lg 3 400x300 2
Cllr Brian Smedley: One Somerset 'a threat to democracy itself.'

‘Last chance to save local democracy’ says council leader

BRIDGWATER town councillors are urging the public to have their say on far-reaching proposals to change the face of local government in Somerset.

The council recently voted unanimously to support the Stronger Somerset case for unitary reorganisation in the county.

And with tomorrow’s deadline for the public to respond to the Government now upon us, town council leader Brian Smedley is encouraging everyone to let their views be known to central Government.

He said: “The only chance people will get to have their views heard on this will be to reply to the Government consultation as the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, appears to be ruling out any vote by the people of Somerset.

“That suggests to me a very flawed process and that he doesn’t think the people actually matter. He’ll be taking the decision but he will at least need to look at what people are saying in their replies.

“The town council has responded in detail to the questions and we urge everyone to study the two choices and to make their own response in time for the deadline. This might even be the last chance to save local democracy.”

 

How to respond

The Government Consultation closes on Monday, April 19 and there are two alternatives:

 

STRONGER SOMERSET

www.strongersomerset.co.uk

ONE SOMERSET

www.onesomerset.org.uk

You can respond online here  or you can reply by post by either detaching, filling in and posting the section of the ‘Future of Local Government in Somerset’ leaflet or by writing directly to Governance Reform and Democracy MHCLG, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF.

Cllr Smedley’s response

1 What is your name?
Name: Councillor Brian Smedley

2 Are you responding as a resident or on behalf of an organisation? Please indicate below including the nature of any organisation:
Resident living in area affected

3 What is your position in the organisation and what is the organisation’s name? (if applicable) What is your position in the organisation:
I am a resident in the Sedgemoor area of Somerset but I am also Leader of Bridgwater Town Council and Leader of the Opposition on Sedgemoor District Council

4 What is your email address?
Email: brian.smedley@sedgemoor.gov.uk

 

Questions on the proposal for two unitary councils from Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset West & Taunton Council and South Somerset District Council

5 Is this proposal likely to improve local government and service delivery across each area? Specifically, is it likely to improve council services, will it give greater value for money, generate savings, provide stronger strategic and local leadership and create more sustainable structures?
Yes

Please explain your reasoning below:
Somerset is too large to be a single unitary authority. The better solution is for 2 smaller units which reflect and geography, the economies and the transport links of the 2 proposed smaller unitaries. West is linked by M5 corridor, coast and nuclear industries whilst East is lined by A303, interior and aerospace industries.

6 Where it is proposed that services will be delivered on a different geographic footprint than currently, through some form of joint arrangements, is this likely to improve those services? Such services may for example be children’s services, waste collection and disposal, adult health and social care, planning, and transport.
Yes

Please explain your reasoning below:
The Stronger Somerset proposal is the more democratic solution and closer to the people. Service delivery on the scale proposed by the County will be remote and disconnected to local people. The county council has failed on numerous occasions over the decades to try to deliver services to parts of the county that are more than 2 hours apart from each other and so local solutions are needed in order to maintain confidence with the people.

7 Is this proposal also likely to impact local public services delivered by others, such as police, fire and rescue, and health services?
Yes

Please explain your reasoning below:
The spirit of localism has to be local. Stronger Somerset builds on the strengths of the districts working with the towns and parishes. Focus and concentration on localities rather than disappearance in a remote diaspora will ensure the new arrangements actually mean something to the correct geography.

 

culture
‘Bridgwater wants back some of its
historical powers to make its
own decisions

8 Do you support this proposal from the councils?
Yes

Please explain below:
The vast majority of councillors across the County-District and County, support this proposal. 169 councillors voted to support Stronger Somerset whilst 56 voted for One Somerset. Most importantly is the cross party support for the Stronger Somerset proposal -25 Conservative 102 Lib Dem 11 Labour 15 Green 17 independent against support for One Somerset being 50 Conservative 0 Lib Dem 3 Labour 0 Green 3 Independent.

This demonstrates the importance of the pluralistic approach to a varied county where Towns and Parishes are controlled by a wide variety of parties – Bridgwater is Labour, Burnham is Conservative, Glastonbury is Green, Yeovil is Lib Dem and Frome is Independent.
It’s very important to to submerge these differences in a far too large monolithic county. And very importance to note the cross party preference for Stronger Somerset -Here in Sedgemoor where Labour is in opposition, all of our group plus the libdems (plus the single independent) strongly supported the ruling Conservative group in a unanimous vote only last week.

