At today’s Sedgemoor District Council budget set meeting the Conservatives closed ranks to crush a Labour amendment which aimed to prevent the move to 3 weekly refuse collection, halt the raising of Bridgwater car park charges ,commit the council to invest in the Docks and the long promised Celebration mile and called for an external review of the Chief executives performance.
SDC Leader Cllr Duncan McGinty (Con, East Polden) described his budget as “prudent and forward thinking” and outlined a continuation of their “£1million fund for loans to business” in the form of the Economic Growth Accelerator Fund and proposed to “increase the council tax by £5, which means 3.6% or 10p a week”.
Labour opposes ‘3 weekly waste’ and ‘Parking charges hike’
Labour Leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Lab,Bridgwater Victoria) moved a fully costed Labour budget as an amendment. He said “We would like to include growth items of 100k to enhance the Bridgwater Docks, to include seating, terracing, lighting and links to the national cycle network. This is supposed to be part of the celebration mile which this council is meant to support – we asked last year at the other end of the celebration mile-the Railway Station and nothing happened and we are asking again now.”
“We also want to oppose the move to 3 weekly waste collection. The people when consulted say waste collection is their top priority and we support that and suggest that you can’t move to 3 weekly collections without increasing recycling and a wider range of what can be recycled. We object to the increase of car parking charges in Bridgwater whilst at the same time we note that Cheddar gets a second consultation on lower rates. The Labour budget can be achieved by reducing the ‘Economic Growth Accelerator’ which in fact has not been taken up and by increasing commitment to income generation through moving ahead further and quicker with the proposed trading company. Finally we are asking for an external review of the Chief Executives performance in accordance with the Code of Corporate Governance and not just an internal one as we now seem to be the most expensive district in Somerset.”
Cllr Mark Healey (Con Puriton & Woolavington) said “When he was talking about the Golden Mile I thought he was talking about Las Vegas not Bridgwater. Yes we can all agree investment but right now it’s premature”
Cllr Ann Fraser (Con North Petherton) said “I’ve been urging money spent on the docks for years but it’s got to come from a developer. I’d be the first to jump at an offer of some money”
Labour calls for docks investment
Cllr Brian Smedley (Lab Westover) said “Well, we’re suggesting 100k so you just need to vote for it. The docks is a secret gem of a place which is crying out for investment. We’ve agreed to work together with the District on the Northgate project and the Docks is the final point on the celebration mile . Now is the time to invest money here. You had 100k from Tescos which was Bridgwater money and that’s what we’re asking for. “
Cllr Healey came back “We all want El Dorado. This isn’t a lot of money but it’s still premature”
Cllr Dawn Hill (Con Cheddar) said “If the celebration Mile is so precious to Bridgwater then Bridgwater Town should be paying.”
Cllr Lerry came back “Bridgwater and Sedgemoor both support the Bridgwater Vision and the Celebration Mile, but Sedgemoor holds a huge budget yet when it comes to Bridgwater you’re not prepared to put your hand in your pocket. We say now is the time to invest in Bridgwater. If you genuinely support these projects you need to start thinking of delivering them.”
Cllr McGinty replied “Oh we are having a jolly time. We’ve given a commitment and when proposals come forward we will support them but at the right time.”
Cllr Gill Slocombe (Con Bridgwater Wyndham) said “I have to pay £51 precept to live in Bridgwater and people are asking me what is Bridgwater Town Council doing anyway!”
Tories ‘over promising but under delivering’
Cllr Moira Brown (Lab Bridgwater Eastover) said “I’m a new councillor and I’m very disappointed by the tone of this debate. I’ve seen lots of documents declaring support for this Celebration Mile and the people of Bridgwater are expecting it but now you’re downplaying it. It seems to me that you’re over promising but under delivering. People are expecting it to actually happen.”
Cllr Wes Hinckes (Lab Bridgwater Hamp) said “It all sounds very good as a roadmap but you need to set some targets for when you’re planning to actually deliver.”
The Labour amendment was seconded by Deputy Opposition leader Cllr Smedley and put to the vote and was lost 26 to 11 with all the Tories voting against and all Labour (+1 Lib Dem) supporting while the 2 Kippers abstained.
The Tories then pushed their own budget through with exactly the same figures but reversed.
Tories ‘not committed to partnership working’
Speaking after the meeting Bridgwater Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley said “Bridgwater Town Council has committed itself to partnership working with Sedgemoor this year to achieve regeneration but this really doesn’t seem like a partnership response from them. Even the Bridgwater Tories closed rank to push through increased car parking charges on the town and enforce the massively unpopular 3 weekly rubbish collections whilst deriding the offers to kick start funding for the docks. There’s clearly a major window of opportunity to invest in the docks as a hub for sustainable transport in tandem with the Northgate development and on the back of the Parrett Barrier. If they keep treading water on this they’ll simply miss the boat.”