Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

Christmas has come and gone, so has 2009.

It is time to look forward, I believe 2010 will be a better year.

My hope is that progressive ideas are to the fore in 2010, for me, it is essential that government develops policies that tackle inequalities, that people are generous to their fellow citizens.

In times of uncertainity it is easy to blame others for their own misfortune.

For me, after 4 weeks away, it is also time for work again.

Together, we can make 2010 better.

Friday, 11 December 2009

What a great line

When Rafa Benitez was asked about the criticism levelled at him by messers Klinsman and Souness, he retorted that the fans knew there records as managers is fantastic.

Great response.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

denial anyone

So the Comprehensive Area Assessment have been published on OnePlace website that measures the performance of our local public services.

And surprise, surprise Mendip District Council does not meet minimum requirements of service and performs poorly.

No one should be surprised by this judgement!

Twelve months ago the Audit Commission stated that Mendip's Housing Strategy was poor, saying "(mendip DC) poor information on housing condition and housing need", pretty damning stuff.

So this week the OnePlace website rates Mendip not meeting the bare minimum standard on;
  1. managing it finances
  2. governing it's business
  3. managing resources

They are just adequate in managing performance.

It is reported Mendip are not doing enough to support the district through the current recession.

Mendip's partners are unsure what Mendip trying to achieve and have no way of measuring the results.

Mendip have very little judgement if they are achieving value for money.

Mendip has a higher level of homelessness than other Somerset authorities and too many people are living in temporary homes.

Mendip has no measure to know if there services impact fairly on the communities they serve.

Mendip are slow at turning around small planning application, these tend to help small businesses, helping in this time of recession.

This is how a conservative council is run, poor leadership that arrogantly concentrates on political advantage than running a high quality council.

It must be noted that Mendip Council are in a spiral of poor performance, they cannot claim additional central funds because of it this coupled with a small tax base.

The Conservatives are failing, but there failure is hurting the local residents.

It's certainly time for change here in Mendip.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The 200,000 pound question

We're on this merry-go-round, the Town Council has just over £200,000 in a capital fund, the receipt from the Councils old property in Great Ostry and monies put aside from the tax payer.

Some of the Council want a new council office and meeting area. Another option buying a shop. Some want to spend this capital receipt on a new combined sporting club.

But never a decision.

This evening I called for a report to go to the Town Council, that would include renegotiating a new lease, the costs and terms, with pros and cons for the above options.

My view is, if we can negotiate a long term deal that is favourable, we should use the council receipt on a combined sporting club for the Town.

We need to use the £200K for the benefit of Shepton, but whatever the decision, we need to get on with it.

Monday, 7 December 2009

"we're all doomed"

This afternoon I had the undoubted pleasure of attending a meeting at Mendip Council to discuss how we could spend the remainder of the s106 monies from the Tescos planning decisions, I thought this included the dobbies s106 and the THi.

I thought we are getting somewhere, and thought this a good initiative by Cllr Jeanette Marsh.

So when we sat down at 4.00pm and told we would only talk about the Tesco money and let's finish by 5.00pm, I thought ok.

My view on regeneration that there are three strands put simplistically;
  1. Improve the environment, Town Street through High Street North needs resurfacing. The lighting needs attention and the entrances into the High Street needs work from the car parks. An enhanced Marketplace with new seating.
  2. The Town centre needs promoting and hold more events to encourage footfall.
  3. Business support to allow businesses to run efficient businesses.

The Officer suggested that an Urban Design study, I thought this was reasonable, as this would draw in the strands above, this did not meet with the approval of our district councillors, we then spent an hour talking about entrances into the Town Centre, lighting, seating until another officer stated in fact we'd gone around in circles to get back to a design study, I think they agreed to look at each of the issues.

All I could think was these people cannot think strategically, their officers tell them they do not the expertise on urban design, so we muddle through.

I left the meeting thinking of old Mr Frazer (dads army) "we're all doomed".

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Speeding all the way

Over the two previous years some really good road safety work has been done in Waterloo Road.

We finally had flashing lights installed to warn motorists of the school entrance, we had new painted lines to visually warn motorists to try to moderate speed. There was a community speedwatch operating and a Speed Indicator Device (SiD) by the school.

All these measures came from the Partners and Communities Together (PACT) meetings, the community had asked and the relevant authorities delivered, simply, local government working.

