LibDems Slam Proposed Fire Service Cuts

LibDems Slam Proposed Fire Service Cuts

The Liberal Democrats have come out in opposition to the proposed cuts by Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority across the Somerset West & Taunton area.

The Fire Authority are currently putting out to public consultation for feedback on reducing services in Somerset West & Taunton, as well as close Porlock Station.

Leader of Somerset West & Taunton Council, Federica Smith-Roberts, is writing to the MPs of Taunton Deane and Bridgwater & West Somerset to ask them to put pressure on the Government to reverse the starvation of funds to the local Fire and Rescue Authority – a Government which has made 25% cuts to the Fire and Rescue Authority’s budget since 2015.

She added: ‘‘It’s important that we all work together to reverse any further proposed cuts before it’s too late and lives are put at risk.’’

Gideon Amos, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Taunton Deane, also criticised the cuts. He said : ‘‘The cuts go completely against what people value in our local services. No one can forget the role of the service helping people in the floods and the M5 tragedy. But with fewer stationed appliances it simply won’t be possible to guarantee the same level of service. How long until the Government says they now need fewer firemen and women because there are fewer fire engines?’’ 

The Liberal Democrats are petitioning against the service cuts. Please click here to sign the petition.

LibDem Council Announce New Social Housing Scheme

LibDem Council Announce New Social Housing Scheme

The new LibDem led Somerset West and Taunton Council has announced that new social rented homes are to be built on a disused garage site.

The Council-owned garages in Laxton Road will make way for eight new housing units for social rent.

The two-person, one-bed flats in blocks of three storeys will see future residents benefit from high quality, energy efficient housing and will help to address the need in the town.

SWT’s Executive Member for Housing, Cllr Fran Smith, said: “Our Council aims to provide more social housing to suit the requirements of different members of the community.

This scheme represents our commitment to start providing quality social rented housing across the area.

The units at Laxton Road will visually improve the area and make a real difference to the quality of life for some of our eligible residents.

Schemes like this are really important and we will be looking to bring more of them forward in the next few years.”

The move was welcomed by local LibDem Parliamentary Candidate Gideon Amos, who said  “Despite the constraints of reducing funding for Councils by the Conservative government this scheme shows the new LibDem Council’s commitment to social housing within weeks of taking office - approximately one new social rented property for every week the LibDems have been in control on the Council”.

He addd “Cllr Fran Smith is absolutely right to make new social housing a priority, especially when the Conservative council permitted thousands of private developer houses instead. A LibDem government would support Councils not only to build many more, but also to stand up to developers who do not provide the infrastructure that’s needed to accompany their developments”. 

Social rented housing is cheaper than privately rented housing and provides a long-term tenancy, giving renters the chance to put down roots.

SIR VINCE CABLE TO VISIT TARGET TAUNTON SEAT ON 17 JULY

SIR VINCE CABLE TO VISIT TARGET TAUNTON SEAT ON 17 JULY

In one of his last public engagements as leader of the UK's fastest growing political party, Lib Dem Leader Sir Vince Cable will be visiting Taunton on Wednesday, 17 July, one the Lib Dem's target seats in the next general election.

Hosted by Gideon Amos, Parliamentary Candidate for Taunton Deane, the former Business Secretary will hear business and educational concerns about Brexit and congratulate Lib Dem councillors on winning the new Somerset West & Taunton Council in the recent local elections.

Sir Vince will meet local Liberal Democrat members and hear about their work to campaign against fire service cuts, their success in saving the Royal Marines' Norton Manor Camp from closure, plans to redevelop the formerly derelict Firepool site in Taunton, and to combat fracking in the area.


Gideon Amos said:  "We're delighted that Sir Vince accepted our invitation to visit Taunton Deane, a target seat in the next general election.  He recognises that the constituency is eminently winnable and shares our ambition to build on Lib Dem success in the local elections.  He's keen to hear what local people have to say about Brexit, so he can make sure that their voice is adequately heard in Parliament."

Sir Vince commented: "The Tories are in complete disarray about Brexit, whereas the Lib Dems have been consistent in advocating continuing close union with our largest market to avoid economic disaster. A Lib Dem government would restore Britain's place in the world and ensure the UK, rather than leaving Europe, will once again be leading it."

A new Lib Dem Leader is expected to be announced on 23 July, a week after Sir Vince's visit.  

Liberal Democrats Spearhead Plan to Make Somerset West and Taunton a “Frack Free” District

Liberal Democrats Spearhead Plan to Make Somerset West and Taunton a “Frack Free” District

Somerset West and Taunton could become a “Frack Free” zone if local Lib Dems get their way.

Lib Dem councillors have tabled a motion for July Full Council which would give the council a strong policy of opposing unconventional onshore oil and gas exploration and development activities in our district. Their aim is to ensure the licences granted for fracking in areas around Minehead, Watchet and Exmoor are never given planning permission and to encourage South Western Energy to abandon its plans for exploring and extracting what is essentially a fossil fuel.

Cllr Dixie Darch (LibDem), who represents Staplegrove, Norton Fitzwarren and Kingston St Mary told the West Somerset Free Press, “In July we are proposing a motion to full council to say NO to fracking in Somerset before it starts. While averting climate breakdown is a huge and complex challenge, this is one thing we can do locally that is relatively straightforward. Fracking is simply not compatible with our commitment to make Somerset West and Taunton carbon neutral by 2030. Local communities across our district want action -  Watchet Town Council and the Parish Councils of Clatworthy, Dulverton, Exton, Old Cleeve, Selworthy and Minehead Without and Stogumber have already taken a stand and deserve our strong support. By passing this motion we can make it clear there is no social licence for fracking here and put pressure on Somerset County Council, as planning authority for such matters, to adopt a presumption against fracking.”

