Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Labour Candidates attack County 'Sells offs'

Ricky Holcombe "What will we see disappear next?"
SOMERSET County Council ,  who recently admitted using public money to contribute towards the supermarket giant Tesco's planning fees in Bridgwater,  has announced that it has raised £9million by selling off some of its assets since April. Both moves widely condemned by Labour councillors.
The Council says that "Money raised by the sales will be used to refurbish schools and build new roads. Among sites sold off were the former Records Office in Taunton, for £395,000, and Nynehead School, for £126,000."
"Those on the least income suffer"
Labour candidate for the County Council ward of Highbridge, Ricky Holcombe, who is also standing in the District Council By-Election in January, criticised the announcement saying "It isn't a shock to see this happening under a Tory / Lib dem government .They famously sold gas electricity and water utilities off to anyone with no protection to the consumer As a result of this we are now seeing the highest ever fuel poverty figures nationally and  rises  in fuel bills across all of the main companies with no help other than weak promises from the Tories . Once more those on the least income suffer while the rich are given cuts in corporation tax. What will happen next year when they spend the money?  What will we see disappear next?"
Labour candidate for Bridgwater East & Bawdrip, Barbara O Connor, added "They are selling the future assets of our children. Where is the long term view of their needs?"

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Joe Leach -'a career change'

The Liberal Democrats in Sedgemoor have been in retreat for years. Wiped out in Bridgwater they fought a battle with their own rebels at the last District elections in Highbridge which saw 2 independents take seats and the Lib Dems on Sedgemoor council further reduced down to 2. Now their dynamic young leader Joe Leach has announced he too is throwing in the towel.

Leach's resignation will mean a New Year By-election in the marginal ward of Highbridge which has swung between all the parties over the last decade and is the tighest election ground in the district. With the Lib Dems on the run nationally due to their broken promises and their  decision to put the Tories back into power they are heading for oblivion if recent by-election results are anything to go by.

Cllr Leach said his reasons for quitting were 'a career change'. The Lib Dems came 8th in the recent Rotherham By-election.

Monday, 3 December 2012


SDC Corporate Director Bob Brown (pictured above attempting to
get protestors to vacate the doomed Splash pool) today admitted Tesco's
planning fees were paid by the County Council
A day which had started with Sedgemoor Corporate Director Bob Brown admitting after weeks of pressure from the Sedgemoor Labour group that part of the Tesco planning fee for Northgate had been paid out of public funds - in fact by the County Council - ended with Battle lines drawn at the Corporate Scrutiny committee meeting as Tory Councillors voted down an urgent motion to investigate the matter at a Special meeting.

Addressing the meeting, Cllr Julian Taylor (Labour Eastover)  outlined the facts of the case saying that it was "Morally indefensible that council tax payers money should be spent subsidising a multi billion pound corporation" and that it was now "right and proper that the Council called a special meeting of the Scrutiny committee to investigate how this happened with all the correspondence involved along with the Chief Executive who made the decision." 

Cllr Ian Tucker (Labour Dunwear) said "The council has got to be seen to be acting fairly."

"a smokescreen"

Labour leader Cllr Mick Lerry "This is NOT
a minor matter- any refusal to scrutinise would
be seen as a smokescreen"
Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour Victoria) moved the motion to call a special meeting saying "We need this meeting now to clear this up. This is not a minor matter it relates to the Governance of this Council and public money has been used to clear an impasse where both Councils are landowners who seek to benefit from the sale. We want to know what discussions have been had between SDC & SCC and any refusal to scrutinise this would be clearly seen as a smokescreen. "

Bob Brown, standing in for Kerry Rickards, said "This issue is a planning matter and the only decision to be made now  will be by the Development Control Committee in deciding the planning application on planning grounds. The neccessary  fee has been paid in full - not by Tesco but by one of the landowners, Somerset, but this is not unusual. This matter does not prejudice Sedgemoor District Council in it's role as Planning Authority and the application must proceed untainted."

"Not Sedgemoors problem"

Cllr Jane Moreton (Conservative,Huntspill) said she "wasn't opposed to scrutinising the way planning fees are  dealt with" but felt "this is not Sedgemoors problem as it is Somerset who paid the bill."

Cllr Nobby Turner (Conservative Kingsisle) added "Sedgemoor have not paid a damn thing so it;s up to County if they want to scrutinise this. If this is just another attempt to kick Tesco's into a hole then I'm having nothing to do with it."

Cllr Bob Filmer (Conservative Brent) Chair of Development Ctte said "SDC has not paid SCC has, I really don't think it's up to us to look into this." 

