Less than a year ago Bridgwater MP Ian Liddell Grainger was winning his seat to Parliament with a whopping 25,000 more votes than his nearest rival, Labour’s Oliver Thornton. A 7% increase on the previous massive vote. Mr Liddell-Grainger is clearly massively valued and appreciated by his loyal constituents. It would seem he can walk on water, do whatever he wants and the voters will just pile on vote after vote to make sure he’s the one there in Westminster saying exactly what they themselves would be saying if they’d had the chance. Yet….this week eyebrows are furrowing and nostrils are temporarily widening as his most recent votes have included voting against an agricultural bill which would have protected food standards in the UK and voting against Marcus Rashford’s popular and inspired free school meals bill to end child food poverty. And people aren’t happy! What is happening to the Teflon Tory?? Is it all downhill from here or is it just a temporary blip on his trajectory to universal popularity?
Earlier this year Bridgwater was one of 100 towns asked by the Government to come up with plans for sustainable regeneration over the next 30 years with as much as £25m of public money available to support suitable proposals. This once-in-a-generation opportunity for a major refresh means that the Board responsible for managing the process is reaching out to the community for feedback on its ideas so far. A Bridgwater Town Deal Board was formed soon after the Government announcement and today the Board has published its Vision, Aims and Priorities which it is inviting residents, businesses and other stakeholders to view.
For more information about the Town Deal click here
An on-line meeting of Bridgwater Labour Party last week heard from two leading members of the National Education Union (NEU) and University & College Lecturers (UCU) about the impact of years of austerity, and now the Covid pandemic, on the education of our young people . The Covid pandemic has exposed the damage caused, over a number of years, by government imposition of “austerity” on public services. In the field of education, this means lack of funding; teacher shortages; inadequate buildings, lack of equipment and demoralisation of both teachers and learners.
Glen Burrows, Chair of Bridgwater Labour Party says “Of course, that austerity applies only to public services: not to pay increases for MPs, or subsidies and tax breaks for big business!
The system of education in Britain has, over a number of years, been turned into a system driven by competition between schools and colleges. Constant testing of students is not about enhancing learning, but about control, measurement and competition. Education is increasingly seen as a profit-making commodity, rather than a democratic right. Schools and colleges should be accountable to the communities they serve, via local authorities, and not run by un-elected private funders. This government’s aim is to turn all secondary and primary schools into academies. We must find ways to end this policy.
We must work together to bring about strong trade union organisation in our schools and colleges, along with a government which puts the well-being of our young people ahead of the needs of private profit.
Bridgwater Labour Party supports the National Education Union and the University and College Lecturers Union in their campaign for an inclusive and co-operative education system.”
On Thursday 24 th September at 9.30am, a small number of campaigners gathered outside Wynford House in Yeovil, the HQ of Somerset CCG, in anticipation of the announcement of the decision to close St Andrew’s Ward in Wells. The “Fit For My Future” consultation process had been concluded in April and the findings of the report had been released at the end of August. Organiser Emma King , Branch secretary Glastonbury & Street Labour Party said ” It was fairly obvious, from the way the consultation had been conducted and the way the report was written, that the CCG were going to decide to close the ward and move the beds to Yeovil. Many of us felt that the consultation was merely a formality, especially with the way they discounted the majority of views from the Wells area by saying that they were “biased”. Therefore, it was no surprise to us that the closure of the ward was announced around midday. There has been an outpouring of anger at this decision and a petition was launched on Sunday (27 th Sept) evening, which reached nearly 500 signatures in less than 48 hours and is now approaching 900. There is also a demonstration planned for Sat 24 th October, meeting on Cathedral Green, Wells at 12pm, as well as a letter writing campaign to James Heappey, the CCG and local papers.”
Care workers are undervalued and underpaid, in spite of providing an increasingly skilled and demanding service in a sector which suffers from privatisation and rising cuts. At the September meeting of Bridgwater Trades Union Council, delegates and supporters heard first-hand from a care worker in Bridgwater, about the long hours, gruelling work and lack of respect suffered by workers who, often with very little training are expected to deal with the whole range of physical and mental needs of people in care.