Kevin Ogilvie-White, Chair of Frack Free EQS (Exmoor, Quantocks, Sedgemoor), one of the leading grassroots groups in the frontline against fracking, believes the need for action is urgent as South Western Energy’s parent company is seeking a listing on the Standard Segment of the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange to raise the funds to begin drilling wells. He said, “Fracking poses huge risks to our community. Its dangers include ground water contamination and earthquakes as well as adverse impacts on air quality agriculture, public health and safety, climate stability, economic vitality, farming, tourism, landscape and property values. A strong message of opposition by Somerset West and Taunton would act as a deterrent to potential investors.”

Gideon Amos, the LibDems’ Parliamentary Candidate for Taunton Deane and a former Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, is also promoting the move: “Some years ago we ensured the planning system began to embrace the concept of sustainable environmental development. But as our councillors have declared locally we now face a climate emergency and the time has now come to mobilise the planning system from top to bottom to act on it. Decisions must be taken that reduce emissions and adapt our communities to the impacts of climate change that cannot now be stopped. In short we need a planet positive planning system.”

He added, “the fact that Conservative MPs voted in favour of the Government imposing fracking on all local communities shows that they have never taken the climate challenge seriously as well as a total disregard for local people.”

Firepool Plans Outlined

Firepool Plans Outlined

FROM SOMERSET WEST & TAUNTON COUNCIL PRESS OFFICE

Proposals for progressing the delivery of the regeneration of Firepool are being presented to the new Somerset West and Taunton administration for the first time this week.

A report to Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday (12 June) will outline a framework for delivering the site within the broad parameters of the outline planning permission granted in 2018.

The intention is to divide the site into blocks for specific uses allowing different areas to be developed simultaneously, giving greater flexibility.

The Council would appoint a professional design team to produce a Framework Masterplan which, when adopted, would be a material planning consideration in determining detailed planning applications for the individual plots.  

The report outlines the resources required to deliver essential site wide infrastructure and services that will underpin all development work.

It also confirms that the Council will not be investing directly in a hotel on the site but plans to engage with the market to identify a suitable investor who will develop a hotel instead.

The report also details proposals for SWT to commission a viability study for a multi-use performance venue. Once the expert consultant has reviewed the market place a report will be brought back to Council with a recommended way forward.

Executive Member for Economic Development, Cllr Habib Farbahi, said: “We are making Firepool a top priority. There are lots of different opportunities for this site but it’s got to be right and financially sustainable for the area. It is vital that we deliver a quality scheme that not only attracts growth and investment but creates an enjoyable space that reflects our Garden Town status.”

Part of the site has already been brought back in to community use. Work is also continuing to create the boulevard link from the railway station, which is soon to be redeveloped, to the riverside and onward to the town centre. This temporary footpath will be a permanent key feature of the final scheme.

Gideon Amos: ''LibDem Government Would End Brexit Chaos'' after Significant Euro Election Results

Gideon Amos: ''LibDem Government Would End Brexit Chaos'' after Significant Euro Election Results

Welcoming the European Parliament election results from the Somerset West and Taunton area, Gideon Amos, the LibDems’ Taunton Deane Parliamentary candidate said today:

“These results show that without any doubt the LibDems are now Taunton Deane’s number choice when It comes to a party that stands for abandoning this Brexit fiasco and instead want a positive role for Britain in Europe”.

Votes in Somerset West and Taunton were approximately equally divided between the hard-Brexit parties (UKIP and the Brexit Party) and the pro-Remain/Peoples' Vote parties (LibDems, Greens and Change UK) with both scoring around 43% of the vote. The Conservative and Labour parties suffered from muddled policies and stark divisions on Europe, the LibDems say. Nationally, the Pro-Remain parties, including Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalist Party, are the clear winners, well ahead of the combined UKIP and Brexit Party vote. (1) The Liberal Democrats also did spectacularly well in London coming first to be outright winners. 

Commenting on the implications for the next General Election, Gideon said “More than twice as many voters here this week supported the Liberal Democrats than the Conservative and Labour Parties combined, a spectacular result. With the Conservatives here scoring less than 10% of the vote, it’s now entirely possible that the LibDems could win Taunton Deane from the Conservatives at the next General Election”. 

On Brexit itself he added “I strongly share the concerns of many Leave voters, about cuts to schools and local services, a struggling NHS and the need for power to be exercised locally. We can, and I will always fight for these priorities whether we end up within or outside the EU, but the longer Brexit looms the greater the damage that is done to Taunton Deane jobs, prosperity and to Britain’s international standing. A Liberal Democrat government would restore Britain’s place in the world and ensure the UK, rather than leaving Europe, was once again leading it”. 



Clean Sweep for Taunton

Clean Sweep for Taunton

From Somerset West & Taunton Council Press Office

Somerset West and Taunton Council is giving Taunton town centre a spring clean.

Work has already begun to deep clean pavements, street furniture and bus shelters; paint and refurbish lampposts and bins; freshen up public toilets; remove graffiti, and provide more planters and hanging baskets throughout the town. 

Riverside Walk has been deep cleaned and the path from Firepool Lock to Priory Bridge has been resurfaced to provide a pleasant walk from Trenchard Way through to the town centre.

