Saturday, 24 February 2018

Have your say on the Library

Dear Editor

The future of Shepton’s library is once again being questioned by Somerset County Council.  The cash-strapped County authority is looking to save hundreds of thousands of pounds from its budget and sees libraries as an easy target to make cuts or closures.

Somerset Council has embarked on a public consultation process.  Residents have a limited chance to express their views in Shepton Mallet Library on Tuesday 27 February from 2.30 – 5.30pm.  For all who cannot make this time slot, you can also comment online at

We believe the library should stay in the very heart of the town.

Somerset County Council’s own figures show that Shepton’s library is well used with 44,000 visits a year. To remove these thousands of visits would undermine the commendable work by local business people who are doing all they can to regenerate the High Street and bring life, footfall and vitality back into Shepton.

We reject the option to move the library to Mendip District Council’s SHAPE complex as we think this will suck the life out of our town centre. We also fear that a move to SHAPE could prove to be a slow path to eventual closure of any library facility in Shepton. If numbers of library visits fall after a move to the Mendip Office block, then it will be argued that the library is no longer needed.

We support the Town Council’s initiative to try and find a building in the centre of town that can rehouse a full range of library services. This could also become a community hub that could even house the Town Council’s own offices.
It is important that Shepton keeps a modern well-equipped library service, led by professionals, in a central visible and accessible location.

Our town centre library is an important community service for education, personal development, Internet access and events, and should remain in our town centre.

If you believe this too, then you must tell Somerset County Council before their public consultation ends on 22 April 2018

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Letter to the journal, Library

At the recent extraordinary town council meeting, the councillors made some really important decisions in regard to trying to retain the library in the centre of Shepton.

Any decision to remove the Library from our town centre will damage the viability and vitality of its economic well being. We know that one of the problems Shepton has, is low high street footfall, I believe it is irresponsible of Somerset county council to take the 44000 visits to the library out of the town centre.

Our community supports the library with good visitor numbers, we have excellent professional staff that do a greatjob. I want the town council to help build on what is currently delivered, we should explore all options in the greatest details, unlike the county council’s light touch table top examination of premises.

It is clear that a modern high street must deliver a mixture of shops, businesses and community facilities, libraries should be in the heart of our community, delivering a wide range of services that meets the needs of our town.

The county council will be holding a library consultation in the new year and it is important that all residents contribute to this, we cannot allow deals behind closed doors to go unchallenged.

I’m sure the town council who unanimously agreed to undertake a study to try a town centre home for our library will work to deliver just that.

It will be for the town council to lead this process, but it is important that our community supports keeping the library in the heart of our town, councils have a duty for the economic well being of our town centres, I fear both the county and district councils are more concerned with financial transactions than delivering community services in the heart of our town

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Shepton's health problem

It is a very real disappointment that the beds are be cut from our community hospital and the nursing staff will be deployed elsewhere.

I fear this decision has been coming for quite a while now, these decisions are not an act of God but a failing in planning and investment.

Shepton Community Hospital has not received the investment it deserves to upgrade the in-bed facilities, this despite a huge community appetite to see our local hospital grow and provide services that enhance the health and well being in our area. The NHS has failed to support many bids to improve our hospital.

There is absolutely no doubt that the staff at the hospital  serve our community and are brilliant professionals. It is also clear that there is a staffing crisis in the NHS, with more people leaving than joining.

The government enforced pay cap has seen the pay packets of nurses thousands of pounds worse off in real terms, with dramatically increased workloads, and as the RCN says “leaving staff feeling demoralised and disillusioned”.

The abolition by this government of the bursaries for nursing training to be replaced by £9000 a year loans has seen dramatic falls in those entering the nursing profession, deterring the very sort of people who have the empathetic skills. It is estimated that nationally the NHS has 55000 fewer nurses than we need.

We are also losing some European staff from the NHS, this since our decision to leave the EU.

It is patently obvious to anyone that our acute hospitals are going to be stretched to breaking point this winter, we know that community care in Somerset is not capable of delivering the support that many people need, this due to a mixture of underfunding by national government in relent years and a failure of effective planning by Somerset county council.

There is a need for beds for some local people in our community hospital, and I fear without investment in buildings and staff, Shepton Mallet will forever lose these beds. The choice for people in our  town is, are we going to except this? If you are not then we better say so and say so loudly.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Defining moments

The leader of a political party has many roles, the first is to lead, to articulate what the party is offering the electorate and what sort of country you wish to build. The leader also has to command the respect of their colleagues, creating a strategy and working together to win elections.

The current Labour Party has an important role to be Her Majesty's official opposition holding the conservative government to account. This requires around 100 MPs to fill all the spokespersons  roles.

Last year when Mr Corbyn was elected Labour leader, he knew that after years of disloyalty to the previous 5 Labour leaders he would have to reach out to create a team that could work to defeat the Tories, he sadly failed to do this.

Worse, his lack of leadership has been exposed time and time again, whether reshuffles that take an eternity and instead of government failure to tackle the flood become the story of the leader who cant reshuffle, or clumsy articulation of simple things such as comparing the democratic Israeli state with the barbaric entity that is IS, or the lukewarm support for the European Union or his apparent support of his own Party policy, offering free votes to allow him to behave as he likes, this are not actions of a future PM.

Too often his people complain about a hostile media, all Labour leaders live with this pressure, yet Mr Corbyn and his team muddle allow the media free rain, instead of a clear concise line that the Party can follow.

The last General election Labour's offer was too small, yes it was right to highlight the Bedroom Tax, of course it was right to highlight changes in benefit and it was right to highlight the NHS and changes to student loans, but the whole campaign lack a narrative that the economy should benefit all, every person in every part of this United Kingdom should be able to achieve anything they wanted, creating opportunity for all.