All these measures had some success, but of course there are a hardcore of motorist who will not slow down and believe they do not have to comply with sensible speeding limits, 30mph in a road where there is a infants school.

The tradegy is now, Conservative councillors has removed funding for the SiD, the community speedwatch has ceased to operate.

I will be calling for the SiD to be funded by the Town Council, also I will continue to call for the police to enforce the speed limit.

The real solution to the problem of speeding outside the school would be a pedestrian crossing, but perversely the County Council will not fund, because the speed of traffic is to fast.

The school has repeatly tried to employ a lollipop crossing person, but the road is too dangerous for people to feel safe doing the job.

So I will continue to campaign for;
  1. Funding for the SiD in Waterloo Road
  2. Police to enforce speed limits
  3. A pedistrian crossing outside the school and associated traffic calming measures

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Can we afford not to build affordable housing

In the previous twenty five years we have lost one million council houses, this through the right to buy scheme.

Housing policy in this country is about home ownership, with limited affordable housing through section 106 legal agreements, usually too few, these are then transferred to housing association, either for rent or shared equity schemes.

We have seen growth in home ownership, we have seen growth in the buy to let schemes, we have seen ridiculous lending from the financial sector.

Then we had the financial crash, with the ridiculous situation of the British tax payer bailing out of banks that had toxic debt that had been accrued from the sub prime American housing market.

Our government would not build council houses for low paid workers, but in effect would pay for boarded up properties in America.

It is the time for this government to act.

Banks are, for the foreseeable future not going to borrow money to fund unsustainable mortgages, nor should they.

The current situation is not sustainable, providing affordable housing through section 106 cannot deliver the numbers of homes required.

In our district there is a social housing backlog of 1363 properties.

The average income for our district is £17,566 with the average for housing is £211,725 this equates to 12 times salary.

This leaves a situation of higher than average house prices combined with below average income, and a major shortfall in social housing, it is no surprise that waiting lists are growing for affordable housing, this situation is getting worse.

It is clear home ownership is a major aspiration for people, but this increasingly is out of reach for many, affordable rented housing is crucial for people to live in their own communities. Alan Brunt, from Mendip Housing spoke to the local paper about his concerns.

So the question is, can we afford not to invest in socially affordable rented housing?

I think not!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Shepton Magical Christmas Lights

Tonight was the official switching on of the Christmas lights, once again Sheptons lights are simply the best in the area.

The town turned out for the switching on ceremony, with a special appearance from Father Christmas and his elves.

Those shops that have stayed open late, seem to be rewarded with customers.

Congratulations to the Chamber of Commerce for organising the lights.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Monthly Meeting

The Shepton Mallet Labour Party met for the last time this year, the mood of the Party is so much better than a year ago.

There is a growing confidence that the Labour government is fighting back, the governments economic policies are showing signs of success, people are feeling more confident about their futures.

Locally, the Party has made progress raising finances in the last twelve months, again confidence has been restored, the next twelve months is going to see the Party campaigning for a better deal for Shepton.

The Shepton Labour Party next meeting is on the last Thursday in January 2010.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Friday Night

Don't forget the official switching on of the Christmas lights this Friday, all the fun starts at 5.00pm in the Market Place, shops will be open to 8pm.

I'll be there supporting the traders and the community.

Christmas is coming and it's starts in Shepton on Friday, see you there.

Green Travel Plan anyone

This evening the Town Councils planning committee looked at Mendip District Councils planning application for a temporary office, this looks like an extension to the existing portacabin in their car park.

Whilst, I had no objection to this application, I did make comment that if this application was made by another company, the planning authority would expect a travel plan.

Why do I believe Mendip should produce green travel plan?

We see Mendip staff parking their cars in Compton Rd/Corner and Kingsland Rd, we see both Council car parks full of their staff cars, so it is right for Mendip produce a plan to reduce car journeys.

Fortunately, the Town Council agreed and made a recommendation for Mendip to produce such a plan.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Regional Development

I was interested to read the Conservatives are continuing opposition to the Regional Development Agencies (RDA).

I simply find the Conservatives approach to be wrong.

A good Regional Development Agency can play a critical strategic role between the council and national government. I believe both the CBI and the Chamber of Commerce support that view.

Here in the District of Mendip, the South West RDA has ploughed millions of pounds into the old Morlands site on the A39, Glastonbury and Street Road, from purchasing the land, decontaminating, laying the services and now we see buildings on that site.