“This isn’t just since the pandemic”, said the speaker. “We have been suffering these problems for decades. I have, on occasions, worked 27 hours non-stop, and once risked my job by refusing to give medication, because I am not trained to do so. That was the responsible thing to do. There is an estimated 50% staff turnover in the private care sector, which is bad for both workers, the people in their care, and their families. The solutions are clear. Care workers must receive a Living Wage and the training relevant to the highly professional work they are asked to carry out. There must be a fundamental reform of the Care Service. Care of the elderly and vulnerable should not be left to profit-making enterprises.”Continue reading “Care Workers ‘Undervalued and Underpaid’”
Wells CLP has expressed concern about the ‘Fit For My Future’ consultation which could see the closure of St Andrew’s ward in Wells and moving it to Yeovil. The group has been campaigning to keep the ward open in Wells AND build a second ward in Yeovil, and to replace the second ward in Wells, thus increasing capacity to cope with the mental health issues which are becoming increasingly apparent as a result of Covid-19 lockdown measures. Somerset CCG will announce their decision in a meeting at 9.30am on Thursday 24th September, and it is expected that they will announce the closure of the ward. Labour Party members are planning a protest against this closure and will be gathering at Somerset CCG Headquarters at Wynford House, Lufton Way, Yeovil BA22 8HR at 9.30am. Branch Secretary of Glastonbury & Street Labour Party, Emma King, says “Once this ward is closed, it will never reopen and the additional travel to Yeovil will only add to our carbon footprint at a time when a climate emergency has been declared.”
The Covid pandemic has further exposed the evils of low pay and insecure employment and allowed further exploitation at work. Some unscrupulous employers are using the crisis to attack workers’ rights and conditions, threatening them with loss of jobs unless they accept lower pay. Now, more than ever, workers need to join a union and organise together to maintain jobs, pay and conditions, says Bridgwater Labour Party.
Bridgwater Branch Chair, Glen Burrows, says “If the government ends the furlough scheme in October, there will be a massive wave of unemployment. Instead, state support for workers must continue, along with a phased return to work and a programme of skills and training development. Many people on low pay will be forced to go back to work, risking their health and that of their families, because Inadequate levels of sick pay for most workers means many worker cannot afford to take time off. At just £95.85 a week, statutory sick pay in the UK isn’t enough to live on – and 2 million people don’t earn enough to qualify. The government should scrap the minimum earnings threshold for statutory sick pay and increase the weekly level of sick pay to at least the level of the real Living Wage – £320 per week.”
There can be no return to the economic model that existed before the pandemic. The Labour Party is calling for a national plan for jobs and for measures to protect stricken industries. Unions and the Labour Party must work together to develop a powerful voice to demand and implement change.
Contact: Secretary Julie Cordiner: firstname.lastname@example.org Chair Gen Burrows: email@example.com
District Councils across Somerset have united to present an alternative to the ONE SOMERSET County Position on Unitary authorities. The STRONGER SOMERSET Model has been passed by all 4 District Councils at 4 separate meetings with 156 councillors from across the political spectrum endorsing the District case and just 23 opposing it.
The debate has split the Tory vote into County and District showing a clear anger at grassroots Tory level about the overlarge and less representative nature of the County proposal which would see massive divisions with less connection to the communities they represent. The 2 unitary option presented by Stronger Somerset, alternatively, provides a solution closer to the people and more reflective of the political composition of the different towns and parishes across the county.
Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley said “The issue at stake is in fact democracy and the future of ANY alternative to the Tory domination of Somerset. 2 smaller unitaries is better than 1 large one and clearly the maths reflects the votes of the people better the smaller you go for representation. This is why the Labour position is to support Stronger Somerset and to oppose the nightmare scenario of One Somerset”
As the District Councils scrutinise and vote on the Stronger Somerset Unitary bid one by one around the county, Sedgemoor District Council today declared outright cross party support with 39 members in favour 0 against and 4 (Tory) abstentions. The business plan had been studied in depth at Scrutiny Committee on Monday where 5 additional recommendations were added. These were accepted by the Sedgemoor Executive today at a special meeting. At Full Council on the afternoon of Wednesday 9th September 2020, at a historic meeting, Sedgemoor voted for a proposal that would essentially see itself abolished -along with County -and replaced by 2 new unitary authorities. The remaining County districts will be voting during the course of the week. Labour Leader Brian Smedley described the Stronger Somerset vote as “A more democratic option than the remote county monolith threatened by One Somerset and one which commits to better service provision, protects jobs and restores historic powers to the Towns and parishes.”
Sedgemoor District Council’s Joint Scrutiny Committee today forensically took apart the Stronger Somerset unitary case for 2 authorities as opposed to the One Somerset and passed it unanimously with a single abstention whilst adding 5 key areas of concern that needed work on to prove it wasn’t just a distant chaser as both bids hurtled towards the winning post. The Committee was chaired by Bridgwater Labour Group Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater Westover) who said afterwards “The Stronger Somerset case needs to be on the table alongside the One Somerset bid because it clearly offers an outcome that is closer to the communities that Local Government is meant to serve whereas the One Somerset bid is dangerously destructive to accountability, jobs and services and far too remote. However, it has to be a robust case and so members of all parties were determined to highlight the shortcomings and what needed to be done before this case is deemed fit to go to the Secretary of State.”