In the 5-way battle that is spreading across Somerset in the run up to the County Council elections on May 2nd,eyes are focusing on areas where Labour can potentially make gains and Shepton Mallet looks like being a key marginal.
Chris Inchley is standing for the Labour Party in his home Town, Shepton Mallet. He is up against Conservative, Lib Dem, UKIP and Green opposition and is confident that people can trust him and his track record on the local town council to guarantee a safe pair of hands.
‘Shepton has been neglected’
Chris says “In these times of Austerity it would be easy to promise this or that, but what I can promise is that if elected i will work hard for Shepton and my fellow residents. My policy interests are education and the importance of early years intervention. If all children are exposed to language and literature in their early years those childrens educational achievement will be greater in later life.”
Chris believes that there is no doubt Shepton is badly served by public transport and that this needs urgent revision also that young people have taken the brunt of the governments cuts. He adds ” Shepton has no youth service provision and your county councillor needs to work to improve opportunities for young people. Shepton needs to improve it’s cultural services, sports, arts and community involvement. It is an obvious statement to make but Shepton has been neglected by local government, this is largely in the way that councils run their services.” Continue reading “Labour candidate asks “Is Shepton’s voice being heard?””
Labour’s County Council election campaign in the Bridgwater area kicked off today with a targetted leaflet drop in the new Stockmoor development on the edge of the town. Although this new-build housing project is seperated from Bridgwater merely by the Stockmoor rhyne it forms part of the North Petherton division for the County Council election and in terms of voting history is a completely new demographic to factor into the equasion and could provide Labour with the boost it needs to take this key county seat from the Tories.
Labour’s candidate, 23 year old Bridgwater shop manager Oliver Barratt, is a recently graduated Law student and with his youthful energy was the first of the local candidates off the mark with his leafleting campaign offering the people of Stockmoor a genuine alternative to Tory rule at County hall and showing that Labour was taking the North Petherton campaign seriously.
One third of the potential North Petherton Vote is on Stockmoor
Olly said “Stockmoor is crucial to us because there’s over 1,000 people living here and although they’re on the very edge of Bridgwater they’re a community in themselves,with a school and some shops on the way but very little in terms of public services, facilities and amenities. One third of the potential vote in this division will come from this little area and responses so far show strong support for Labour.” Continue reading “Stockmoor Development is ‘crucial’ to Labour success in North Petherton”
The most interesting Somerset County Council election in years will take place on May 2nd. For the first time the two traditional enemies, Tory and Lib Dem, who have batted control of the council backwards and forwards between them, are now in grim coalition at Westminster and both guilty of a massive and painful programme of cuts across the country. With little to choose between them voters are looking to Labour to provide an alternative.
Labour rises to the challenge
For the first time ever Labour are standing in all 55 county seats, matching the Tories person for person. Wherever a Conservative stands a Labour candidate is there to offer that genuine difference that people no longer belief the compromised and ineffectual Lib Dems can offer. Nick Cleggs sad and dispirited party can only field a slate of 52 candidates across a county which they once controlled. Continue reading “Labour and Tories go head to head as County Elections kick off”
With two five-way fights and an intriguing list of candidates, the county election in the four West Somerset divisions is wide open. Politics in this district is always unpredictable – and never more so than at this election.
Minehead – a fractured vote which could go anyway
In Minehead five candidates enter the fray. Sitting Tory Brenda Maitland-Walker is up against four well-known figures in the town. Labour’s Lesley Culverhouse, Marcus Kravis for the Lib Dems, Terry Venner of UKIP, and independent Andrew Hadley. All are strong characters who can claim some following: the likely result is a fractured vote which could end in victory for anyone.
A strong Labour challenge in Watchet and Stogursey
In Watchet and Stogursey new Tory candidate Chris Morgan, from Stogursey, faces powerful opposition from candidates with their bases in the more populous part of the division. Former bus worker Alan Bond will hope to build on Labour’s strong vote in Watchet. In Williton, newsagent Hugh Davies is making another run as an independent. UKIP are also standing.
Open season in Dunster
Dunster is another open contest, with sitting councillor Christine Lawrence facing opposition from Labour’s Andy Lewis plus the Lib Dems, UKIP and the only Green candidate in the district.
Greens endorse Labour candidate in Dulverton and Exmoor
In Dulverton and Exmoor Labour’s candidate Maureen Smith has the endorsement of the Green candidate for Dunster. UKIP also stand, against sitting Tory Frances Nicholson.
Candidates have been announced today for the Somerset County Council elections scheduled for May 2nd and for the first time ever Labour is standing everywhere and running a countywide campaign. While the County has been fought over in recent years by the Tories and Lib Dems, now they are both in bed together in Government a real alternative is needed and Labour is in the strongest position to break the coalition’s grip.
In the Bridgwater area Labour’s hopes are strongest. At their height in recent years Labour have held all 4 Bridgwater seats –North & Central, South, East & Bawdrip and West and need to win all of these on May 2nd if they are to regain influence on County. In addition, to gain actual control Labour need to win the 3 neighbouring seats of Huntspill, North Petherton and Cannington.