Two of Taunton’s larger landmarks are also being refreshed - the heritage gates at the entrance to Vivary Park have been cleaned and painted, and the bridge over the River Tone will receive a thorough clean this week.  

The programme of work, known as Cleansweep, is focusing on suggestions made to the Council by businesses, shoppers, and residents who want their town centres to look and feel more vibrant.

It has also involved members of the community - the Probation Service has used the Community Payback scheme to paint the flower pedestals outside the Market House; a community litter pick took place in Castle Green on Saturday organised in partnership with Keith Hunt the local Keep Britain Tidy Litter Hero Ambassador; and the wooden benches around Castle Green are due to be painted by Link Power, a social enterprise based in Halcon which offers opportunities for training and skills development.

The community elements of the work have been supported by a cash boost from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government’s High Street Clean Up Fund in support of the Great British Clean Up. 

Portfolio holder for Environmental Services Cllr Alan Wedderkopp said: “The town centre is already looking much cleaner and brighter thanks to the efforts of Council staff and our wonderful volunteers. We should all take pride in our environment and I would encourage everyone to play a part.”

Any community groups or individuals who are keen to get involved with litter picks should contact the Council which can help with rubbish collections and equipment.


New Somerset West & Taunton Council Executive Selected

New Somerset West & Taunton Council Executive Selected

From top left clockwise: Federica Smith-Roberts, Benet Allen, Chris Booth, Habib Farbahi, Ross Henley, Alan Wedderkopp, Fran Smith, Mike Rigby, Peter Pilkington, and Richard Lees

From top left clockwise: Federica Smith-Roberts, Benet Allen, Chris Booth, Habib Farbahi, Ross Henley, Alan Wedderkopp, Fran Smith, Mike Rigby, Peter Pilkington, and Richard Lees

The Somerset West & Taunton Liberal Groups have selected their new Executive to run the new Council.

Led by the new Leader of the Council, Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts, the new Executive will be:-

COMMUNICATIONS AND CULTURE  - COUNCILLOR BENET ALLEN

Benet represents the Periton and Woodcombe Ward: and is the Deputy Leader of  Somerset West and Taunton council. He can sometimes be seen at the wheel of the Minehead Town Bus.  Benet believes that keeping our buses running is an essential part of the service provided by Somerset West and Taunton and is also pushing for a restored train service between Minehead and Taunton.

Benet brings twenty years of experience in TV News to his new role of responsibility for culture and communications on the new Council.

COMMUNITY -  COUNCILLOR CHRIS BOOTH

Taunton born and bred, Chris represents the Halcon and Lane Ward and has done for 3 years. At 29, Chris is one of the younger Councillors and hopes he can inspire young people to get involved in local politics.

 In Halcon, Chris has joined in a lot of community building and hopes to apply this to the wider communities of the new Council.

He is responsible for a variety of matters from town centre activity and community events, to rough sleeping oversight and police liaison. 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ASSET MANAGEMENT - COUNCILLOR HABIB FARBAHI

Habib is a businessman who represents Comeytrowe and Bishop’s Hull. He has organised a major conference in Taunton where leading academics and experts explored the possibilities of making Taunton a beacon for new green technologies with an Innovation Centre, bringing higher paid jobs to the area.

Habib intends to work as a part of team to ensure that problems and challenges become opportunities. On the major decisions the business community and the public are an integral part of the solution. While in opposition Habib was already working closely with the business community and the excellent team of council officers on ideas to regenerate Taunton. With other councillors and officers, the team  intend to look at short, medium and long-term projects, prioritising the Firepool and Coal Orchard developments. Our new council covers a much wider area than Taunton Deane, so we need to understand the challenges that our partners in West Somerset are facing too and offer genuine support.  We need to make the most of the finances we have available to us so that we can collectively deliver prosperity and economic development throughout Somerset West and Taunton.

CORPORATE RESOURCES - COUNCILLOR ROSS HENLEY

Ross is the Councillor for the Hatch and Blackdown ward. He is very passionate about the area he represents. He is a former leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council. As the Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources. Ross wants the Council to improve its Customer Service and aspire to excellence in every way it interacts with the residents of Somerset West and Taunton.  

SPORTS, PARKS AND LEISURE - RICHARD LEES

 Richard represents Victoria Ward and has been a Taunton Deane Councillor since 1999. After losing his sight, Richard gained a Certificate in Education at the Somerset College and in 2006 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education by Plymouth University.  

Currently employed as an Advocate with Swan advocacy, he has been an advocate for disabled people for over 19 years.  He was awarded the Taunton Deane Citizenship Award in 1992,   Richard was Mayor of Taunton Deane in 2005/6,and is currently a Governor at the Albermarle Centre in Taunton. 

Richard has been the Executive member for Sports, Parks and Leisure during his time as Taunton Deane Councillor and hopes to use this experience to protect and develop leisure spaces and opportunities for all residents in Somerset West and Taunton.

CLIMATE CHANGE  -  PETER PILKINGTON

Peter represents Old Cleeve and District. As a West Somerset councillor, Peter has already worked towards the goal of a carbon-neutral council by promoting the roll-out of an Electric vehicle charging network and has helped to secure £20,000 of funding for this purpose. This is just the start of a larger project to make local public transport accessible and frequent with electric buses. Peter is a rural housing network contact and is active in sourcing land for affordable housing and self-build projects.

He will be responsible for ensuring that all council policies and initiatives include a Climate Change Impact Assessment.