Let's be clear, our principled Councils could not afford this work, it is also clear that if there had been a Conservative government this work would not have been done.

The next step for me, is to create unitary local authorities and directly elected regional assemblies with devolved functions from central government, all part of decentralising power.

Upcoming show

The dreaded lurgy has struck, hence the reasons why there has been no blog updates.

Today I received a mailing from the The Musical Theatre School in Shepton Mallet to inform me of there Christmas Season.

The School are doing the Rogers and Hammerstein's musical Cinderella in the Academy Theatre, this productions is being held between 9 December - 12 December at 7.30pm, tickets cost Adults £12 Concs £10 and children £8.

Worth supporting.

The School are also performing a free show in the Market Place of Thesping it large the Shepherds Play at 6.00pm on the 10/11/12 December.

If you are interested call the TIC 01749 345258 or The Academy Theatre 01749 347984

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Looking to the future

Today we saw the Queens speech at the opening of the final session of parliament before the next general election.

The government outlined their plans for the coming period the question to ask is how if these plans are to be implemented how will this effect local people?

Clearly the first priority must be getting the economy moving, this will safeguard the incomes of working people

People are genuinely angry with the banks, continuing action needed to control bank excesses, both in terms of bank bonuses and unfair borrowing charges.

Action is required on the pricing of the public utilities, people feel that they are being being ripped off by these private companies.

The other eye catching policy is the expansion of costs for elderly care, these must be welcomed as care costs for caring people with dementia whittle away peoples saving.

The Conservative opposition will undoubtedly use the unelected house of lords to delay these bills ever becoming Acts of Parliaments.

The Conservatives have very different priorities, for example they have a commitment to give cuts in inheritance tax, this will benefit the top 4% of people in this country, or put another way 96% will not and people with estates of £5million will benefit by £520,000.

Personally, if I had been my speech, I would have included;

  1. Electoral reform and constitutional reform
  2. A windfall tax on excessive bank profits
  3. A massive national expansion in Council housing to replace one million lost properties over the previous 25 years
  4. The new banks created out of the banking crises should be mutual or cooperative companies

Just a thought.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


I attended a meeting today that started the process to appoint the next headteacher at Whitstone School.

The next headteacher will inherit a school that has just achieved the best GCSE results in the history of the school, a school that has a sound financial situation, a school with good facilities and committed members of staff.

It is clear that the new headteacher will have to continue the improvements that are underway at Whitstone, with the new challenges such as the new diplomas and the need to work in partnerships with other schools and agencies.

The school is committed to continual educational improvements, Whitstone is the number one choice your childs education.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Time to send a Message

In the last week, I have nominated a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) for an award, for his work in Shepton, that has help build the new BMX track at West Shepton Playing fields, reducing anti social behaviour at the Football club.

The Town Council also agree to nominate another PCSO for her outstanding work with our community.

The Shepton Partners And Communities Together (PACT) since it's inception has made advances in community issues; whether speeding traffic, anti social behaviour or facilities for the community. The PCSO's are in the vanguard of this work.

The other Saturday I was in the Town Centre around 10pm where the PCSO team were handling a vocal group of young people, confiscating alcohol from those youths.

PCSOs play an important and valued job within our Town, so for the Conservatives at County Hall to consider cutting £129,000 from the PCSO budget could effect the Town.

David Hanson MP the Home Office minister responsible for policing, shares these concerns, speaking in the Houses of Parliament this week he said "he was disappointed if the County Council was to reduce their contribution", he went on to say that PCSOs play an important role in reducing crime and anti social behaviour.

For more

If you share my concerns, I am sure your conservative County Councillor, Mrs Robinson would be delighted to hear from you.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

A Very Special Occasion

This evening I attended and spoke at the presentation evening at Whitstone School for the class of 2009.

This year group achieved the best results in Whitstone's history.

The school has received excellent leadership from Tony Wilson over the previous three and half years, we have two very good deputy headteachers that were crucial in the changes that were needed to get Whitstone in a position where over 60% of students are receiving 5 A* -C and 93% of students getting 5A* - G, meaning every student left Whitstone with a qualification and importantly boys and girls fared well.

Whitstone School is an excellent school, each faculty has a computer suite, the buildings and grounds are in good shape, we have excellent staff and we have enthusiastic young people, the governors constantly review how our students are performing.

