As the Coronavirus crisis continues, local councils are gradually accommodating to the situation and starting to find ways to meet, debate and take decisions. Albeit online. An abortive start in South Somerset, where pornography intervened to liven up the proceedings, compelled local authorities to think deeper into how they held the meetings in future so that the public could engage and councillors could debate and vote. Somerset County Council has issued meeting guidance and contact details for registering to gain access to their first tentative meetings scheduled for Wednesday 6th May . These will be Adults and Health Scrutiny Committee at 1000hrs and Children and Families Scrutiny at 1300hrs
Somerset County Council Labour group Leader, Leigh Redman (Bridgwater South) is Chair of the Children & Families Scrutiny Committee and wants to ensure that people are aware of the meetings and are encouraged to take an interest. He says “Here is the link that will have a calendar so that you can see what meeting is when and then the links to individual committees and agendas/paperwork are here. The Press and the Public can ask a question or simply listen in as with normal council meetings. However, they must pre-register with the County Council’s Democratic Services and provide a landline or mobile telephone number so they can join the virtual meeting.”Continue reading “Somerset County Council Meetings Going ‘Live Online’ from Today”
Glastonbury has been in the news this week following a series of anti-lockdown protests based around the divisive figure of Piers Corbyn and coinciding with the Green Party controlled Town Council opposing the Roll Out of 5G. Labour Party activists are frustrated because they have been at the heart of the Glastonbury Coronavirus Support Network and now find these irresponsible actions undermining their hard work and the safety of the community.
On 14th March 2020, Glastonbury Coronavirus Support Network was set up by local people including 2019 Labour Parliamentary candidate Kama McKenzie and other members . The aim of the group was to help vulnerable members of the community in order to provide them with needs such as shopping and prescription deliveries. Kama says “As such, we were one of the first support networks to be established and have been working really hard to help people to stay safe at home, save lives and protect the NHS. In Glastonbury, whilst we have been careful to be apolitical, it is a fact that it is the local Labour Party who have stepped up to care for the community and organised a team of volunteers so to do. However, in recent weeks, it has become especially difficult to do this effectively as a group of people in town have begun to stage so-called ‘anti-lockdown protests’ ”Continue reading “Wells Constituency Labour Party condemns Glastonbury 5G ‘Anti-Lockdown’ Protests”
Cllr Mick Lerry, business spokesperson for Bridgwater Town Council, has called on the Government to clearly outline the phased programme from Lockdown to the “new normal”, as many businesses closed by the Pandemic need to fully understand, along with the public, the next steps for coming out of Lockdown. The contention is that if businesses and the public know where they are going, they are more likely to trust the Government that they “will end up in the right place”. Keir Starmer, the Labour Leader , has been pressing this case for the Government to be transparent with the British public and now the case is being taken up locally by Labour controlled Bridgwater Town Council and their Economics portfolio Holder Mick Lerry.
Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) commemorates those workers. This year in Bridgwater, local Trades Unions were working to erect a monument in the town’s Blake Gardens to commemorate fallen workers, but this has been delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, this won’t stop us taking part in this International day of remembrance.
In the news today we hear of British farmers ‘flying in’ planeloads of understandably worried yet desperate for work Romanian and Bulgarian fruit pickers to shore up a major shortage of labour in the wake of Brexit and in the face of the Coronavirus lock down. 70,000 extra seasonal jobs are usually on offer during the Summer months to maintain the flow of food from producer to shop to people but since the Brexit referendum net migration from the EU has fallen by some 100,000 and now new travel restrictions have meant the arrival of new seasonal workers in this interim period means that the shortfall will have to be made up by UK workers. However, it is also being suggested that British workers are being by-passed in favour of an imported workforce. Sedgemoor Labour Leader Brian Smedley has investigated these claims and written to both Sedgemoor District Councils Economic Development section and the Agricultural Providers Consortium ALP (Association of Labour Providers) to get a response and at the same time to find the proper way for UK workers to apply for these jobs.