The meeting voted 6.4 to reject a special meeting with the 6 Tories voting to reject and the 3 labour and 1 Highbridge Independent voting for further scrutiny.

"seen to be transparent"

Chairman Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour Westover) said "The purpose of this committee is to scrutinise Sedgemoors proceedures  and to be seen to be transparent in doing so. All we're asking for is a level playing field-before someone builds a supermarket on the one we have."

"Labour County Council Group leader Cllr Andy Govier
has agreed to refer the matter to County Scrutiny"
Cllr Lerry ammended his motion to remove the words 'urgent' and 'special meeting' and this time the vote resulted in  Tory councillors Moreton and Turner swinging in favour whilst 4 Tories still held out for refusal. Now with a 6.4 vote to proceed the item was scheduled for the normal Scrutiny meeting of February 4th when Planning matters generally were also on the agenda.

Cllr Dave Loveridge (Labour County Councillor for Bridgwater North) said after the meeting "I have asked the Labour chair of Scrutiny on County, Andy Govier, to put this matter on the agenda of the next County Scrutiny committee. County are asking people to accept 150 million pounds of cutbacks to services and at the same time it turns out they're paying the planning fees of  a company that made 35 billion pounds profit!"

Cllr Brian Smedley said "In a round about way the Scrutiny process worked. We investigated a very controversial issue , got it into the public domain and members recognised the need for further scrutiny. It will be interesting to see what response County give now that Sedgemoor have basically said 'it wasn't us it was them!'."

Thursday, 29 November 2012


Jane Champion wins in Rotherham
Tonights by elections have seen the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. Coming 8th in the Rotherham By election, 4th in North Croydon and beaten into 3rd place by UKIP  in Middlesborough shows that the disastrous decision of Nick Clegg to enter a coalition as junior partners to the Tories and breaking all their promises on the way has left them high and dry as a party losing members, voters and any actual purpose.

The dangerous result of the Lib Dem collapse has meant an increasingly dissilusioned electorate turning to emotive right wing fringe parties such as UKIP and 'better the Devil you don't know' independents as was seen in recent Police Commissioner elections. The latter-totally unaccountable, unrepresentative and loose cannons are often a facade for anti-Labour fronts as has happened in the Bristol Mayor elections where Labour has rightly stayed clear of the so called 'rainbow' coalition of Tories and Liberals .
Andy McDonald wins in Middlesborough

In places like Somerset where there are elections next May it means Labour has to step up to the mark and fight in areas where it hasn't traditionally been successful  as the encumbent Lib Dems who had recently been voted in as 'the best way of keeping the tories out' will lose votes dramatically as that argument no longer holds. Labour needs to fight every County Council seat to prevent a massive Tory majority and fight to win!!

1st Labour 9,866
2nd UKIP 4,648
3rd BNP 1,804
4th Respect 1,778
5th Tory 1,157
6th Eng Dem 703
7th Ind 582
8th Lib Dem 451
9th  TUSC 281
10th Ind 51
11th EDL 29
Steve Reed wins in Croydon North

1st Labour 10,201
2nd UKIP 1,990
3rd Lib Dem 1,672
4th Tory 1,063
5th Peace Party 1,060
6th BNP 328
7th TUSC 277
8th Ind 275

Croydon North
1st Labour 15,800
2nd Tory 4,137
3rd UKIP 1,400
4th Lib Dem 860
5th Greens 855
6th Respect  707

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Outrage as Council Chief authorises payment of Tesco planning application fee

Labour Councillor's question moral and
technical legality of payment

 At the end of September Labour Councillors  were gearing themselves up to respond to the long awaited submission of the Tescos planning application for a megastore on Bridgwater's Brewery Field. When by the end of october this was still sat in the Councils in-tray they naturally began to ask questions.

The Sedgemoor Tories had gone to great lengths over the past years to make the Northgate area available for a new development including demolishing the popular Sedgemoor Splash swimming pool and putting the site out to potential developers. Only the multinational giant Tescos came up with the goods for them.

"Considering the level of opposition to the closure of the Splash, the loss of the green open space and the potential for long term damage to the town centre should a Tesco extra be built on Northgate the Labour group were keen to get into the planning process as soon as possible " said Cllr Brian Smedley who represents the Westover ward where the store is to be built "and with this in mind we asked at Full Council on October 24th why the Application was still in the in tray only to be told there were 'technical reasons' which couldn't be divulged."

