At last! And finally! And finally! And..at last! The Mercury is running a column from a Labour source! In this case me. Raising myself from my covid bed of unpleasantness today as the Deputy Leader bounced the incoming ‘newspaper’ off my vaguely intruding bonce as i peered outdoors for ‘incoming’, i saw my first column. Sadly, they’d sub edited it such a way that they’d got the emphasis all wrong. We DO want Direct Rule….but from BRIDGWATER ..ie not from Cheddar (as in Sedgemoor) or Taunton (as in Somerset)…however, besohoweverthatmaybe, I’ve decided to run the original articles that I submit each week into this Town Diary just so people can get what I intended…and if they don’t, well, try harder next time Brian.
Leaders Column 14/11/2023
Somerset Council is £100 Million in the red. How’s that happened then? Well, the Tories, who built up the debt, are blaming the Lib Dems, who now run the council, and the Lib Dems, who now run the council, are blaming the Tories, who built up the debt. In fact, they’re both right. If the Lib Dems hadn’t let in the Tories in 2010 we wouldn’t have had 13 years of austerity and cuts and the underfunding of local government that got us into this mess.
Just over a year ago we were being told that ‘One Big Unitary Council’ would solve this. Nobody really liked the idea. Including many of the Tories. The people even voted against it. But it happened. And, inevitably, it’s quickly gone pear shaped.
One big council is clearly crazy. It’s not that I don’t care what happens in Frome or Yeovil, it’s just that I don’t think I should have a say in what they do. And we’ve certainly had enough of Bridgwater being told how to run its affairs from afar.
And that’s been the case since 1974 when Sedgemoor was created. That came to an end last March-sadly, at a time when Sedgemoor was finally becoming a bit more responsive to Bridgwater’s needs.
So, we don’t want ‘direct rule from Cheddar’ to be replaced by the same from Taunton.
But it does mean we finally have a chance to take back control of our own town.
One outcome of the collapse of Somersets unitary dreams is the offer to towns and parishes to take part in a massive car boot sale of services and assets – and Bridgwater is not going to throw our hands up and walk away we’re going to march towards the sound of the gunfire and take back whats ours.
So as leader of the Town Council I’m well placed to keep everyone up to date with how this is going – and thank the Mercury for the opportunity of this weekly column.
This month the budgets are being set. The County’s maybe in jelly. But here in Bridgwater we have big plans to make sure the things that matter to the town are kept for the town. We’re working on taking back the Fair, getting the boats back into the docks, protecting the art centre for future generations, taking on parks and gardens and expanding our council workforce to achieve all this.
And November is a great month to showcase the best of Bridgwater with a major event each week. Bridgwater carnival was, as always, a great success demonstrating the talents and skills of the people of the town, then this weekend we saw Bridgwater Together, where the town hall was packed with performers drawn from the many new workers of different nations that have made our town their home. Next week it’s History Day-an event which always sells out (great for a free event with a free lunch) because Bridgwater people are genuinely proud of and interested in their history. And finally there’s Snowflakes and Shopping, now the customary way of welcoming in Christmas in the town (and of course featuring the squibbing!)
By this time next year Bridgwater will be well on its way to restoring that civic pride they tried to take away from us back in the 1970s but which we’ve never let go of…watch this space.