Following a Low key campaign which got lower after the coronavirus pandemic took us all into lockdown, the Labour Party has today announced the results of the election to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The winner was Kier Starmer and his deputy leader will be Angela Rayner, shadow Education secretary. In a video statement Kier Starmer said “It is the honour and privilege of my life to be elected as the new Labour leader. However, this comes at a moment like none other in our lifetime due to the outbreak of coronavirus. The current crisis reminds us of how precious life is but also how fragile.It reminds us of what really matters – our family, our friends, our relationships, the love we have for one another, our health, the connections with those that we don’t know. These make up society. They remind us that we share our lives together. We have to trust one another and look after one another.The purpose of holding the government to account during the coronavirus outbreak is to save lives and to protect our country.The weeks ahead are going to be really difficult and I fear there are going to be some awful moments for many of us but it is not the only task for the Labour Party to tackle. When we do get through this, we cannot go back to business as usual. This virus has exposed the fragility of our society, it has lifted a curtain. Too many will have given too much, some of us will have lost too much. we know in our hearts things are going to have to change.”
Labour controlled Bridgwater Town Council is adapted to new ways of working in the light of the coronavirus emergency. Already the 8 strong Executive are meeting regularly online and being kept up to date about developments by Town Clerk David Mears who has been voted through Emergency Powers to ensure the day to day running of the authority. Town Council Leader Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) says “Although the Town Clerk now has powers that Bridgwater hasn’t seen since Cromwell, we nevertheless managed to insert a clause whereby he has to consult with the portfolio holders! The regular meetings that we have on ‘Zoom’ are the place where we can share our concerns and bring up to the minute information about developments in the community during this crisis. In fact it’s a good way of doing things and cuts out on travel and therefore unnecessary pollution and paperwork and so could even be a way to go in future”
Following increased concerns in the community about safety measures taken at Hinkley Point C, EDF has announced further steps to ensure the safety of its remaining critical workers and the community during the Coronavirus pandemic. Recently a range of measures were put in place, including a significant reduction in numbers on site but these failed to satisfy residents and councillors and Press coverage including an item on the TV news focused on the shortcomings which included perceived failure to maintain social distancing at work, in the canteen and on buses .
Bridgwater Labour Councillor Leigh Redman (Labour Hamp) says “I am pleased that HPC have taken further steps to protect their staff, as well as increasing spacing on site & in transit, our concerns were around the potential impacts of staff traveling home at weekends then living the week in town, with journeys in some cases as far as Scotland, ramping up the use of their campuses and consequently reducing transient staff in town must be a good thing. I think I understand some of the reason the site is staying open, the need to ensure the nuclear concrete pour is as continuous as possible is just one reason, once complete I do hope for staff and residents the onsite staff can be further reduced through furloughing. It is important to recognise that HPC have listened to our concerns. I am nevertheless concerned that the removal of all the Bridgwater stops could be counterintuitive, many residents who work on site don’t have cars, so will have to find a way to one of the secure parks.”Continue reading “Labour Concerns about Hinkley Safety Measures”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s family home of Exmoor is experiencing a “tourism” boom after the Prime Minister announced that schools were closing on Friday. Exmoor National Park has experienced a huge influx of people since the announcement was made. As well as second homers returning for the “duration of the virus”, holiday cottages and caravan parks are filling up with long term bookings. One holiday cottage was booked over the phone for three months with the family travelling down from London immediately and arriving at 3am! The Caravan Club Site in Dulverton is currently full to the brim. Lucy Naylor of West Somerset Labour looks at what can be done.
Bridgwater and Sedgemoor Labour Groups have called for a by-election following the announcement by former Labour councillor Diogo Rodrigues that he is joining the Conservatives. Diogo was elected as a Labour councillor last May. Two months later he declared himself an “independent”. Now he has jumped ship once more. He has justified his decision praising the Sedgemoor Tories as running “one of the most efficient councils in the country,” a view unlikely to chime with most people’s experience, and certainly not the experience of voters who elected him for Labour.
This is a contradiction of many of his previous statements. When Diogo decided to end his campaign to get himself elected an independent MP in November 2019, he said: “Bridgwater & West Somerset desperately needs change, and desperately deserves a representative in Parliament who will give them a voice. The best chance of giving people back their voice is by replacing [Bridgwater Tory MP] Ian-Liddell Grainger.”Continue reading “Labour calls for by-election as former Mayor joins Tories”