Wednesday, 30 March 2011


A motion put by the Labour Group to rescind the decision of Sedgemoor District Council to sell the Brewery Field and Northgate site to Tesco stores was dismissed mid debate by Tory leader Duncan McGinty who called for the vote to be taken midway through a speech by Labour member Cllr Julian Taylor. The Tory group voted accordingly to stifle the debate and the Labour motion was defeated 26-11 (the chair abstaining) with only 4 members having spoken.

Labour leader
Cllr Kathy Pearce moved the motion which went into great detail about the legal reasons for overturning the unpopular Tory decision made at Full Council on 28th january 2011. "The Northgate development is one of the most important matters that most of us have ever had to consider. We are entrusted by the public to make sure that we have put in place enough checks and balances to ensure that legal, democratic and constitutional processes are put in place and adhered to because ultimately it is we, as members, who will be held accountable. We have put forward this motion on the grounds that the decision was made in undue haste, without all relevant information being provided to members, adequate scrutiny or proper consultation and is unlawful,undemocratic and unconstitutional. This motion is being put in order to remind members of their responsibilities and to give a second chance for a full and proper process to take place in view of the points raised. Remember, decide in haste,repent at leisure and you will be held to account."

"... unsafe decision"

Seconding the motion, Cllr Brian Smedley said "The ruling group has got this wrong. For 2 years you;ve tried to make your case for demolishing the Splash , selling the last public open space in the town centre and building a 60,000 square feet monstrosity which will destroy the town centre and you have totally failed to convince the people of Bridgwater. This week there was a 200 strong meeting in the Town hall that called on you to think again - only 1 person voted against. The people don't trust you! The reason I am seconding this motion is because I believe members are being denied access to the information they need to make an informed decision. When it became clear to people that the whole of the Brewery field was being sold to Tesco and not just the 23% suggested , it was hinted that there was a covenant in the Development Agreement which dealt with this. I asked as a member with a 'need to know' to see this full Development Agreement but was refused by the monitoring officer - who isn;t here today to answer this. Secondly, the decision taken included delegating the responsibility for considering the objections to this to the Corporate Directgor(Regeneration) - who ALSO isn't here today! The records show that the Public have NOT been consulted over all this and the last time they were they said they wanted NO more supermarkets and a Mixed Leisure use development. on Northgate! The Council is lumbering the incoming council on May5th with an unsafe decision and should rescind it and reconsider it. "

"suffer like other towns

Cllr David Preece , one of the Bridgwater Tories who had voted to demolish the Splash and bring in Tescos, said "the town needs capital funding and there had been no other offers. Bridgwater must continue to evolve or it will suffer like other towns of our size"

"...This is what voting Tory gets you"

Cllr Julian Taylor (Labour) said "History repeats itself! The Tories said ASDA would regenerate the town centre - but it didn't. Sedgemoor got it wrong. The Tories say they entered into a 'dialogue' with Tescos - but what's a dialogue when a Major Multinational comes along and says heres our offer take it or leave it! This is what voting Conservative gets you!" At this point Cllr McGinty suspended the debate and moved straight to the vote without other speakers making their contributions saying "We've heard enough , this is just electioneering". The Tories voted to uphold their previous decision , the attendant crowd jeered them , the acting Monitoring officer nervously shouldered the responsibility for the advice the absence of his

"Sedgemoor is a Tory Dictatorship ..."

After the meeting
Cllr Smedley said "The Tories have got it wrong and they're afraid of the debate. We put this motion because it's what the overwhelming majority of people in Bridgwater want. We put this motion - at this last meeting of this Council, so that the incoming council after May would have a fresh start and not be burdened with a flawed decision. If the Tories had any sense they would have acknowledged the wishes ofthe people and the possible failings of the previous proceedures and put the decision back until it was watertight. Cllr Taylor was right to blame this state of affairs on a Tory administration that doesn't listen and the next battleground will be the elections on May 5th. Sedgemoor is a Tory dictatorship and like all dictatorships that are out of touch with the people it needs toppling. "

Sunday, 27 March 2011


As 250,000 people from all over the Country marched through London in protest against the Con-Dem Coalitions programme of Cuts, they were joined by dozens of coaches from Somerset. Leader of Sedgemoor District Labour Group Cllr Kathy Pearce was on the march and sends this report.

"Labour members from the Bridgwater and West Somerset Constituency boarded the many buses leaving Taunton to proudly join hundreds of thousands of others from across the country to demonstrate our deep concerns and contempt at the devastating destruction of public services and education which the co-alition government are about to inflict on this country.

Those who had ne
ver taken part before in such a mass demonstration marched alongside large union contingents covering all aspects of society and from every corner of the country. The show of solidarity and unity and strength of commitment was heart warming, as was the show of beautiful and varied union and Labour Party banners. The march included all ages, from babies in pushchairs, children, families to the elderly and disabled representatives and those in wheelchairs all united to show the strength of feeling. We marched alongside brass bands and steel bands, which helped to keep energy levels and spirits up as we marched along and which reached a crescendo when we approached parliament and passed by Downing Street.

The march was peaceful, comradely and the carnival like atmosphere belied the underlying strength of will and conviction amongst those marching to continue to the fight to protect our public services.

It was a day to be p
roud to be part of an impressive show of strength and gave those of us who attended, strength and encouragement in our efforts to fight back against the vile policies of this co-alition government."

Labour leader Ed Milliband said "David Cameron, you wanted to create the 'big society' - this is the big society. The big society united against what your government is doing to our country!"