'technical issues'

Not content with this the Labour group continued to investigate to get to the bottom of the matter and on November 12th had a special meeting with Corporate Directors including Chief Executive Kerry Rickards who confirmed that the 'technical issues' had been a confrontation between SDC and Tesco about the level of the planning fees which he had finally chosen to resolve by paying a proportion of them from Council funds under his delegated powers.

'News sparked outrage'
Cllr Tucker "indefensible waste
of public money"

 This news sparked outrage amongst the Labour group members present with cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover)  commenting  "There  are small traders such as those at West Quay who have been constantly told there is ‘no budget for a hardship fund’ yet there seems to be one for a Multinational" and Cllr Ian Tucker (Dunwear) who said "This is a disgraceful and indefensible waste of public money in a move that can only be seen as lining the pockets of one of Britains richest company's. It's simply a slap in the face of many small businesses who wish to expand but struggle to meet the normal planning fees."

"Three seconds to decide"

The Chief Executive  responded by saying that for him this was not a difficult decision as it took him only three seconds to decide to waive the fee and he was prepared to defend this position in the Press.

A delegation of senior Labour councillors - group leader Mick Lerry and Chairs of the two Scrutiny committees Julian Taylor and Brian Smedley discussed options with the Monitoring Officer  for reviewing this decision with members and getting the issue aired publically and have now agreed that the subject should form an agenda item on the Corporate Scrutiny Committee meeting of December 3rd.

"transparency and accountability"

Chairman of Corporate Scrutiny , Cllr Smedley, said  "Given the fundamental importance of respecting and upholding the separate roles of the Council as a landowner and as a Local Planning Authority if public confidence is to be maintained in the Council’s ability to determine Tesco’s planning application for the Northgate Development in an entirely impartial manner when it clearly has such a large financial interest in the outcome, it is vital that there is complete openness, transparency and accountability regarding the background to, details of and reasons for the Chief Executive’s decision made on 31 October 2012 to pay part of Tesco’s planning application fee for the Northgate Development despite this being Tesco’s responsibility under the terms of the sale contract (Development Agreement) for the Northgate Site dated 5 October 2011."

Cllr Taylor (Eastover) said I am very concerned that when the council is expecting householders to pay full planning application fees for alterations to their homes that a multibillion pound company, Tescos, should be offered a reduction in the fee. Whose side are the council administration on , ordinary people or big business?”
Brian Smedley Chair of Corporate Scrutiny

Cllr Smedley has circulated every Sedgemoor Councillor with a confidential note regarding his personal views on the matter in hand in advance of the meeting.

The Corporate Scrutiny Committee meeting will be held at 2.30 on Monday 3rd December.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Dr John Savage-the LABOUR  Candidate
Thursday November 15th is Election Day for the new post of Police & Crime Commissioner for the Avon & Somerset area and the Labour candidate is 
Dr John Savage. Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm.

Why are these elections being held?

The coalition argues that the introduction of elected commissioners, who will replace local police authorities, will improve police accountability, free up officers for frontline duties and increase public confidence in the service. Commissioners’ duties will include appointing and dismissing chief constables, agreeing budgets and setting local policing priorities.
The brainchild of the Conservatives, who first proposed elected commissioners in their 2010 manifesto ,the policy was included in the Coalition Agreement, which pledged to "introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual". The commissioners will face re-election every four years.

Will Current  Tory popularity with the police be a factor?
What does Labour think?

Labour voted against the policy in Parliament on the grounds that it would end "a 150 year tradition of keeping politics out of policing" and cost the government tens of millions at a time of police cuts. The party considered boycotting the elections but eventually announced that it would stand a full slate of candidates, who would campaign against cuts and the privatisation of policing.

Why it is important to vote and Vote Labour?

One major concern about the Coalition Governments motivation for holding these elections is that there is a hidden agenda for 'Privatisation'. The 38 Degrees organisation has circulated a warning saying "In a few hours private security companies like G4S could be on their way to controlling big parts of Avon and Somerset police. The new police and crime commissioner elections are tomorrow (Thursday 15th) and there’s a big danger that pro-privatisation candidates could get in with just a few votes.That’s why we need to sound the alarm and get our friends and family to the polling stations armed with the facts.
Hardly anyone knows that these elections are even happening - experts reckon less than one in five people could vote. That means there’s a huge danger that we could end up with commissioners that few people even voted for privatising our police forcesVoting is easy - you just go along to your polling station, probably the same place as you would vote in a general election. Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm so it's easy to go before or after work and you don't even need to bring your polling card with you."