His main challenges are likely to be integrating the new Climate Change objectives into the Council's statutory obligations and encouraging everyone to see the urgency and benefits of our Climate Change policies

PLANNING AND TRANSPORT -  MIKE RIGBY

Mike is a qualified planner who has worked in planning and environmental consultancy for many years. Married with three children, he has been a county councillor for six years and decided to stand as a district councillor partly so that he could help local people with the whole range of council services. Having seen Taunton lose its shine over the last ten years, he’s particularly pleased to have been appointed as Executive Member for Planning & Transportation and will work as part of a tight team to deliver key projects including Firepool, the Garden Town, pedestrianisation and the Taunton Innovation Centre in order to boost Taunton’s fortunes. He’ll also work closely with the council’s leaders on climate change and environment to deliver greener transport options for visitors to the County Town.

Mike represents the South Quantock Ward.

HOUSING  - FRAN SMITH

Fran has represented Blackbrook and Holway since 2003.

She was born in Taunton and educated at Priorswood Secondary Modern and SCAT

Fran has been involved in housing issues for many years, including campaigning against the sell off of the council housing stock, and promoting the building of more social houses in new developments, she has previously been the shadow housing portfolio holder.

Fran's main responsibilities will be ensuring that housing is one of the main priorities of the council, working to increase the number of social houses being built, along side affordable housing whilst promoting good infrastructure of new developments to make the area a great place to live, also representing local people with housing issues and ensuring a high standard of duty and care is maintained.

Fran wants the new council to be open, transparent and customer focused.

ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES - ALAN WEDDERKOPP

A committed environmentalist for decades, Alan Wedderkopp  served on TDBC for 12 years as Deputy Leader and environment portfolio holder, when he was responsible for the installation of Solar panels on Taunton swimming pool, which are still producing an income for the council tax payer. He also inspired and set up the Art Walls enhancing parts of Taunton. He represents Wilton and Sherford..   

Alan has a wide experience of life, including working in heavy industry worldwide,  which has inspired many of his ideas. Prior to that he was a regular soldier and spent two years on active service in Korea. 

Alan will be responsible for many of practical things that affect our physical environment and quality of life, including dog bins, grass cutting, and many more.

One initial challenge will be bringing forward improvements to the service provided at the Crematorium.


ELECTION SUCCESS IN SOMERSET WEST & TAUNTON

ELECTION SUCCESS IN SOMERSET WEST & TAUNTON

Both Taunton Deane Liberal Democrats and Bridgwater & West Somerset Liberal Democrats are delighted to have succeeded on the 2nd May elections in taking control of the new Somerset West & Taunton authority.

The new authority spans from Exmoor across to Burrowbridge and down as far as Wellington.

The Liberal Democrats stormed the ballot boxes in places from Minehead and Dunster, to Trull and Hatch Beauchamp, picking up 30 out of a possible 59 seats.

The rest of the Council is made of up of 14 independents, 10 Conservatives, 3 Labour and 2 Greens.

By Friday (3rd May), the new Liberal Democrat group met to discuss crucial roles and picked Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts and Councillor Benet Allen as Leader and Deputy Leader of the new Council respectively, reflecting views from Taunton Deane and West Somerset.

They have also chosen Councillor Hazel Prior-Sankey has been chosen as Chair of the Council and Councillor Fran Smith will be nominated in the new role of Mayor of Taunton having been the last Deputy Mayor of Taunton Deane.

Further positions will be announced later this week.

Scott Berry, who chaired the Lib Dem campaign to take the control of the Council thanked the hard work of candidates, staff, volunteers and supporters for making this all possible,

MANIFESTO LAUNCH: LIBDEMS GO PLANET POSITIVE TO HALT WASTE AND DECLINE

Launching the LibDem Somerset West and Taunton Manifesto today, clockwise from left, former Police Community Support Officer Eamon Leniston (West Monkton & Cheddon Fitzpaine), Dixie Darch (Staplegrove & Norton Fitzwarren—with grandchild), Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts (Halcon & Lane), Cllr Fran Smith (Blackbrook & Holway), bus driver Cllr Benet Allen (Minehead South), and Cllr Habib Farbahi (Comeytrowe & BIshops Hull).

Launching the LibDem Somerset West and Taunton Manifesto today, clockwise from left, former Police Community Support Officer Eamon Leniston (West Monkton & Cheddon Fitzpaine), Dixie Darch (Staplegrove & Norton Fitzwarren—with grandchild), Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts (Halcon & Lane), Cllr Fran Smith (Blackbrook & Holway), bus driver Cllr Benet Allen (Minehead South), and Cllr Habib Farbahi (Comeytrowe & BIshops Hull).

Liberal Democrats have put forward a new #PlanetPositive agenda to make the District waste, pollution and carbon neutral by 2030, as their manifesto, launched today, for the Somerset West and Taunton Council elections to be held on 2nd May.

They plan to redirect the Council’s spending on the luxury hotel and reorganisation projects to instead support the new agenda, along with more support for young people and public transport and to increase Council and affordable housing from the current 15% to 25% of all new developments.

Group leader, Councillor Simon Coles said “The Liberal Democrats will bring an end to a decade of Conservative waste and neglect. We have a positive, detailed and costed manifesto which will improve the environment, economy and lifestyle of the residents of Taunton Deane and West Somerset. Our detailed research shows that a lot can be done by accessing a range of grants without extra costs to the council tax payer who is being forced to endure rises of twice the inflation rate by the Conservative Government and local councils. We will stop gambling with your money on risky enterprises like a luxury hotel in Firepool while services are being cut to the bone.”

Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts said “ 'Our policies won't cost the earth, but if we don't achieve them, it WILL cost the earth'.  Addressing the Climate Emergency is top of the Agenda for the Liberal Democrats. Local action is needed to achieve global aims. We aim to make our new Council carbon-neutral by 2030. This includes helping people in places like Halcon by improving the public transport network and helping bus companies to switch to zero carbon emissions along with the council's vehicle fleet.  Accessing grants currently ignored by the Council should in time reduce costs for passengers and bus companies.”

Dixie Darch, candidate for Staplegrove, Kingston and Norton Fitzwarren added  “We aim to save the Park and Rides by making them commercially viable with stops at the station and Colleges and provide more charging points for electric vehicles at strategic points. We are already talking with Parish Councils to take this forward. We will encourage cycling and walking with better facilities and in time consider more traffic-fee zones, except for zero emission vehicles. It’s essential we are tough about protecting green spaces, generating renewable energy and on zero carbon standards for new homes. We would extend the ban on single-use plastics and launch a 'Put your Bin on a diet' campaign”. She added “Young people shouldn't have to pay £795 to get the bus to college so we would pioneer a new bus pass for 16 to 18 year olds as part of a deal with bus companies - one that would include a late evening bus on all major routes. People should be able to have a night out in town without needing to drive - that could really boost our theatres, restaurants and cultural attractions”.

Councillor Habib Farbahi has spearheaded the LibDem commitment to economic regeneration in Taunton Deane and West Somerset. “We will stimulate our towns' economies through our unique policy of creating affordable employment spaces for new start-up businesses and with major projects like a research and Innovation Centre at Firepool to attract new inward investment and higher paid jobs, as well as a major entertainment and conference centre. This could complement the new UK Hydrographic Office and put an end to Conservative government threats to move it away. We must reverse the decline of our County Town and would trial free parking to boost local shops and businesses”

Former Police Community Support Officer Eamon Leniston, standing for the LibDems in West Monkton and Cheddon Fitzpaine, commented  “People in areas like West Monkton where I live want to see us combat crime and anti-social behaviour, we'll do just that by funding town centre wardens and consulting on paying for more police and community support officers on the beat. To really beat crime we need to restore effective partnership working, like the Business Crime Reduction Partnership, axed by the Conservative Council in 2014". 

On housing Councillor Fran Smith pledges that the LibDems “will build more council houses and challenge the failure to get Developers to provide enough affordable and social housing for local families such as in Blackbrook and Holway and in the massive expansion of our towns. Developers have been given too much power by a supine Council that has allowed them to get away with inadequate infrastructure like roads and flood defences, while millions are made in profits. We will also work hard with all agencies to reduce the scourge of homelessness.” 

Councillor Simon Coles concluded “ We will reform the council to make it easier for the public and all political sides to work together to share decision-making and ensure that communities are genuinely consulted, too many decisions, like the one to abolish the current Councils were taken by the Conservative Council before the public was even asked.”

The local LibDems' Manifesto detailing 65 action points, some already initiated and other longer term commitments, launched today, can be read at  https://www.tdld.co.uk/2019manifesto 

CALL TO ‘SCRAP UNCIVILISED, COSTLY AND FAILING UNIVERSAL CREDIT’ FROM GIDEON AMOS AND LOCAL LIBDEMS

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd MP visited Taunton Job Centre Plus on Friday, and Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate Gideon Amos immediately challenged her to scrap Universal Credit as it is uncivilised, costly and failing.

Gideon referred to independent reports saying “Even the National Audit Office has said we will ‘never know’ whether Universal Credit will put more people into work and that the idea it will save money is based on ‘unproven assumptions’, put this alongside the massive problems Government has now admitted and its clear the current system must be scrapped.” 

Calling the system unfit for a civilised country Gideon said “Government should reverse the cuts to the Work Allowance and end the punitive benefits freeze which reduces money going into our local economy and means the poorest are penalised in ways which are frankly uncivilised and unacceptable”.

The National Audit Office found that eight years after work began on Universal Credit only 10% of the expected eventual number of claimants are on the system. Around 20% of claimants paid late were waiting five months or more to be paid. 

Gideon says “This figure is incredibly worrying and is a key reason why we have seen the growth in numbers using Taunton and Wellington foodbanks, this puts massive extra strain on charities - a completely unacceptable passing of the buck by the Tory government to those who give so much to help the most vulnerable in our local community.”

Universal credit currently costs £699 per claim, that is four times as much as the government intends to spend when the system is fully up and running. 

Gideon concluded, “With the possible exception of Brexit this is the worst implementation of a policy since Poll Tax and both the Secretary of State and the MP for Taunton Deane elected last time should be called out on her statements that it’s working so well especially given all the warnings issued by charities and the Lib Dems about the roll out first trialled in areas including Taunton Deane - an exercise from which the Conservatives apparently learned nothing”.

The Jobcentre Plus in Taunton

The Jobcentre Plus in Taunton

NORTON MANOR CAMP SAVED AFTER CAMPAIGN LED BY LIBDEMS’ GIDEON AMOS

Commenting on the BBC report today that Norton Manor Camp has been saved, Gideon Amos—who launched a campaign against the closure in 2016 when it was proposed by the Conservative Government—said: “This is an amazing result not just for the campaign I was delighted to start, but more importantly for the Royal Marines and their families and for the thousands of people who backed the campaign with the help of many local people, including retired Lt Col Kevin Deval and local LibDems Ed Firmin and Dixie Darch in Norton Fitzwarren”. 

