from 1938 to 1305, a loss of 633 votes and the Conservatives came second with 1184 reducing the Lib Dem majority to just 121. Terry says “Yeovil Labour has
worked hard and are able contenders for this year’s County council elections especially with an ex Liberal district councillor standing as the Conservative candidate. Also with the boundary changes this election is for the taking. Crucially, if this decline continues, loosing another 600 votes could prove disastrous for the incumbent Councillor and if Labour come out in force then a major upset could be on the cards in this year’s county council elections.”
With Labour clawing back seats around Somerset from Shepton to Peasedown and a renewed vigour in the Labour campaign there could well be a few surprises on May 2nd
As the Somerset County Council elections loom, Labour has once again shown itself to be electable in the county and around the South West. Hot on the back of the 2 gains in Shepton Mallet recently, a further 2 Labour councillors have this week been elected onto the Peasedown St John Parish council in North East Somerset.
The Peasedown victory is bad news for the Liberal Democrats who had made gains there at District level in recent years, but in the light of national setbacks had reclassified themselves as ‘Peasedown First’– however, even this ‘front organisation’ wasn’t enough for local people to see through them. In this traditionally Labour mining village which has doubled in size over the last 20 years with some 1200 houses being built it sends a message of hope across the historic county that the Lib Dems are on the back foot and can’t hide from the voters no matter how the reclassify themselves.
‘voted for common sense’
The victorious Labour & Co-operative Party Candidates, Jonathan Rich & Jordan Ness, were elected to the Peasedown St John Parish Council. Cllr Rich told us “The residents have sent a clear message with these significant Labour wins and have voted for common sense & a return to a more balanced Parish Council for Peasedown St John. Since the May 2011 elections 9 of the 17 Peasedown 1st councillors have resigned from the Council which angered many residents in the village. The Council has lost its direction and needs new elected Councillors that understand the needs of our community and who have experience in Local Government. I believe that Peasedown St John deserves a consistent Parish Council which puts the people’s needs first.”
“I wish to thank the electors of Peasedown for placing their trust in us. It’s time for the hard work to begin and bring some experience to the Council. A huge ‘thank you’ to all those in the Labour Party & supporters for their help over the last few weeks to make this possible. With the right candidates, and some hard work we could see Labour take the 2 District seats in 2015”
In austerity Somerset, it’s all systems go – the candidates for May’s County Elections have been announced, and, riding on a wave of media exposure, UKIP are standing in more seats than ever. Last week, UKIP head honcho Nigel Farage swept through the county to rally his troops. Speaking in Taunton , a flat-capped Farage gleefully announced that there will be a UKIP candidate standing in 90% of County seats – that translated to 48 making them the 4th biggest after Labour and Tory on 55 each and the Lib Dems on 52.
So, faced with the biggest UKIP presence in history, and bombarded with triumphant rhetoric from UKIP High Command, Somerset has to ask a very obvious question – who are these people and what would they do in power?
“As we go into the county council election period, it is fair for people to ask what UKIP are for” said Farage, in a press release coinciding with his arrival in the West.
As we rumble into an intense phase of Labour’s most ambitious County Council campaign in a generation, the Somerset Labour web monkey caught up with the Party’s man in Bridgwater South, Leigh Redman, to discuss his priorities for the election battle ahead.Here it’s a genuine two horse race as the Lib Dem candidate has already been disqualified and UKIP and the Greens deciding not to stand, Leigh is in a straight fight against the Conservatives.
Q: Leigh, you’ve been very involved in the now-confirmed EDF development at Hinkley Point. How do you think it is going to impact your ward?
A: Well, firstly, I’m pleased Hinkley C has been confirmed. It means we can now get on with preparing for it. Now that permission has been given, we will soon be hit by increased traffic along the agreed freight routes, I use the word freight because these heavy goods vehicles (HGV) will be fully loaded and mean more than 500 movements each day. If elected, I will closely monitor the situation, and I want to ensure that any steps taken to mitigate negative effects go far enough. The initial changes that have been proposed for Broadway junction are minimal, just minor alterations to the traffic lights. As a councillor, I would call on the County Highways department to continually monitor the impact, and, if problems develop, take immediate action to ensure smooth flowing traffic.
Q: Bridgwater South encompasses a lot of the town centre. How do you feel about the Tesco coming to Northgate?