The departing Tory candidate leaves his mark on County Hall

Stop the Cuts-Oppose Police Privatisation-Vote Labour

Tory popularity is at it's lowest for ages within the Police due to the cutbacks and made worse since  the uproar over the 'Plebgate' scandal where the Tory Whip allegedly talked down to Police in Downing street. For us in Somerset there is a special reason to vote Labour -We can't allow the Tory candidate Ken Maddocks to win this election with his disastrous record of cutbacks  when he was leader of Somerset County Council and the person best placed to win is Labour's  Dr John Savage.

John says;-

"I will work tirelessly for a closer relationship between the needs and desires of the public and the work of the police.
Oppose any further reductions of front-line policing and fight for a fairer allocation of funds.
Build on the success of neighbourhood policing and ensure victims of crime have a voice at the heart of policing.
Develop a long-term, strategic vision for policing in Avon and Somerset that meets the needs of the public throughout the forces area.
I have over 40 years of business experience working in senior roles in the public and private sectors and have held responsibility for annual budgets in excess of £1 billion. I have a track record of success in delivering change and improvement in large organisations including the Learning and Skills Council, the Regional Development Agency and, latterly, as Chairman of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust.
These are difficult times. More is expected of our police while budgets are cut. There are no easy answers but I will ensure the police service prioritises neighbourhood policing over privatisation and that the service really listens to the public it serves.
Given my commitment to the service and the experience to be able to make a difference I believe I am the right person for this important role. It will be an honour to have your support."

Saturday, 3 November 2012


Cllr Ian Tucker "Taking the campaign to
the traders on the front line"
Councillor Ian Tucker (Labour,Dunwear) has undertaken to contact Town centre traders to find out their views on the impending Tesco development.  Ian has recently been elected to be the Town Councils representative on the BRI (Bridgwater Retail Initiative) and has been in constant communication with a growing number of traders since his appointment.
Cllr Tucker has urged Traders to make their views about Tescos known to the Planners who will be meeting at the end of November to discuss whether or not to support Tescos application.
The first major response came today from David Coles of Past & Present Furniture Store  in Monmouth Street
Mr Coles said "My views have always been clear about Tesco and they are that we do not need or want an even bigger supermarket than any already in place. It is laughable to say that 62.3% of Bridgwater residents are in favour and it is simply manipulation of statistics. The amount of spin doctoring about the starry eyed Bridgwater folk virtually begging Tesco to come is Alistair Campbell esque! I ran a straw poll over a couple of months at my shop earlier this year, asking people if they wanted another large supermarket in the town, off centre. The interesting thing was I never had one absolute positive yes. The one person who did not give a negative response was suffering from the usual Bridgwater apathy and didn’t really care either way."
"This is NOT some 'benevolent local trader."
   "The thing I find really irritating is the naivety of the public at large believing that this is actually real competition to the other big players in town which will drive down prices, this is simply a myth. This will simply put pressure on medium and small enterprise in the rest of the centre and cause closures of further businesses. I can easily envisage the loss of the likes of WH Smith and even some of the Angel place occupants, even Boots may be lured away from Fore Street at best, gone at worst Superdrug similarly not to mention the independents out in the town. The other joke is about the money that will now not leak from the town by being spent at Tesco. This is not some benevolent local trader, the money made is not staying and being spent here, apart from some from the low wages of the staff, which currently do not meet the living wage standard of £7.20per hour. A good proportion of the 260 mostly part time jobs created will replace employment lost elsewhere through closures and efficiency pressures due to this development, but at least the members of staff will benefit from “extended organ donation leave” (what the hell is that all about!!)."
David Coles "We need Leisure facilities
and not supermarkets"
"Traffic impact Seriously underestimated"
Mr Cole continued "I feel that the traffic impact has been seriously underestimated and again it is ridiculous to suggest that there will not be a “significant increase in traffic on the network as it already exists and is currently going elsewhere”. Have the council given real consideration to the impact on the Canon roundabout at busy times? Currently the traffic queues across the roundabout as it backs up on the Clink with traffic trying to get to the Sainsbury and Wickes sites and turning left to go to ASDA. Throw in all of the festive or bank holiday type traffic with the new Tesco traffic plus Hinkley point project traffic and hey presto, a town that no one in their right mind would come within 5 miles of. It will be very interesting to see what happens with the proposed link road between the Clink and Leggar, as I can foresee Sainsbury having an influence as to whether this actually happens, and I am sure they will be like Asda and Morrisons, welcoming Tesco with open arms!"
"If we want to have nothing but supermarkets...."
"We have all seen the disastrous effect of ASDA on Eastover and this will be the same at the top end of town. If we want to have nothing but supermarkets and cafes then full steam ahead and watch the rest of the town die away. I for one will not be crossing the threshold of this development."
"Thinking in terms of the bigger picture, this could also undermine any efforts towards the Eastover triangle and the possibility of partial pedestrianisation of East Quay/Riverfront as we will have such huge traffic bottlenecks that it becomes impossible to close off any existing routes. "
"Shame on Doug Bamsey"
"I think sadly it is inevitable that this will happen and shame on Doug Bamsey for persuading the executive that this is the best option for Bridgwater. If I am right in believing that our population is estimated to increase to 80000 by 2020 we need leisure facilities not supermarkets and an infrastructure that can cope with it."

