Labour Town Council Launches Radical Agenda For Bridgwater

Cllr Brian Smedley
Bridgwater Town Council Leader Brian Smedley

At the first meeting of the new Bridgwater Town Council re-elected Labour leader, Westover Councillor Brian Smedley pledged to once again honour the manifesto that the victorious councillors had stood on with commitments to Youth, Community, Transport, the Economy and Climate Change. Labour would also expand its system of Public Forums bringing the community into the heart of Council, increase its scrutiny over public spending, work with other councils where possible to deliver key infrastructure projects and build on the ground-breaking work of ex-Mayor Diogo Rodrigues in terms of youth and public engagement.

Tony Heywood Mayor of Bridgwater 2019-20

New Mayor of Bridgwater, and tasked with presenting the public face of the Town Council, would be Eastover councillor Tony Heywood who would launch his civic year with an event at the Town Hall on May 24th. Cllr Smedley said “Tony brings to the office a lifetimes experience working in the Arts, running a theatre in London and as a tour manager of various bands and an element of clarity to the role probably thanks to his years working for Specsavers. Tony is also a Sedgemoor District Councillor and as an indication of  his tasks ahead has coincidentally been allocated the membership number 007.”

New Policy & Finance Executive

kath and mick
Kathy Pearce & Mick Lerry. Community & Economy

Introducing an 8 person Policy & Finance Executive of key portfolio holders, the Leader set out his vision for the Town Council. “The Exec will consist of myself with the Policy & Finance brief  plus the Mayor in his ambassadorial role to promote the town. Our 2 senior portfolios will include an upgraded Community role, which will be undertaken by Deputy Leader Kathy Pearce and will include Environment, Waterways, Heritage and green spaces plus Economy, which will be fronted by Mick Lerry and will focus on not just the current town centre and working with business but will include the wider world of work around the town and especially within our own council which we want to build up and take forward to play a major role in the looming unitary debate. Bridgwater was  a strong local Borough for centuries and we need to regain that status so we can have the maximum say in our own affairs. Mick as an expert in Housing matters, an experienced Trades Unionist and a Teacher, is crucial to our delivery.”

Municipal Socialism

leigh n glen
Leigh Redman and Glen Burrows. Property & Transport

“The next 2 portfolios, Property and Transport, cut to the heart of what Bridgwater people feel strongly about. Traffic chaos has blighted the town and joined up radical  thinking is needed, so we’re really fortunate to have Glen Burrows on board. Glen will hold this portfolio and so will chair the Transport forum with a focus on an integrated public transport system and increased engagement with the public to deliver solutions to make our streets and walkways safer and more environmentally friendly. We are also delighted to have  Leigh Redman back again and his vast experience at holding EDF to account will see him retaining his role as nuclear spokesperson,  while his involvement in the theatre ,carnival and health and safety will serve him well  as our portfolio holder for our public halls. Bridgwater Town Hall is now accessible beyond the ground floor and we want to populate the building with community initiative and at the same time ensure that our historic and unique heritage assets such as the Museum and the Art Centre are preserved and accessible for the people of Bridgwater. We have targeted new ‘CIL’ money for this. “

Looking to the Future

diogo n li
Diogo Rodrigues and Li Gibson, Youth & Climate Change

“Our final 2 portfolios are crucial cross-council briefs. Youth is a major focus for Bridgwater Town Council and Diogo Rodrigues will hold this role and build on the great work he did last year which includes increasing funding for youth projects and at the same time developing the role of the Bridgwater Youth Council that he created which now gives young people of the town a direct say in how youth money is spent.  Finally, and something that has to be at the forefront of everybodies minds, is Climate Change. Bridgwater declared a Climate Change Emergency as did many other councils, but we said at the time we wouldn’t just leave that as a glib statement in a folder on a shelf, we would explore what that means and how to actually implement it. Environmentalist Li Gibson will take on the sole role of Portfolio Holder and set up a Climate Change Forum for Bridgwater and we will seek to implement the changes that are needed.”

Greater Public Scrutiny

Labour controls the Town council by 12 seats to 4. The new Policy & Finance Executive will be Labour and the Tory group will form the opposition. But Cllr Smedley reached out (tentatively) to Tory group Leader (well, she looked like she was) Cllr Gill Slocombe, saying “We intend to carry out the Labour manifesto we stood on and so we wouldn’t expect you to want to be part of that delivery process, but we would expect you to hold us to account, challenge and scrutinise our actions and decisions and take places on key committees , forums and working party’s. We are holding not just place son the Planning and Premises committees for you but also offering the role of substitutes on these committees, which should at least encourage all our members to make sure they turn up….”

btc exec

Cllr Smedley concluded “All our town meetings are open. We will always start the Full Council meetings with a Police presence so that they are open to question and we want people to step forward and join our forums. To this end we are publishing the whole years set of meeting dates. “

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  1. AvatarBernie Grant

    This is an inspirational Team of Caring Socialists. I wish them well and look forward to seeing your Programme unfold and successfully change Bridgwater for years to come.

  2. AvatarGary Tucker

    Really pleased to see Climate change as a portfolio position and being set up as a forum. I think I will attend this one myself.

  3. AvatarMr Garvey Francis

    Great team! Onwards and upwards. Bridgwaters future is in safe hands.