Dave Prentis (UNISON) said "the turnout was absolutely enormous and showed the anger of ordinary working people".

Michael Leahy (TUC president) said "Today brings back painful memories of the 80s. It's the same old Tories - who still think unemployment is a price worth paying."

Billy Bragg (from Dorset) said "It's all about people standing up for what's happening to other people they care about, not just friends and family but everyone. They are marching today because people feel part not of a big society but of a compassionate society"

Friday, 25 March 2011


Kayleigh Ashworth (left) 15 year old student from East Bridgwater school, has just been elected Youth and Student Officer of Bridgwater Labour party.

Alex Desmond (right) 24 year old graduate, is Bridgwater Labour’s youngest ever candidate in the forthcoming local elections and is standing for his home seat of North Petherton.

Together they discuss issues that are relevant to young people today.

Q: How did you get involved in politics and what attracted you to the Labour party?
Kayleigh: I became involved in the Somerset Advisory Group of the Youth Parliament through the Rollercoaster youth centre in Sydenham. I have been involved in various projects including a cyber-bullying conference and one on climate change at Hestercombe house.

Q: Have you met many well known politicians through your involvement in the Youth Parliament?
Kayleigh: Well, I was on a Q&A in Taunton with David Milliband.

Q: Didn’t you once meet Ian Liddell-Grainger?
Kayleigh: Well yes, but I don’t count him!

Q: What about you Alex?
Alex: I've always been interested in politics and for me the Labour party is the only party that fights for social justice. I was never sure what the Liberal Democrats stood for…

Q: Well I think that’s been cleared up recently.....
Alex: …What's crucial for me is fairness. I think that Labour is the only party with fair policies on education and taxation. I think opportunities should be there for all – we need a country where young people have chances based on their ability and achievement, not just on their connections.

Q: How have the Con-Dem education cuts affected the younger generation? It seems to me that they're very angry and taking to the streets. Is that a good thing for Labour?
Kayleigh: I think it's good to see young people fighting back. It's good to see a large number of young people out there.
Alex: We’ve got a situation where youth unemployment is currently running at nearly 20%. Young people are having to make some serious choices about whether or not they are prepared to take on a large amount of debt to get a degree which may not even guarantee a job at the end of it.
Kayleigh: Lots of people are now thinking twice about college because of the cuts to EMA and the rise in tuition fees. It’s causing a lot of stress.
Alex: The student fight is undoubtedly a part of the wider fight against the cuts. I think there will be a lot of young people joining the TUC demo in London on the 26th March. There are a lot of decisions being taken which will affect young people’s lives after education – including pension reforms.
Kayleigh: I think it sends a bigger message if all ages of society stand together.

Q: What are the big issues for education locally?
Kayleigh: I’d say the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) programme cutbacks will cause a big problem for us at East Bridgwater. Already the numbers at our school are down as people sign up for the BSF schools at Chilton and Blake instead. I told Liddell-Grainger this but he just kept saying I didn't know what I was talking about.
Alex: I think a big problem is the uncertainty. The decisions about cuts to services are not being communicated effectively. Children and young people deserve continuity and stability.
Kayleigh: There’s lots of pressure on you now at a very early age.

Q: What do you think of Ed Milliband and the Labour message for young people?
Kayleigh: I think it's positive. He's younger, more modern; he’s not married yet he has kids. But he's still not so well known and still needs to get his point across. It's good that he's much less into 'punch and judy' politics.
Alex: I think he's more in touch with younger voters. It's too early to judge his performance but what's important is the new leader is listening to voters and conducting policy reviews. The government is making decisions at a breakneck speed and we need a considered response.

Q: Ed faces some criticism for being a bit invisible. Is that fair?
Alex: I think we have to get away from the 'cult of celebrity'. Young people get involved in politics because of policies and because of things that affect them. The younger generation is much more educated and in-touch than it’s given credit for. The internet - and social networking in particular - has revolutionised the way young people find information and organise themselves politically.
Kayleigh: Everything is faster and information is more available, for example the news in Japan was all over people’s statuses on facebook as it happened.
Alex: It's easier to make your voice heard now than it was 15 years ago. Now anyone can set up a blog. Most young people use the internet as a source of news and there’s a much wider range of opinions out there.

Q: But is it maybe open to abuse? For instance everything the BNP wants you to hear is out there too. Is there not still a case for ‘no platform for fascists’?
Alex: Well, I think the reality of the internet means that censorship isn’t a viable option. Nationalist parties have already got a platform on the internet and I don’t think we can change that. Our country believes in freedom of speech.
Kayleigh: Some young people make casual remarks and don't realise they're being fascist, but they can also educate themselves against it in the same way.
Alex: I think that’s a fair point. In some ways it’s more effective to throw a spotlight on these sorts of views and discuss them in the open rather than brushing them under the carpet. That way these views can be exposed for what they are and I believe young people will reject them.

Q: What’s the future for the Labour Party in this bright new world then?
Alex: We need to take a lead and cement our position as the progressive party. We need to concentrate less on infighting and more on policy. We especially need to challenge the concept of the ‘Big Society’. Volunteerism and co-operatives are a natural fit with Labour’s progressive values, but I think that the voluntary sector still needs backing and support from the state. The coalition is making the argument that the state represents an unnecessary interference in people’s lives. On the contrary, I believe that the state is a fundamental force for good. It’s where people come together and make the decisions which improve society. We need to win that argument!