Instead Labour's message look to only help the poor, the offer for too few, not talking to the majority, lacking confidence in the Party ability to change this country.

Labour economic case wrapped up in the macro economic arguments, not about creating wealth, changing economically from making money from money to creating wealth from money, you can only pay your way if you create wealth, people whom earn money spend it locally creating communities.

The last election Labour went chasing the student vote on university fees, I am a great believer in attracting all to universities, but government should be about investing in the first 1000 days of a child's life, health workers, nursery and associated services, it is no surprise that articulate middle class parents have articulate children.

Likewise in health, our NHS is brilliant it does brilliant things every minute of every day, but we need to do so much more on public health, improved education and screening, disease prevention is better than treating disease. The NHS needs proper funding, of course it does, but money alone will not make us healthier.

Mr Corbyn has allowed the Tories the pitch for themselves and he has failed.

Labour now has a choice, continue with this conservative socialism or reach out to the majority and build a better Britain, if it cant then Labour doesn't deserve a future.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


Without a doubt the UK is better served remaining within the EU.

We live in challenging times and it is naive to believe we can solve the problems of our times without working with our partners and our European neighbours, the UK should be leading Europe not leaving.

The UK is an important partner in the EU with 3 million jobs depending on continuing membership, by being a member we can shape the rules of the single market, if we were leave we could still trade with the EU but we would have to agree to rules and tariffs set by foreign governments. We should not turn our back on free trade agreements.

Membership of the EU secures consumer protections that deliver lower prices at the supermarkets for families and we benefit when travelling in Europe with cheaper flights and phone calls.

The EU secures working protections for UK workers, safeguarding maximum working times, paid holidays and equal pay, securing parental leave and equal treatment for part time workers.

In an insecure world the UK has used it influence within the EU to make the world safer, we have secured greater intelligence sharing for security and the use of European Arrest warrants fighting terrorism.

Environmental problems do not respect national borders, this country's membership of the EU has been a crucial factor in shaping our approach to environmental protection, whether cleaner beaches, fuel efficient cars or holding government account on air pollution.

For the reasons above I will be urging everyone to vote to remain in the EU, together we are stronger in Europe.

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year

In 2015 the centre left of British politics was given a good kicking.

Labour spectacularly failed in the May general election, losing heavily with the loss of confidence of the British electorate.

It is obvious that people did not trust any political party, but trusted Labour less than the conservatives. Labour's weakness was trust, enough people did not believe that they could run the economy soundly, in truth they weren't even listening, labour had not earned the right to be heard.

Then followed the Labour leadership election, Liz Kendel a centre right candidate achieved just 4.5% and Jeremy Corbyn a left wing MP became leader, essentially his platform hasn't changed in the time he has been In parliament. This result further bashing the centre left politics.

Having been a member of the Labour Party since the 1980s, it feels like the Labour Party has moved back 30 years, labour rightly or wrongly has chosen a course that will advocate an agenda that is not intune with the conceived opinion of the British electorate.

The conservative agenda of reducing the role of the state and transferring costs from collective provision onto the individual, making employment even more flexible with fewer protections and controlling the organs of government, from freedom of information, human rights and attempts to rig our democracy.

The challenge for the Labour Party is to formulate a vision and a platform that can win back the trust of the British electorate and then win a general election. This will not be an easy process.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

If anyone is listening?

My dad told me once "you have to earn a pound before you can spend it" and that was good advice.

In the recent General Election the real condition of our nations economy was not discussed, the Conservatives ruthlessly exploited English nationalism against Scottish nationalism, with sound bite economics, that does not actually relate to the real world, Labour never articulated the fundamental problem within our economy, instead concentrated on the NHS and an electoral strategy that was doomed to failure.

The fundamental truth is we as a nation are not productive enough.

On some measures, Britain is now around a fifth less productive per worker than the G7 average, and a jaw dropping 40 per cent below the US. 

It is clear that there are a number of factors that make low productivity, one being our dysfunctional banking system may have been both starving enterprise of finance; with immigration and government welfare policy there is a plentiful supply of cheap labour, with a short term mentality on investment companies would rather use (cheap) labour rather than technological advances.

This country does not fair well in spending as a proportion of the nations wealth on research and development compared with other advanced nations.

In a decade of low interest rates some businesses have undoubtedly use wage deflation to sustain their businesses, that has allowed many unsustainable businesses to continue trading with the employees being subsided by the tax payers in the form of tax credits or housing benefits.

Many businesses do not invest in staff training rather using unskilled labour, life long learning has disappeared from the government's vocabulary, with a welfare system forcing people into low pay low skill work.

As a nation we are not spending enough on research and development and scientific research, our businesses do not have access to finance to invest in cutting edge technology and products and our employees are not trained well enough and are not equipped for the modern economy how on earth are we to generate the income to pay for high quality public services? 

This is the challenge for our political elite and particular the new Labour leader, to advocate an economic strategy that is based on wealth creation, business leaders are naturally suspicious of Labour politicians, suspicious of government, yet it is public policy that drives finance and taxation, education and training that business need to develop their businesses.

This two way street of government and business also requires that business takes responsibility, if government provides a framework of investment banking helping the real economy, investing in colleges and training, and universal childcare, it is reasonable to expect business to pay good wages and help with social welfare of their employees, This calls for strategy to make a wage structure that people do not need state top up payments and business develop learning of their employees as a central aspect of their business.

Business leaders are keen to portray Labour as anti business, but the reality is without government support, business on its own cannot flourish