‘Unity Budget’ is Sedgemoor’s Parting Shot

Sedgemoor Labour Leaders happy to support a ‘Unity Budget’ in District Councils final year

Sedgemoor District Council will be history a year from now. Today the 3 Political Parties agreed a ‘Unity Budget’ for its final year. This meant a balanced budget with no cuts to public services for the coming financial year. Described by Council Leader Cllr Duncan McGinty  as “an inclusive, joint budget  with the emphasis  on continuing to support residents and businesses throughout the Coronavirus crisis, whilst delivering frontline services and taking opportunities to kick-start economic recovery.”  The Council Leader said “The budget showed that there is a firm commitment to press ahead with ambitious plans to invest just over  £5m so that Sedgemoor’s services and projects can be handed over in terrific shape to the new Somerset Unitary Council at the end of March 2023.” The Labour Part of the Budget was presented by Leader of the Opposition Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) who described the Unity Budget as “a temporary silencing of the guns so we can talk about serious devolution and transfer of assets in this final year to the towns and parishes, working together. And for Bridgwater that means we should come out of this with a stronger Town Council, closer to the people. ” His full speech is reported below.

Cllr Brian Smedley presents Labour contribution to the budget

Speaking from the Canalside Centre just outside of Bridgwater Cllr Brian Smedley said “It’s appropriate that we have this last minute armistice as Sedgemoor goes into its final year.-not quite making 50.  And so It’s a positive and welcome offer by the leader for all parties to contribute to this great closing down sale .So we have contributed our ideas-and these are largely work in progress over the years -things that were never concluded during the Sedgemoor years. And Sedgemoor now has run out of time and needs to look to its legacy to pass on a positive future for its successor councils”

The Labour Budget for Bridgwater

Cllr Smedley outlined the key Labour elements of the budget specifically for the Bridgwater area

  • “We have worked together to achieve skate parks across the town and in particular the major skate facility at the YMCA where young people have been calling for the final touch -some long promised lighting. Lets get that done.
  • Hamp has long been a deprived and neglected part of Somerset and has campaigned for Community Facilities -lets get that sorted
  • We need to reclaim and re-wild our public open spaces in the wake of the climate emergency and to keep the developers off our green lungs -that’s why we’ve recognized the  community need for the Meads Eco-Park  
  • Sport and health and Well Being are all important parts of of Bridgwater peoples lives and it’s about time we put our faith in the footballing opportunities being pioneered now by Bridgwater United. thats why we support the Bridgwater Sports Project   
  • Bridgwater people have shown their compassion and community spirit not just during the pandemic but through the years of austerity and that’s why we value initiatives such as the Sydenham & Hamp Pantries -there should maybe also be one in Victoria in fact and we expect to see that developed too
  • And Bridgwater is expanding -especially into the areas east of the town-as these new houses take over existing communities they need proper infrastructure-to avoid the mistakes of such developmental catastrophes as Stockmoor and Willstock and so that’s why we’ve asked for a Community Facility for the Bower area  
  • And finally the 2 great eyesores of our town, which we know SDC are working with us on since we called for seed funding last year -that’s the Salmon Parade Hospital and the Penel Orlieu Classic Buildings– historic landmarks whose continued neglect and tumbledown appearance suggests they’re not being cared for in the slightest -we welcome the inclusion of money to start to tackle these eyesores.”

‘Just a Truce’

Cllr Smedley concluded with a history lesson and a warning for the future saying “But this is indeed just a truce as we close one chapter of local government 1974 to 2023. A period that started with the abolition of the historic and popular Bridgwater Borough Council and replaced it with direct rule from Burnham or Cheddar-depending on which Tory faction had the ascendancy at the time. And relations with Sedgemoor were checkered reaching the lowest point with the closing of the Splash in 2009. Today, however, is not the day to mention these past battles. So I won’t.  However, it’s also true that in recent years that Sedgemoor has changed tack and has invested more in Bridgwater and for that I think again the leader deserves credit for that change of focus. And so where it was right to, we have co-operated and not opposed just for the sake of opposing. We welcome the Northgate Development, which we campaigned for, and we welcome the council house building programme , which we want to see more of, and  we definitely appreciate the hard working and devoted staff teams who have given their best to the Community for many years. And finally, we welcome this budget as a temporary silencing of the guns so we can talk about serious devolution and transfer of assets in this final year to the towns and parishes, working together. And for Bridgwater that means we should come out of this with a stronger Town Council, closer to the people, retaining some of the good that the Sedgemoor strategic dimension provided and acting as a crucial local check to the remote  power of the new unitary authority, that very few people actually wanted-including this council. This is but a truce -we’ll see you again on opposite sides of the Unitary Council….”

Cllr Brian Smedley, Labour Group Leader and Cllr Kathy Pearce, Deputy Leader

Budget key points

  • £500,000 additional funding into work towards preparing for the new Unitary council.
  • £20,000 to add to the £1.5m for spent since 2015, training and developing 55 apprentices.
  • £775,000 into four community halls across the district with specific needs.
  • £500,000 fund for rural village or community halls.  This will make sure that they continue to be the cornerstone of their communities; an invaluable and important part of neighbourhood life and are mostly run by hard-working volunteer committees.
  • £150,000 for playground equipment across the district, along with additional funding for ongoing maintenance.  This will speed up the replacement of aging equipment with modern, brighter and more ‘play value’ for our younger residents.
  • £100,000 to take over the management of Brean Beach, at the request of Brean Parish Council.  Monies will  make sure that we are fully staffed and equipped; beach vehicles, improvements to toilets and facilities.
  • £180,000 to continue to support Citizens Advice Sedgemoor.
  • £171,000 for specific Bridgwater-based project
  • £12,000 towards lighting for the YMCA skatepark
  • £30,000 plus £50,000 CIL funds to the Meads Eco Park for the provision of a board walk to give all year access and support to the Parkrun route
  • £20,000 for Bridgwater Sports Project Bridgwater to be set aside for the development of a feasibility study in partnership with Bridgwater United FC to develop a new sports hub; children’s play area and dog walking area within Bristol Road Playing Fields;
  • £20,000 to continue the excellent work of the Sydenham and Highbridge pantry projects;
  • £20,000 to develop a feasibility study into the provision of a community facility in Bower
  • £19,000 towards a feasibility study into the future use of the Penel Orleiu Classic buildings.
  • £250,000 for projects within other parts of Sedgemoor
  • £50,000 into a Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge High Street task-force;
  • £50,000 for a feasibility study for the Strawberry Line in Cheddar;
  • £100,000 to fund ‘Changing Places’ toilets installed in Burnham
  • £50,000 for four all-terrain wheelchairs to make visitor attractions in Sedgemoor accessible.

SDC’s proportion of the council tax is to increase the Band D tax by £5 per annum.

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