Gideon highlighted the work getting local government behind the campaign, stating that “Getting the two Councils on board showed we were making real progress and the Somerset County Gazette made a big difference too.”

 “When we all work together for those who put their lives on the line, to secure the best defence for our country, to keep our local community strong and for what we believe and when we work at those objectives together there is nothing we can’t achieve,” Gideon added.

Elated to achieve success in the campaign to save Norton Manor Camp are Gideon Amos and former LibDem Leader Ming Campbell who wrote to the Ministry of Defence backing the Camp

Elated to achieve success in the campaign to save Norton Manor Camp are Gideon Amos and former LibDem Leader Ming Campbell who wrote to the Ministry of Defence backing the Camp

PPC Gideon Amos worked tirelessly to save Norton Manor

PPC Gideon Amos worked tirelessly to save Norton Manor

LIBDEM COUNCILLORS FIGHTING AGAINST 'ALTERNATIVE FACTS' OVER GRITTING BUDGET

Cllr Mike Rigby

Cllr Mike Rigby

Following the decision to reverse this year’s cuts in gritting on Somerset’s roads, the county’s Liberal Democrats have called out the Leader of Council, David Fothergill for “spinning alternative facts” on social media.

“Following the Cabinet meeting, the Leader of the Council tweeted that ‘winter gritting will receive a further £200,000’,” says Cllr Mike Rigby, Lib Dem Opposition Spokesperson for Highways & Transport. “Yet he omits to mention that, last September, he voted to remove £120,000 from the winter gritting budget.

“The political party that likes to say it is ‘the party of business’ has managed to spin the story to such an extent that a promise of £80,000 more in the next financial year has become a ‘further £200,000’. Either his mathematical skills are extremely poor or he assumes that voters in Somerset can't spot an ‘alternative fact’ when they see one.

“The ‘actual fact’ is that he’s been forced into a humiliating U-turn on the catastrophic decision made to slash precautionary gritting network following a spate of accidents on ungritted roads during the recent bad weather.

“This winter, the people of Somerset have paid the price for that short-sighted decision in commuters not getting to work and businesses losing money, together with additional pressure on the emergency services and NHS.

“The abandoned gritting caused chaos in my division with dozens of reports of collisions and cars sliding out of control into the main road.

“We said at the time that this was a hare-brained plan that would not survive a bout of cold weather, and so it has proved. What is doubly disappointing is that - having stood down the gritting capability with their contractor - the administration now finds that they can’t be remobilised quicker than 20 weeks!”

“That means that the Conservative-run Council is putting its faith in the weather gods over the next few months to avoid another standstill on the roads, countless more road accidents and further additional costs to the public purse, in order to save £120,000.

“The Cabinet also announced that a review of the precautionary gritting routes would commence in April - just as the winter ends!”

Cllr Jane Lock, Leader of the Opposition on Somerset County Council added: “This Conservative-run Council has, over the past six months, heaped misery on children, families and now motorists. They claim they’re saving money for Somerset but local people are paying a heavy price for their financial mismanagement over the last 10 years.

“We can expect increasingly extreme weather conditions in this country because of climate change. If we can't keep the roads of Somerset open in cold weather then the whole county could be shut down.

“The tweet from David Fothergill was an insult to everyone’s intelligence – one worthy of Donald Trump. Tweeting something doesn't make something true. They are now papering over the cracks they themselves created. Somerset deserves better and must demand better.”

MIKE RIGBY JOINS THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Delight as Mike decides to take partnership one step further

Delight as Mike decides to take partnership one step further

Taunton Deane Liberal Democrats are delighted to announce that Cllr Mike Rigby, an independent councillor for Lydeard on Somerset County Council has joined the Liberal Democrats, the second Councillor to do so in less than a year after Neil Bloomfield defected from the Conservatives.

On his website, mikerigby.org, Mike said:

“I’ve been the County Councillor for the Lydeard Division for almost six years.

“I have taken satisfaction from providing a strong voice for the people in my area at a time of unprecedented pressure on local government in the form of slashed central government funding.

“I was elected as an Independent and have enjoyed the freedom that independence has provided, choosing which battles to fight.

“However, I have reached the position where some of the things I want to achieve for our community can best be delivered as a member of a major political group.

“Some time ago, the Liberal Democrats generously invited me into the County Council Shadow Cabinet.

“I have appreciated the deeper insight this position has afforded me and enjoyed working within the team.

“For some time, I have found myself travelling on parallel lines to the Liberal Democrats with little difference between our beliefs and policy direction so, in the end, it has not been a difficult decision to join the Lib Dems.

“We share views on all of the big local issues, including inadequate funding of local government and the dangers of outsourcing.

“We also agree on national policy issues including the economy, health and the biggest issue of the lot; Brexit, which I consider to be an historic mistake, riddled with illegality and which I feel an obligation to continue to oppose.

“I will continue to represent the people of the Lydeard Division with the same independent mindedness and strong voice, but as a member of the Lib Dem group, with whom I look forward to playing a full part in transforming the fortunes of our community, town and county.”

Jane Lock, Leader of the Lib Dems at Somerset County Council said:

“The Liberal Democrat Group welcomes Mike Rigby, our newest member. Mike strengthens our position further on the County Council as we continue to oppose damaging cuts to the services for Somerset’s residents. We share values and principles with Mike, a councillor who will continue to work hard for his Lydeard Division residents and all of Somerset.

Councillor Neil Bloomfield joined us from the Conservatives less than six months ago, citing his disappointment in the direction of travel and lack of compassion of the Tory party.”