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Cllr Mick Lerry leading the Labour campaign
for Community Benefit
Report by the Labour Leader on lobbying for Community Benefits

As part of SDC's cross party lobbying to try and secure community benefits for communities hosting nuclear power stations, I have been involved in the following activities with Bob Brown, Corporate Director, to present the community benefits argument to key politicians in the Labour Party.

In September just before the Labour Party Conference, Bob Brown and I visited Caroline Flint MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to discuss community benefits. This was a very productive meeting and Caroline Flint MP did table a number of written questions in support of SDC's campaign, as reported in Hansard:
Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether he plans to announce a public consultation on community benefits for new nuclear power.
Mr Hayes: There are currently no plans to publicly consult further on community benefits for new nuclear. It is important that a package for community benefits is set out as quickly as possible to provide clarity for local communities. In recent years DECC has consulted extensively with local authorities, parish councils and community groups, including seeking their views on community benefits, and this dialogue will continue.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if his Department will take steps to ensure that any future policy on business rate retention for new nuclear power allows for the community to benefit at the construction phase as well as the operational phases of development.
Brandon Lewis: Our proposals for business rates retention will enable authorities to benefit from growth in business rates revenues generated in their area. Business rates are due for payment when individual hereditaments are considered to have become fit for beneficial occupation. The question of when that applies will be a matter for the local valuation officer.
Labour MP Caroline Flint, putting the case in Parliament

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether his Department has commissioned analysis of international examples of community benefit models for nuclear power; and whether he plans to draw on any such models in formulating future policy on nuclear power.
Mr Hayes: International models have been examined and considered as part of the process for developing proposals on community benefits for sites that host new nuclear power stations in the UK.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on how many occasions he and officials in his Department have met with their counterparts in (a) the Department for Communities and Local Government, (b) HM Treasury,(c) the Cabinet Office and (d) other departments to discuss the issue of (i) community benefits and (ii) business rate retention for new build nuclear projects.

Mr Hayes: Ministers have discussed this issue with counterparts from other interested Departments at Cabinet Committee discussions of Infrastructure and the Growth and Localism agendas. There has also been a series of regular and ad hoc meetings between officials over the last eight months with the aim of bringing forward proposals for community benefits for sites that host new nuclear power stations by the end of 2012.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on how many occasions he and officials in his Department have (a) met with representatives of and (b) visited local communities affected by the proposed Hinkley Point C development.

Mr Hayes: Since the original public consultation in 2007 which led to the publication of the Nuclear White Paper in 2008 officials from my Department have made a series of visits to the Hinkley Point area to meet representatives of interested parties, including four visits in the last few months. We intend that these contacts should continue and have established a Strategic Development Forum to facilitate this.
Labour Councillor Leigh Redman discussing Community benefit
in Unity House with   Labour MP Ben Bradshaw

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what his Department's policy is on (a) community benefits and (b) business rate retention for new-build nuclear projects.

Mr Hayes: Proposals on community benefits for sites that host new nuclear power stations are currently under consideration.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent discussions he has had with (a) the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and (b) the Chancellor of the Exchequer on community benefit for new nuclear power.

Mr Hayes: Ministers have discussed this issue with counterparts from other interested Departments at Cabinet Committee discussions of Infrastructure and the Growth and Localism agendas.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what work his Department has undertaken to take forward the proposals of the Science and Technology Select Committee in its report, Devil's bargain: Energy risks and the public, for the use of partnership models and community benefits in the new nuclear build process.

Mr Hayes: The Department is currently developing proposals for community benefits for sites that host new nuclear power stations; these proposals are being developed in consideration of the recommendations of the Science and Technology Committee report.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change with reference to page 62 of the National Infrastructure Plan 2011, what steps his Department takes to bring forward proposals by 2012 for reform of the community benefit regime with regard to nuclear power.