Of the 7 Bridgwater/South Sedgemoor seats the battleground is Labour v Tory with the moribund and compromised Lib Dems only standing token candidates in 6 of the seats while the Tories are threatened by the far right conservative UKIP in 4 of them.
Labour ‘must take the 4 Bridgwater seats ‘
Labours strongest seat, Bridgwater North & Central , contains the Sydenham estate and Eastover and the candidate is long serving Town,District and County Councillor Dave Loveridge, shortly to become next Mayor of Bridgwater. Dave is up against Tory John Harwood and Cannington Lib Dem, Janice Beasley.
In Bridgwater South, a long standing Labour seat , the Party is standing fireman and Hamp resident Leigh Redman. Labour lost this seat for the first time ever at the last election where a poor turnout and voter resistance to all parties saw a collapse of votes for everyone with the Tories winning by just 20 votes, which must have shocked voters who thought it didn’t matter who got in and now witness the effects of the Con Dem Government. The salutary lesson meant one-man coalition Steve Gill got in as a tory and then within a month left and joined the Lib Dems. And then lost interest in politics altogether. The South division,which includes Hamp and Westover wards-currently represented by Labour at town and district level, is a crucial ‘must gain’ for Labour. This time round there’s only 2 candidates –Leigh for Labour and Tory Lance Dudderidge. Apparently there was meant to be a Lib Dem but the candidate failed to submit a correct registration form.
Bridgwater West will see a decisive ‘Battle of the Titans’ between shaky sitting Tory Ann Bown and Labours experienced local boy Richard Hampson. The division, for county purposes, is an odd amalgam of traditionally Labour Victoria ward and traditionally Tory Quantock (now Wyndham) ward. Currently held by the Tories, Bridgwater West was Labour not so long ago. Thrown into the midst of this is a token Lib Dem candidate, Alan Beasley (who usually stands in Cannington) and that dangerous thorn in the side of the tories, Victoria Gardner standing for the far right conservative UKIP. Bridgwater West will be an epic contest and former Local Government administrator Richard is determined to see what life is like on the members side of the fence finally.
In Bridgwater East and Bawdrip, 80% of the division consists of Bower Manor and the Bridge estate plus the villages of Bawdrip and Chedzoy plus this time round adds in the village of Weston Zoyland. A Labour held seat in recent years, the candidate Barbara O’Connor is seeking to retake it from unpopular Tory county Portfolio holder David Hall who was kicked out of his Town and District seats just 2 years ago . Barbara, who lives in Bower, is also facing Lib Dem , Bob Bryant, from Axbridge and an additional right wing challenge from UKIPper Richard Scammell. Continue reading “Bridgwater is the Key to Labour victory in Somerset”
This hasn’t been the best of weeks to be on the breadline, and it’s about to get worse. Today, the Coalition’s new budget comes into force. Approximately 13,000 millionaires will receive a £100,000 tax cut. For every one of those millionaires, 137 families will be hit by the new bedroom tax. In total, about 660,000 households with spare rooms, including some of the most disadvantaged in the country, will lose an average of £14 a week at a time when they are already struggling to weather the deepest recession in eighty years.
Earlier this week, 50 of the country’s most senior experts in social policy wrote an open letter to David Cameron. The professors’ message was stark – cancel your welfare cuts or cause the poorest tenth of households to lose 38% of their income, pushing 220,000 children into poverty. This was the same week church groups hit out at “the systematic misrepresentation of the poorest in society” by government and the media, housing federation chief David Orr described the bedroom tax as “one of these once-in-a-generation decisions that is wrong in every respect” and Labour estimated that the combined impact of Coalition cutbacks would cost the average family almost £900 a year.
And it was also the week that, here in Somerset, Bridgwater Town Council voted to support the establishment of the town’s first food bank since the 1930s. The bank will be run by volunteers from the Tressel Trust, and, like those recently established in nearby Highbridge and Taunton, will run on a referral system. GPs and Social Services offices can refer people they deem in sufficient need to the new bank –to be located in the former Enterprise Centre on Northgate – where they’ll receive vouchers they can exchange for food.
Candidate hit’s out at ‘Destructive social policy’
The Labour controlled Town Council has earmarked £1,500 to the bank, which is doing crucial work for the area’s most vulnerable at a time of real hardship for some. Labour’s Richard Hampson, standing for Bridgwater West in May’s County Council elections, has praised the individuals taking the time to help needy members of the community – but he has also hit out at the kind of destructive social policy that leaves it to unpaid volunteers to ensure the most needy have enough food to eat.