Gideon Amos, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Taunton Deane said:

“Sensible people across the spectrum now recognise the Lib Dems are offering the positive and constructive alternative the country needs. Cllr Mike Rigby will hugely strengthen our Taunton Deane Lib Dem team and I’m delighted to welcome him on board.”

09/01/2019

LIB DEM COUNCILLORS DEMAND ANSWERS ON FIREPOOL

The derelict Firepool site

The derelict Firepool site

The Taunton Deane Lib Democrats have called a Special Full Council to demand answers on the failure over the development of the former market site at Firepool. No only has it taken over a decade to achieve very little in terms of progress but our development partner, St Modwen, has now decided to no longer be involved.

We believe that the public deserves to know what is going on thus we have called this meeting.

The meeting will be at the Somerset Room at the Somerset County Cricket Club on 14th November at 6:30pm. If you’d like to attend/speak, please email [email protected]

07/11/2018

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS WILL HOLD THE CONSERVATIVE ADMINISTRATION OF TDBC TO ACCOUNT FOR THE FIREPOOL MELTDOWN

Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, visiting the Firepool site in 2016. Showing him the problems we faced are Cllr Simon Nicholls (far left), Habib Farbahi (centre left) and Prospective Parliametary Candidate, Gideon Amos (far right)

Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, visiting the Firepool site in 2016. Showing him the problems we faced are Cllr Simon Nicholls (far left), Habib Farbahi (centre left) and Prospective Parliametary Candidate, Gideon Amos (far right)

The latest fiasco in the long-running farce of the Firepool development plainly shows that a tired and incompetent Conservative regime must give way to a new Liberal Democrat Administration with imaginative ideas and solutions.

We are taking three immediate actions:

First, we are calling a special Council meeting to sort out what has gone wrong. It is scandalous that no one knew anything about 
problems between St. Modwen's and Taunton Deane Council until we were contacted by the County Gazette following a council press release. The mismanagement and secrecy needs to be exposed. 

Secondly, we will use a Freedom of Information request to expose how much the council tax payer has been forced to pay for a nine year consultancy bill that has produced one office block and fifty houses !

Thirdly, we will use this Conservative failure as an opportunity to get the Firepool development right. We will demand a cross-party council task force to agree a more imaginative plan which will boost Taunton's economy and bring more high paid jobs to the town. We will also consult local residents about what they want to see at Firepool, offering a range of possibilities. 
These could include a mix of :-

  • Economic development and Growth Industries, such as an Innovation Centre with 
    links to green technology, as discussed at a recent meeting with experts and 
    innovators, organised by Cllr Habib Farbahi

  • Facilities for culture, sport and entertainment and the Community

  • Property and housing which will generate funds and make use of brown rather than 
    greenfield sites

October 2018

LIBDEMS POINT TO 'WASTED' £30MILLION AS PARK & RIDE PETITION GROWS

Gideon Amos (left) with Cllrs Alan Wedderkopp (centre) and Habib Farbahi (right) at one of the park and ride sites

Gideon Amos (left) with Cllrs Alan Wedderkopp (centre) and Habib Farbahi (right) at one of the park and ride sites

As the petition to stop the closure of Taunton's two Park and Rides passes 1,000 signatures local LibDems promoting it have written to the Borough and County Councils to highlight a range of ideas those signing have put forward, and to demand the closure is prevented.

Parliamentary candidate Gideon Amos and opposition leader at Taunton Deane Simon Coles say in their letter they are concerned about all 110 cuts being proposed by the Conservatives at the County Council such cuts to “specialist housing and support for adults social care needs” and the Park and Ride closure which the LibDems claim will disproportionately target the low paid and vulnerable.

Calling for either Council to put up the money to maintain the service, Gideon Amos said 

“I hope the Conservative leadership have got the message that the people of Taunton are completely opposed to this threat to our transport system. It seems likely that they will cobble together short-term funding to keep the Park and Rides open for a while.

But what we need is a long-term solution that will guarantee the future of our Park and Rides. Many people who responded to the Liberal Democrat petition and have written to the County Gazette made imaginative and positive suggestions which deserve to be considered and evaluated to see if they are practical. The Liberal Democrats have suggestions about how the Park and Ride sites can be made more commercial and bring in income to close the funding gap. All these suggestions need to be examined by professional officers.

Instead the Conservatives have chosen to keep the closures secret until just before the meeting of Conservative Councillors who form the Cabinet. The public only know about the closures from an email leaked to Liberal Democrat councillors.”

Cllr Simon Coles added:

“Since the Conservatives control all levels of government perhaps, contrary to all the evidence, this spending is in fact well-coordinated between the Councils and part of a secret ‘cunning plan’ yet to be revealed. The only result however is the demise of our local Councils and the closure of much needed services, of which Park and Ride is just the latest in a list that includes Children’s Centres, Libraries and council offices.”

They point to over £30Million they say is being wasted on a range of projects such private hotel and development projects as evidence that funds exist to keep the Park and Ride running. 

September 2018

LIBDEM GROUP LEADER ON TAUNTON DEANE BOROUGH COUNCIL ON THE UNITARY PROPOSAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Cllr Simon Coles

Cllr Simon Coles

"Any future changes at local and county level will have to put the provision and preservation of essential frontline public services and the interests of our residents first.

We should retain expertise whilst reducing costs and generating further economic growth through job creation. Efficiency is not about getting rid of your best staff and replacing them with machines, it is about retaining your assets and that is your staff, but you need to engage with them rather than make them redundant!  Encouraging and allowing them to come up with new and innovative ways of working.