 Mr Hayes: The Department has analysed overseas examples of community benefit regimes, developed different scenarios and had a number of discussions with colleagues in HM Treasury, Department for Communities and Local Government and Cabinet Office to bring forward proposals on community benefit by the end of 2012.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change with reference to the National Infrastructure Plan 2011, whether community benefit will be available to communities that are affected by a new nuclear development hosted by a neighbouring authority.

Mr Hayes: The Department is currently considering proposals for a community benefit package for communities hosting new nuclear. Details of any decisions will be made available by the end of 2012.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change with reference to the National Infrastructure Plan 2011, what plans are in place for achieving community benefit for communities affected by Hinkley Point C.

Mr Hayes: Plans for a community benefit package for sites that host new nuclear power stations are currently under consideration. The National Infrastructure Plan committed Government to bring forward proposals by the end of 2012.

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what consideration he has given to extending business rate retention to include low-carbon energy projects.
Brandon Lewis: The Government's proposals for business rates retention will enable local authorities to benefit from the business rates paid by all businesses in their area, including those from low-carbon energy projects.

As members will see the questions tabled by Caroline Flint MP relate to Hinkley C and the issues regarding the retention of extra business rates for hosting communities. Caroline Flint MP also explained that she would forward details of our discussion to her own team and the shadow teams in the Treasury and Communities and Local Government.
Labour Baroness Jan Royall who recently visited Bridgwater
to support the case for Community Benefit

 At the Labour Party Conference I had a meeting with Tom Greatrex MP, shadow Minister for Energy, who had been briefed by Caroline Flint MP and he was very supportive of our campaign. Tom Greatrex MP will also visit Hinkley "C" for a fact finding tour. I spoke to Chris Leslie MP and Rachel Reeves MP, both in the shadow Treasury team and I have followed up our conversation by sending them information on community benefits for hosting communities. I met Peter Hain MP, where I was able to discuss community benefits relating to proposals for the Severn Barrage. I asked Chris Leslie MP a question at a Fringe meeting on the "Banks and Investment", as to how community benefits could support small and medium enterprises in the supply chain for major developments, such as the building and servicing of new nuclear power stations? Bob Brown put forward a suggestion at a Fringe meeting on "Energy and the National Grid", on community benefits and planning, where Tom Greatrex MP was a speaker.

Baroness Jan Royall has also visited Bridgwater and she will raise a debate in the House of Lords, on economic growth and community benefits for major developments. Baroness Royall has been helpful in trying to arrange a meeting with Hilary Benn MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. This meeting will take place on November 7th, where I will be able to discuss how the business rate can be connected to community benefits, for hosting communities.

Cllr Mick Lerry
Leader of the Labour Group on Sedgemoor District Council
25th October 2012

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


"Welcome by the Mayor Graham Granter"
Labour MP for Exeter, Ben Bradshaw, made a special visit to Bridgwater today at the request of Labour Councillors to add his weight to the campaign for some kind of Community Benefit as a result of the new Hinkley Point power station development.

Labour District and Town Councillor for Dunwear ward, Leigh Redman, has been fronting Bridgwater's case and explained the issues in a letter to the former Minister with special responsibilities  for the South West Region and called for his support.

Cllr Redman explains the extent of the transport issues  that
EDF will face and need to help resolve.

'Biggest building project in UK"

Leigh Redman  said "Hinkley will be the biggest building project in Britain, not just the South West, and Bridgwater will bear the brunt of this. Each turbine will be the size of Wembley stadium - four times as big as we have at present. With 700 lorry movements a day and 30,000 new workers in the area - 26,000 of them ancilliary workers with sub contractors, the strain on the transport system in the town will be considerable."

Ben first met Labour Activists at Unity House to hear the case for Bridgwater and what such a development could bring to a town which includes several wards within the top 5% of deprived areas in the country , the influx of new workers with noticeably larger comparative wage packets and it;s near medieval transport network.
Ben gets a tour of Bridgwater from party members
"Town needs something sustainable to come out of this"

After this meeting a group of Councillors accompanied him to Bridgwater House where  a formal discussion was held with Chief Executive Kerry Rickards, Council leader Duncan McGinty and Corporate Director Bob Brown who set the scene. " We are trying to make the case for Community Benefit to the Secretary of State , that this is a live issue which 10 other sites are also looking at. Bridgwater is an area of high fuel poverty and a power station will be built right next door so the community needs to see some benefit from this. We need the town have something sustainable come out of the project and not end up with a ghost town when they leave."

