Tuesday, 17 January 2012


Kayleigh Ashworth -
speaking up for the youth of Bridgwater
When young people from the Rollercoaster Youth centre in East Bridgwater contacted their local  Labour  Party about the proposed cuts by Somerset County Council, their ward councillors Ian Tucker and Leigh Redman promised to support them to the max. At the Town Council meeting in December Cllr Redman spoke passionately in support of the young people who attended the meeting and put their own case and the Town Council passed a motion to write to the County to protest the cutbacks.
At today's County Council Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Ian Tucker  (Labour,Bridgwater Dunwear) went with the young people in their bus and here reports back from the meeting.

"I have just returned from the SCC scrutiny meeting concerning the youth cuts which took place at County Hall. The following is a brief outline of the meeting as I saw it.

There was one apology for absence and this was from Cllr John Osman,(Conservative,Wells)  the portfolio holder for children and young people and who will make the key decision on January 30th.

Attending included nine young people (five from Bridgwater and four from Kings Mead College) two young trainee youth workers, an ex youth worker now a UNITE activist and a serving youth worker.

The following spoke during public speaking time -  Myself, Cllr Julian Taylor (Labour, Bridgwater Eastover),  Mick Lerry (Labour, Bridgwater Victoria)  SDC. Steve Ross, Edward Gains TDBC, the ex youth worker, the young people from Kings Mead who all made indevidual statements and  Kayleigh Ashworth & Jess Pear from Bridgwater who made an excellent speech taking it in turns.

All speakers spoke in support of the youth work being done at present and expressed their sadness that cuts have had to be made to such an important service.

There was a great deal of passion felt especially when the young people spoke.

Robert Sampson (Group Manager, Community Services 0 to 19) then ran through the report detailing the options that are available. He stated that the  favoured option was (c) as  it directed maximum funds to the voluntary and community sectors. This was directly  opposite to what speakers were saying as they believed option (a) was the best of three evils.

During the debate  SCC  councillors, both on the scrutiny committee and those observing, were  generally in favour of option (a). Very passionate statements were made by nearly everyone.

Cllr Steve Ross asked why councillors had not been consulted. Cllr John Bailey (Lib Dem, Martock) stated that  the economies do not add up and where is John Osman? Cllr Derrick Yeomans (Conservative, Langport) said that volunteers would be hard to find, that there would be a risk in youngsters overspilling into crime.

Cllr Ann Bown (Conservative, Bridgwater West)  said her ward  is in need of help,however "we can't conjure up money". That was why said she stated that she could not support option (c) and would vote for option (a)

Cllr Dave Loveridge
 "Youth will become dissafected"
Cllr Ross Henley (Lib Dem,Blackdown) asked "what is the purpose of having a budget for mini buses when there will be no youth service?"

Cllr Dave Loveridge (Labour, Bridgwater North) said  " it is important to involve the police as young people will become disaffected."

Cllr Sam Crabb  (Libdem Ilminster) stated he was disappointed that the Tories had got rid of the  youth scrutiny, that he had not seen an impact assesment, there were no budget details, why was £2.5M going into reserves? and we can't shunt costs around. It is not good enough to tell people they are going to be made redundant and then consult. "tell John  Osman this is not good enough"  Another councillor  stated that she had a very important meeting this morning at a place called Musgrove Park,but had thought this scrutiny far too important to miss. So what is so important that Cllr Osman, as portfolio for children and young people, has decided not to come.

Cllr Alan Paul (Libdem Taunton West) asked how can it be cheaper to pay youth workers redundancy and then have to help fund training and re-employ them.

Cllr Terry Napper (Conservative,Street) was the only one to stress that money had to be saved and this was one of the ways to do this.

Cllr Cathy Bakewell (Libdem Coker) proposed the scrutiny committee recommend option (a) with an additional £250K .
Cllr Andy Govier-
Chairmans casting vote
This was seconded and voted 4 for and 4 against,the chairman Cllr Andrew Govier (Labour, Wellington)  having the deciding vote for the proposal.

I believe all councillors would have voted for option (a ) it was the additional £250K which was under question.

To conclude a very good meeting, an eye opener for the young people and for me come to that.

Ian Tucker (Labour, Bridgwater Dunwear) said at the meeting  "All three options rely on voluntary and community take over. This means unqualified staff  looking after some of our most vulnerable children. Who will train them ? Option (c) states qualified staff will be made redundant on March 31st. Little more than 2 months time.

The present qualified staff are known and most importantly TRUSTED by the young people
Cllr Ian Tucker
 "Young people seen as a soft option"
Once they are gone they are gone for ever.

Where are all the volunteers coming from ??
My ward is in the bottom 5% of the country for severe deprivation
With the best will in the world, it is not realistic to expect residence of the most deprived areas to have the specific skills to provide support to particularly vulnerable young people.
Local residence have enough to contend with, living from day to day can be a struggle without getting involved with youth work.

These drastic cuts have tragically already been agreed, our young people seen as a soft option.

Bridgwater Town Council believes option (a) is the best way to mitigate some of the effects that are going to be felt by some of the  most vulnerable young people in our society, particularly in deprived areas.
We need time to put plans in place including ways of keeping  the youth workers we so importantly need.

Finally what a different world this would be if we all put our children first and not as a soft target, after all they are the future. "

Cllr Mick Lerry
 "Welcomes the decision"
After the meeting Cllr Mick Lerry, leader of Sedgemoor Labour Group said ""Labour Councillors from Sydenham, Victoria and Eastover represented their Wards at a Somerset County Council Scrutiny meeting, regarding the proposed options for the Youth Service. Labour Councillors welcomed the decision to accept the recommendation advocated by the Labour Councillors and Young People from the Sydenham area. However there is still a danger that the County Council will try change the recommendation from the Scrutiny Committee. The Youth Service at present in Bridgwater relies on one full time Youth Worker and three part time Workers, but many volunteers also assist at Community Centres. If the Youth Workers go then so will the volunteers and the Youth Service provision in Bridgwater will disappear". 

Monday, 16 January 2012

Open Letter from Sedgemoor Labour Group -" Think Again on Tesco's "

The time has come for the Sedgemoor District and the Somerset  County Councils to decide if they really want to sell the Brewery Field and Northgate Sites to Tesco.

We know that the Tesco share capital has gone down £6 billion due to adverse trading conditions.  We know that when Tesco comes to towns that other businesses have to close. See Rosie Boycotts book on how Illminster and Tiverton were changed by Tesco, no enhancement in those towns, Or Tescopoly by Simms on how globally Tesco exists to dominate all other traders.

Our Councils need the cash returns from the sale of the site. Why not have good quality housing and recreational facilities? This would enhance the Bridgwater Town Centre and support local traders. We don’t need yet another supermarket, we need a vibrant shopping centre, good homes and recreational space.

Councillors its not too late to change your minds.

Sedgemoor Labour Group