“Setting up a food bank in Bridgwater is another sign of the disastrous effects of this Conservative-led, Liberal DemoPrat supported government” said Richard. “While the efforts of many concerned and caring people in setting it up are to be highly commended, the fact that it is necessary in the 21st century is a damning indictment of this pathetic apology for a Government
The news that Somerset County Council has spent millions of pounds to settle its dispute with South West One is just the latest twist in a scandalous story of misjudgement and waste. Right from the start, when the deal was negotiated by the Liberal Democrats, it should have been obvious that the idea of letting a multi-national company handle the council’s money was a bad one.
It has now cost £2 million in legal fees alone to reach a settlement. And the council will be paying over millions on top of that – though we are not allowed to know how much.
Under the deal, services such as procurement and property management are being taken back in house by the council. But the bad news is that the contract with South West One in many other areas will continue.
“Lib Dems simply did not do their homework”
Graham Forsyth, Labour candidate for Chard North in the forthcoming Somerset County Council elections, is not alone in believing that it is shocking to think that front line services for people in Somerset are being cut, while money lines the pockets of lawyers who have renegotiated a contract that should never have been signed in the first place.
Graham says “So the longstanding dispute between Somerset County Council and services provider South West One has been settled. The county council says an agreement has been reached to resolve not only the legal dispute between the parties but also service issues raised by the council.
The SouthWest One experiment was set up by the Lib Dem group led by Chard’s own Jill Shortland, it has proved to be a complete and utter financial disaster. Asking an American multinational company like IBM to run and manage so many critical ‘back office’ services was always a strange call, but the Lib Dems simply did not do their homework and this has given in the current Tory administration the ‘perfect storm’ of opportunity to wield their cost cutting axe.” Continue reading “South West One experiment ‘a financial disaster’ says Chard Labour candidate”
With the Coalitions disastrous ‘Bedroom tax’ almost upon us, Sedgemoor Labour Group attempted today to put a motion to Full Council calling for the Government to drop the policy and think again. Sedgemoor Labour Group –the strongest in Somerset with 13 members representing 6 wards in Bridgwater , claimed the tax was ‘unworkable’ and would ‘hit the most vulnerable’ and asked the council to ‘use discretionary payments to make sure that families and people are not made homeless or forced into debt because of the bedroom tax’.
Labour Group leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) opened the debate saying “This Council will have to deal with the consequences of this punitive tax. The ‘under occupancy penalty’, does exactly what it is supposed to, it penalises. According to the government’s own figures, 63% of those penalised are disabled. Nearly one quarter of those penalised are lone parents.The Government has already made U-turns on this. People are facing large tax bills simply to continue living in their own homes. It’s a tax knowing that people are trapped and by a Government knowing that it will put people into hardship.”
Labour Councillor Leigh Redman (Bridgwater Dunwear) who is standing for Bridgwater South in the County Council election, supported the motion and seconded the amendment. “The National Housing Federation has calculated which constituencies will be hit hardest by penalties for under-occupation of social housing that come into force on 1 April. Under the under-occupation penalty, or ‘bedroom tax’, social housing tenants who are of working age and in receipt of housing benefit will have their payments cut if they have one or more spare bedrooms. Housing benefit will be cut by 14 per cent for one spare bedroom, and 25 per cent for two spare rooms.”
Given their skyrocketing unpopularity in government with the Conservatives, the Lib Dems will unsurprisingly spend County Election season frantically trying to distance themselves from their coalition partners.
In Somerset especially, the Lib Dem spin-machine will be running at full tilt. Losing County Hall to the Tories was a huge blow four years ago, and the Liberals are now desperate to wrest it back to rejuvenate their flagging fortunes as Labour stages a determined come-back.
Somerset needs a political turnaround
There’s no doubt that Somerset urgently needs a political turnaround. County residents have been hit by eye-watering cutbacks to vital council services. Not only do rural councils face bigger reductions in central government grants than urban ones, the services lost as a result are crucially important to the wellbeing of often isolated communities. But local Tories have obediently followed the national Cameron-Osborne agenda, shredding welfare budgets in a bid to make average earners, the elderly, disabled people and the poorest pay for an economic crisis caused by some of society’s wealthiest.
The latest attempt by the Tories to portray themselves as a responsible administration in Somerset has drawn scorn from Labour candidates.
A “newspaper” called Bridgwater and West Somerset Matters is being delivered across the constituency. It tries to claim that the Tories are investing in Somerset – but the claims fall apart under examination.
The half-truths start on the front page, Tory leader John Osman is pictured at the topping off ceremony for the new Chilton Trinity School in Bridgwater. No mention of the fact that the building work at Chilton Trinity was approved under the Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future programme. Since the Tory-Lib Dem government came to power, it has done its best to stop investment in schools. To try to claim credit for investment agreed under Labour is a sign of desperation.
The other front page story shows even more brazen cheek. Under the headline “Library Book Boost” Cllr Osman says “despite what people may have read, the Conservatives have not closed any libraries in Somerset.” Most readers will remember that the only reason the Tories didn’t close any libraries was because the courts wouldn’t let them. After a tireless campaign by library supporters, the plan to shut libraries down was declared illegal.