"Community Payback"

Ben  talks business with Sedgemoor District Council
Chief Executive Kerry Rickards said "We have just achieved the largest mitigation settlement ever  which we raised from the initial £1million offer to £100 million but we have to maintain this pressure to get community payback like they achieved in the  Shetlands with the Oil fields. On the one hand we're getting jobs and and a wages spent in our area but we also want a sustainable legacy for future generations."

"Strongest possible case"

Ben Bradshaw said "This is clearly a Regional issue  and I am happy to pursue the case for community benefit and also to table relevent questions in the House. I'm glad to see a cross party position on this and all sides standing up for Local Government."

All party leaders on Sedgemoor will be taking Sedgemoors lead officer, Bob Brown, to their various party conferences next month, to make the strongest possible case.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


Cllr Dave Loveridge "Never seen
a more blatant show of Nimby-ism"
Barely a week after Sedgemoor Tories had voted through plans for an Eco Park on the Meads against the wishes of the Nimby Gang of Three (Cllr's Baker,Slocombe and Bown) they're now hopelessly split on the housing development off Durleigh road, which could have helped make the park a reality.

At this weeks Development Control Committee, a large  solar farm in the vicinity of the Meads (involving some 75,000 panels)   was  given the go-ahead, yet the same meeting  rejected the housing application in West Bridgwater by David Wilson Homes to build 187 houses off Haygrove farm, which had been recommended by Sedgemoor Planning officers.


Labour Councillor Dave Loveridge (Eastover) said " It was a split vote amongst the Tories with some voting for and some against or abstaining.So the chairman (Cllr Bob Filmer) had the casting vote as it was 7-7. Unusually the Chairman cast against the recommendation and so now  we have lost 50 affordable homes in the town, which I think is quite scandalous.  I felt that I was watching an old Brian Rix Farce.  And as for the decision to stop the housing but allow the solar farm and eco park it is so ludicrous as to be laughable. I have never seen a more blatant show of NIMBYism and one Wembdon resident was so vitriolic that she said we should  build it on brownfield sites  in the deprived area of Eastover, her words not mine, I was heartily sickened by the whole issue."

In similar cases to this, local authorities  have lost any subsequent appeal and  have had costs awarded against them whilst the applicant will make some minor changes and re-submit. For the Tories it spells trouble as it means the Nimby Tendancy has swung elements of the party behind them in resisting development in their areas whilst foisting it on the rest of the town.


Cllr Loveridge added "I am convinced that it will now go to appeal and David Wilson Homes will win and inevitably cost SDC thousands maybe tens of thousands. The tail is wagging the dog here and they know that without the housing then the Eco park will not happen, as I said NIMBY rules in Wemdon and Durleigh. "

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


Cllr Leigh Redman
Cllr Leigh Redman of Dunwear ward commented ‘The Section 106 that was agreed by Sedgemoor District Council should be seen as a starting point, there is a lot of work left to do should the secretary of state grant permission for Hinkley C. The agreement provides many good things for the people of Bridgwater and puts in place the mechanism for sorting problems as soon as they arise, increased traffic, HGV’s in the wrong place, too much noise etc but we must all work together to make sure lives are not too disrupted.’


‘I have worked with SDC, EDF and Hallam to try and find a way forward over the loss of Bridgwater sports and social club football pitches, the agreement reached puts in place a program that will see football played on the current pitches until May 2013 (EDF will not be able to start the accommodation blocks till after this date). Two New pitches will be laid out on the north east Bridgwater site to allow continuity of resource and should be available for 2013-14 season with a third pitch for 2014-15 season, I am working with all parties to enable this, I am hoping to be able to get a small pavilion with changing facilities included.’


'Now is the time for Bridgwater residents to make contact with their local councillors so that the agreement can be shared and understood, we need you to help Bridgwater make the most of EDF’s proposed development, if granted Hinkley C will be one of the biggest infrastructure developments this country has ever seen and take upto 10 years, Bridgwater people will be the ones effected most.' Cllr Leigh Redman also supported an additional recommendation calling for SDC to urgently set up a working party made up of officers and councillors to monitor and report on the development.

Monday, 23 July 2012


At today's meeting of Sedgemoor District Council's Community Scrutiny Committee , councillors and members of the public were united in their opposition to the proposals by Post Office Ltd to  relocate to the Sainsbury's superstore.