It is a total travesty that we find ourselves in this situation due to both the mismanagement of public funds on top of cuts from central government. It is also ironic that leaders at both district and county levels cannot even agree on the direction of travel. The idea that we should continue with the ever growing costs and upheaval of the merger between Taunton Deane and West Somerset Councils and then follow this folly with another but even larger merger between all six councils in Somerset is risible. 

This would mean that, the new TDBC/WSC merger would the most expensive and shortest lived council in the history of our country.  Having cost millions and lasted less than a year.

 Any future changes have to have the best interests of residents in Somerset and should be evidence based with delivery models, proper budget and structure in place.

I will welcome establishment of a Joint Committee to study in detail the idea of providing better, joined-up services that make sense for residents across the length and breadth of our beautiful county of Somerset."

 

Cllr Simon Coles

Lib Dem Group Leader

Taunton Deane Borough Council

MEMBERS OF THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS IN TAUNTON DEANE HAVE SELECTED GIDEON AMOS TO STAND AS THEIR PROSPECTIVE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE FOR THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTION

Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Gideon Amos (left)

Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Gideon Amos (left)

Gideon Amos said "I am delighted to have the opportunity to represent people in Taunton Deane. It will be a privilege to put forward a positive new agenda, campaigning to keep our Royal Marines here in Taunton, reversing cuts to our local schools, standing up to this Government's removal of the LibDems' free school meals from 160,000 children and raising more funds for social care and the NHS from taxation. To strengthen our economy and tax base it's vital we continue to trade freely with Europe. No other party is speaking the language of common sense on these issues and there is a huge gap that we have a responsibility to fill."

Mr Amos added: "I stand squarely in the Liberal tradition of Somerset where I grew up and providing the opposition Britain needs really matters to people across the Deane”.

“The planet needs to be put back at the centre of our politics, including reviving the zero carbon homes programme, cancelled by the Conservatives. Nationally LibDems are the only ones who challenge the cosy two-party system stitch-up that we have in the UK. In Parliament LibDems are the only Party which recognises how disastrous it will be for people to lose their rights to travel and trade freely and will give them the final say on any Brexit deal, instead of leaving it all to a few Ministers."

Mr Amos scored second place in the 2017 General Election with just under 30% backing him, but increased the LibDem share of the vote by 6.3%, the biggest increase in vote share of any party in the constituency.

“Locally LibDem councillors are the only ones providing challenge and opposition on the Conservative Council - for example on the  spending of millions on a merger 'transformation' with an indebted West Somerset - a project for which there is no mandate from the public.  Locally we want to see higher quality jobs and homes that are affordable to our local people, rather than soulless estates of houses beyond the reach of many and without the infrastructure they require."

In a break with the past the new PPC wants to see new and different LibDem policies at the next General Election: "We need not just to invest in schools again, but to provide free higher education and training to enable young people to get the debt-free start in life they need." He backs Vince Cable's idea of an £18,000 credit for every person to spend on post-school education or training of their choice, at any stage in their life. 

Local party Chair Dr Mike Owen said "The Taunton Deane Liberal Democrats warmly welcome Gideon as their PPC. He has worked tirelessly for the constituency for many years and has been instrumental in increasing the local party membership. His enthusiasm for the constituency is widely recognised beyond the party and he will I am sure have a significant impact both as a PPC and as future MP."

LIBDEM MOTION ON SINGLE USE PLASTICS IS PASSED BY COUNCIL

Cllr Habib Farbahi (middle), with Simon Nicholls (right) and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Gideon Amos (left)

Cllr Habib Farbahi (middle), with Simon Nicholls (right) and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Gideon Amos (left)

Following the resounding triumph in Taunton Deane Council Meeting last week when the proposal by councillors to move towards a ban of single use plastic in council buildings and to work in cooperation with the University of Exeter on further challenges posed by plastic was passed unanimously.        Professor Michael Howard, director of research and professor of supply chain management at the University of Exeter Business School, added: “Much of the time the challenge is in understanding the complexity of the problem, for example, manufacturers, refuse & recycling firms as well as our own local council’s priority. There is also some science needed, particularly in understanding any impacts to human health caused by plastics, the best way to deal with take-back and ‘reuse’ systems is discouraging landfill as an option, and current incineration methods are not ideal”

            Cllr Farbahi is delighted that senior academics will continue to advise Taunton Deane on adopting a multi-method approach in devising new methods of more sustainable packaging for food by local vendors and engaging with the public, encouraging them to become our partners as well as motivating manufacturers to support such schemes which move us away from traditional mixed plastic-cardboard which become contaminated with organic matter. 

            It is important that everyone understands the ‘bigger picture’. There is no doubt that we need to look at investing in R&D or centres of excellence.  We should be turning Taunton in to a regional centre for excellence.

            Cllr Farbahi will also be working to raise public awareness among the young, whose lives he feels will be most affected:  “This is why I am hoping to engage with the schools as a part of our part two of our resolution. I would like to suggest that the working group considers approaching our partners such as Viridor, Kier and others to set up a competition for a possible solution to our single use plastics and a prize for the best strap line to be used county/nationwide on the effect of plastic in our environment”.   He adds, “I am hopeful that Exeter and other universities will become more involved and invest in our town.  I hope to see lots of innovative ideas coming forth as the cross-party group forms”.

            We cannot allow our coastlines to become a micro plastic production line; UK was at the heart of industrial revolution in 1750s should we not be at the heart of “environmental revolution” now?