Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Labour Candidates attack County 'Sells offs'

Ricky Holcombe "What will we see disappear next?"
SOMERSET County Council ,  who recently admitted using public money to contribute towards the supermarket giant Tesco's planning fees in Bridgwater,  has announced that it has raised £9million by selling off some of its assets since April. Both moves widely condemned by Labour councillors.
The Council says that "Money raised by the sales will be used to refurbish schools and build new roads. Among sites sold off were the former Records Office in Taunton, for £395,000, and Nynehead School, for £126,000."
"Those on the least income suffer"
Labour candidate for the County Council ward of Highbridge, Ricky Holcombe, who is also standing in the District Council By-Election in January, criticised the announcement saying "It isn't a shock to see this happening under a Tory / Lib dem government .They famously sold gas electricity and water utilities off to anyone with no protection to the consumer As a result of this we are now seeing the highest ever fuel poverty figures nationally and  rises  in fuel bills across all of the main companies with no help other than weak promises from the Tories . Once more those on the least income suffer while the rich are given cuts in corporation tax. What will happen next year when they spend the money?  What will we see disappear next?"
Labour candidate for Bridgwater East & Bawdrip, Barbara O Connor, added "They are selling the future assets of our children. Where is the long term view of their needs?"

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Joe Leach -'a career change'

The Liberal Democrats in Sedgemoor have been in retreat for years. Wiped out in Bridgwater they fought a battle with their own rebels at the last District elections in Highbridge which saw 2 independents take seats and the Lib Dems on Sedgemoor council further reduced down to 2. Now their dynamic young leader Joe Leach has announced he too is throwing in the towel.

Leach's resignation will mean a New Year By-election in the marginal ward of Highbridge which has swung between all the parties over the last decade and is the tighest election ground in the district. With the Lib Dems on the run nationally due to their broken promises and their  decision to put the Tories back into power they are heading for oblivion if recent by-election results are anything to go by.

Cllr Leach said his reasons for quitting were 'a career change'. The Lib Dems came 8th in the recent Rotherham By-election.

Monday, 3 December 2012


SDC Corporate Director Bob Brown (pictured above attempting to
get protestors to vacate the doomed Splash pool) today admitted Tesco's
planning fees were paid by the County Council
A day which had started with Sedgemoor Corporate Director Bob Brown admitting after weeks of pressure from the Sedgemoor Labour group that part of the Tesco planning fee for Northgate had been paid out of public funds - in fact by the County Council - ended with Battle lines drawn at the Corporate Scrutiny committee meeting as Tory Councillors voted down an urgent motion to investigate the matter at a Special meeting.

Addressing the meeting, Cllr Julian Taylor (Labour Eastover)  outlined the facts of the case saying that it was "Morally indefensible that council tax payers money should be spent subsidising a multi billion pound corporation" and that it was now "right and proper that the Council called a special meeting of the Scrutiny committee to investigate how this happened with all the correspondence involved along with the Chief Executive who made the decision." 

Cllr Ian Tucker (Labour Dunwear) said "The council has got to be seen to be acting fairly."

"a smokescreen"

Labour leader Cllr Mick Lerry "This is NOT
a minor matter- any refusal to scrutinise would
be seen as a smokescreen"
Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour Victoria) moved the motion to call a special meeting saying "We need this meeting now to clear this up. This is not a minor matter it relates to the Governance of this Council and public money has been used to clear an impasse where both Councils are landowners who seek to benefit from the sale. We want to know what discussions have been had between SDC & SCC and any refusal to scrutinise this would be clearly seen as a smokescreen. "

Bob Brown, standing in for Kerry Rickards, said "This issue is a planning matter and the only decision to be made now  will be by the Development Control Committee in deciding the planning application on planning grounds. The neccessary  fee has been paid in full - not by Tesco but by one of the landowners, Somerset, but this is not unusual. This matter does not prejudice Sedgemoor District Council in it's role as Planning Authority and the application must proceed untainted."

"Not Sedgemoors problem"

Cllr Jane Moreton (Conservative,Huntspill) said she "wasn't opposed to scrutinising the way planning fees are  dealt with" but felt "this is not Sedgemoors problem as it is Somerset who paid the bill."

Cllr Nobby Turner (Conservative Kingsisle) added "Sedgemoor have not paid a damn thing so it;s up to County if they want to scrutinise this. If this is just another attempt to kick Tesco's into a hole then I'm having nothing to do with it."

Cllr Bob Filmer (Conservative Brent) Chair of Development Ctte said "SDC has not paid SCC has, I really don't think it's up to us to look into this." 

The meeting voted 6.4 to reject a special meeting with the 6 Tories voting to reject and the 3 labour and 1 Highbridge Independent voting for further scrutiny.

"seen to be transparent"

Chairman Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour Westover) said "The purpose of this committee is to scrutinise Sedgemoors proceedures  and to be seen to be transparent in doing so. All we're asking for is a level playing field-before someone builds a supermarket on the one we have."

"Labour County Council Group leader Cllr Andy Govier
has agreed to refer the matter to County Scrutiny"
Cllr Lerry ammended his motion to remove the words 'urgent' and 'special meeting' and this time the vote resulted in  Tory councillors Moreton and Turner swinging in favour whilst 4 Tories still held out for refusal. Now with a 6.4 vote to proceed the item was scheduled for the normal Scrutiny meeting of February 4th when Planning matters generally were also on the agenda.

Cllr Dave Loveridge (Labour County Councillor for Bridgwater North) said after the meeting "I have asked the Labour chair of Scrutiny on County, Andy Govier, to put this matter on the agenda of the next County Scrutiny committee. County are asking people to accept 150 million pounds of cutbacks to services and at the same time it turns out they're paying the planning fees of  a company that made 35 billion pounds profit!"

Cllr Brian Smedley said "In a round about way the Scrutiny process worked. We investigated a very controversial issue , got it into the public domain and members recognised the need for further scrutiny. It will be interesting to see what response County give now that Sedgemoor have basically said 'it wasn't us it was them!'."