Members of the public stepped up to the michrophone and to a person denounced the post office proposals.


Ken Hammersley said "I support the Hooks proposal and oppose Sainsbury's - crossing the clink is dangerous at the best of times"

Sally Jones said "The clink is not pedestrian friendly. We need a town centre location and restore confidence in our traders."
Sally Jones
"Clink is not pedestrian friendly"

Glen Burrows commented "Extended opening hours may be ok for pubs but are irrelevent for post offices. What is important is quality of service. The town centre previously had a dedicated crown Post Office. Downgrading that to the back of a shop and then to a portacabin added insult to injury. We need convincing that this consultation is genuine!"


Alan Hitchcock, who was blind, said "I would like to know how disabled and aged people can reasonably be expected to make it to the proposed new site. These supermarkets are ruthless and they don't care what they destroy."

Mervyn Todd, an Eastover trader, said "There are enough empty shops I am baffled by this decision. they're just crushing the small traders."

Alan Hurford
 "Decision beyond belief"
Alan Hurford, Bridgwater Town Clerk, said "The Town Council has worked very closely with the Post Office to  find a town centre location and this decision is beyond belief. The Post Office says it has a social conscience  but there's no evidence of it here."

limited options

Mark Baker of the CWU Postmasters section raised the question of the seriousness of engagement by Post Office Ltd.  "It is our belief that POL are not offering local business communities a full range of options with which they could take on a PO service, They're only offering the limited option of a PO local or a PO main operating contract and remuneration package. Neither of these two options are attractive to an independent business person due to the removal of the fixed element of pay that currently is provided to the traditional PO model"
Cllr Loveridge
"Proposal is ludicrous"

Doug Trunks produced a petition with 350 names on it which he had collected in just 2 hours earlier today "We need a post office for Bridgwater to be located in the town centre."

Cllr Dave Loveridge (Labour,Eastover) said "Sainsbury's car park is not pedestrian friendly, you take your life in your hands there. This proposal is ludicrous, we had a post office in the town centre and now we're going backwards."

Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour,Westover) said "The post office needs to be in the town centre, there needs to be a public evening meeting so that traders can attend, and the consultation needs to be genuine. Why does every other town in Somerset  have a town centre post office yet POL can't manage one for Bridgwater?!"

Cllr Steve Austen (Labour Hamp) said "There will be a major increase in Bridgwater's population over the next few years. I can see the only people who would benefit from this move would be sainsbury's!"

wrong location

The opposition crossed party lines as Tories (forgetting their pro-supermarket heritege ) joined in.
Cllr Mike Caswell (Con,Cannington) "I beg of you to locate the post office in the town centre"
Cllr Gill Slocombe (Con,Wyndham) "the post ofice should be in the heart of the town. To put it in Sainsbury's is shameful!"
Cllr John Swayne (Con,North Petherton) "It is indisputable that sainsbury's is the wrong location"
Cllr David Baker (Con,Wyndham) "It's the wrong location, it's an unsafe area,it's dangerous parking and the traffic is bad. "

consultation will be genuine

Laura Tarling from POL answered the public by saying "The consultation will be genuine, we're governed by a code of practice.  Yes we have changed our mind in the past  so it's not a done deal. We are glad to hear the comments made today -especially things like the petition are very useful as evidence. Regarding the crown office, we have 11,800 post offices and only 373 are crown offices. We have to be governed by efficiency as the crown network is expensive and that's why we moved to franchises."

Although the main man Tony Jones wasn't present, his deputy Catherine Alexander tried to explain  the thought process to date. "We need both the location and the person to put together an offer. We run a business and we need to make a profit. Sainsbury's had the best customer offer."

When pushed to explain this point she said " I walked around your town and I saw empty shops, charity shops and it would be difficult to introduce a new business into that environment. It's very difficult to see exactly where the town centre actually is . This is what we mean by Sainsbury's providing the best customer offer."
Cllr Taylor
"Recommends SDC Exec to
reject sainsbury's move"

Chairman Cllr Julian Taylor (Labour,Eastover) said "The committee has concluded that the proposed move to Sainsbury's would be inconvenient to customers, reduce footfall to the town centre at a time when it needs regeneration, is contrary to the Local Development Framework, the Bridgwater Challenge and the Celebration Mile and is recomending to SDC Executive that it respond to the Consultation making this clear whilst at the same time engaging with Post Office ltd to find a commercially acceptable site in the Town centre."

The consultation will continue until 5th september. 

The motion to oppose the sainsbury's bid was passed unanimously .