 

 

9 Do the unitary councils proposed by this proposal represent a credible geography?

Yes

Please explain your reasoning below:
Somerset might have been a sensible geography in the early middle ages and at cricket tournaments but in 1974 it was changed to remove the northern districts who were clearly more sensibly aligned to Bristol and Bath leaving the remaining county still too large.

The West-East division-based on coast and interior is a far more sensible division. The Coastal area, during the early 70s review, was in fact going to be called ‘Bridgwater Bay’ originally. It is today linked by the M5 corridor and the wide hinterland of the nuclear industry based at Hinkley Point-now on it’s 3rd power station.

In the East zone the A303 is the connector road of choice and links to London and the West in that way. That area of Somerset is also linked historically and has been for several centuries due to the line of textile towns from Chard-Crewkerne-Yeovil up to Frome. These towns today have developed a distinct character with an alternative feel to them – Frome and Glastonbury are good examples.

10 Do you have any other comments with regards to the proposed reorganisation of local government in this area?
Please write any other comments you have on proposed local reorganisation below: The most important outcome for any review is to increase the powers of the Towns and collectivised parishes. Here in Bridgwater we are ready and want to take on more of our historic powers and to deliver more services locally. We don’t however want to tell Frome, Glastonbury or Yeovil how to deliver theirs. Bridgwater has a natural area of influence and this has been correctly identified by Stronger Somerset and entirely misinterpreted by One Somerset.

Questions on the proposal for one unitary council from Somerset County Council

11 Is the proposal likely to improve local government and service delivery across each area? Specifically, is it likely to improve council services, will it give greater value for money, generate savings, provide stronger strategic and local leadership and create more sustainable structures?
No

Please explain your reasoning below:
A County sized outcome is not sustainable and this has been proved by recent near bankruptcies and running down of services. The area proposed is far too remote.

12 Where it is proposed that services will be delivered on a different geographic footprint than currently, through some form of joint arrangements, is this likely to improve those services? Such services may for example be children’s services, waste collection and disposal, adult health and social care, planning, and transport.
No

Please explain your reasoning below:
Local areas across Somerset feel let down by decades of a County sized authority dispensing of services, cutting functions and devolving powers anyway to smaller units. There is no need or wish for the continuation of such a large and remote unit. All of these services should be better restructured from the bottom up with more local controls.

13 Is the proposal also likely to impact local public services delivered by others, such as police, fire and rescue, and health services?
Yes

Please explain your reasoning below:
The proposed county solution is far too large. It would be the 2nd largest unitary in the country and makes no modern sense and could only operate on a devolved basis anyway. Why not start at the lower level geography proposed by Stronger Somerset in the first place as a more honest connector with local people and communities on a sensible basis.

14 Do you support the proposal from this council?
No

Please explain below:
It’s far too big. It is already trying and failing to deliver services to areas which fail to recognise it as caring about their localities and the proposal will make this worse with larger and more remote areas which will just be seen as large undemocratic and unrepresentative fiefdoms where very few people know even who their councillor is (which is meant to be the simplifying purpose of unitary reform). Much better would be to look at a smaller and more local solution where people know their councillors and feel they can affect change.

15 Does the unitary council proposed by this proposal represent a credible geography?
No

Please explain your reasoning below:


16 Do you have any other comments with regards to the proposed reorganisation of local government in this area? Please write any other comments you have on proposed local reorganisation below:

A cricket team and an Anglo-Saxon definition of ‘the people who live by the sea lakes’ are no longer a sensible basis for modern local government. Even though there is a very wonderful cricket team, there are no longer any sea lakes….until global warming restores them..at which point you might well get a smaller county anyway……

Bridgwater people, whilst they may identify themselves as also being from Somerset, are first and foremost from ‘Bridgwater’. For several hundred years we had a strong and popular local Borough council with all the historical powers that brought. 1974 took that away and it was only in 2003 that out Town Council was restored. Since that point we  have been regaining powers, staff and influence.

Any new reform of local government MUST reflect that direction. Stronger Somerset clearly does this and One Somerset clearly puts a brake on our progress. We support Stronger Somerset

1. Because it is a smaller and more representative outcome

2. Because it is what the vast majority of cross party councillors have voted for

3. Because the One Somerset solution is far too remote and will create a less accountable system of mini-fiefdoms, which might have helped unite Norman England, but that’s maybe not a policy imperative of the modern British government….or is it?

Copyright © 2019 Sedgemoor Apple