The students that come to Whitstone deserve the best, I want them all the opportunities available, at Whitstone with hard work and commitment, Shepton's young people can lay there foundations for successful careers, if we do that, then we have all done our job.

Well done the class of 2009, you have done yourselves, your families and the Shepton area great credit.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Planning matters

Tonight the Shepton Town Councils planning committee met to discuss Barratt homes plans for the grassed area between Maxwell Road and the older persons bungalows in Pullen, Wainwright and Castle Courts.

I have in the past resisted any development of this land, it is my belief that this land is a green lung within the Town, especially as in the Local Development Framework there are plans for housing development on the Ridge Road.

This planning application wanted to build twenty houses, including two, three and four bedroom houses.

The complicating issue is that Maxwell Road is an unadopted public highway, the developers have promised to bring up that road to adoptable standard if this application is approved, then pass the road onto Somerset County Council.

I have some sympathy with those residents, but in my opinion, this planning application is over-development, one proposed property blocks access to a property in Maxwell Road, I have concerns about the amount of green space within the development and possible overlooking onto the older peoples bungalows.

The planning committee recommended refusal for the reasons stated, this recommendation will now go to Mendip District Council for a final decision.

The easy thing would be to have agreed with the Maxwell Road resident association, but I would hope a better proposal can be brought forward, that responds to the planning committees concerns.

Monday, 9 November 2009

I'm nominating PCSO Guy Dury

I have nominated Police Community Support Officer Guy Dury for the Avon and Somerset Police Services Community Policing Awards.

He has worked with Will Dunscombe and the Somerset Youth Service to upgrade the skate park at West Shepton playing fields to improve facilities and raise finance to build a new bmx track.

Guy Dury has built a strong multi agency partnership, encouraging young people to get involved, I believe his work deserves recognition, I hope you agree, you can visit the young people's web page, if you do agree, you can nominate Guy at

Sunday, 8 November 2009


I have just returned home from the Shepton service of remembrance at the cenotaph, a grey cold morning with chilly northerly breeze, despite this the service was extremely well attended once again.

We should never forget that War is horrible, with ordinary men doing extraordinary tasks. We should never forget the sacrifice of the fallen or the misery of the families that were left to deal with their loss.

This year, like years before our armed services are involved in the struggle for a normalised Afghanistan, we all are concerned for those service people and our thoughts with their families.

My Grandparents generation paid a high price for ignoring the threat of fascism in Germany in the 1930's, lets hope we do not ignore those same forces today.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A Better Day

Following the debacle of last evening, today another meeting, the monthly meeting of Shepton 21 the local regeneration partnership.

Much better news to report.

The Digital Arts Festival concluded on Saturday evening, it was very clear that this exciting event was extremely successful, young and old took part, I could spend a long time on this one, but it is better for you to visit their website on

The work continues on the new BMX track at the West Shepton Playing Fields, again their steering group has raised £50,000 for the track and new pieces of skateboard equipment. This multi agency project have done a great job for more visit

The new Shepton Amateur Gardening Group are holding their first meeting on Monday 9th November at Kilver Court at 7.00pm, all are welcome.

The Facelift Project, this is a project that grant aid shopkeepers to improve their buildings in the Town Centre, Number 59 and 69 High Street have had a grant, this work compliments the Townscape Heritage Initiative visit their site

The Tourist Information Centre is working extremely hard raising money to help fill the gap in their finances following Mendip District Council cuts, they have a couple of schemes you may be interested in; they have the Shepton Calenders and are running a Christmas draw, it is a hamper that will contain many goodies, including a mulberry bag and other donations from Sheptons quality shops, Shepton retail community supporting our Tourist Information Centre.

On another note, another disappointing evening for Liverpool Football Club, only getting a draw in Lyon, a beautiful goal by Ryan Babel, not enough (depression), looks increasingly likely that we will not progress this year from the group stage, when we walk through the storm, we'll hold head up high.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


After months and several meetings working up the Town Council budget for the next twelve months, this evening the Conservative group ripped up the council consensus and produced a new budget offering.

This was classic politicking in the first order, after putting a squeeze on expenditure and placing money already taken from the Shepton rate payer into reserves, they now plan to do even less for Shepton, damaging partners in the process.

Despite the Council agreeing to raise Allotment holders rent substantially, the Conservatives plan only to do a third what is required on the towns allotments.

The Council had planned to improve the bedding schemes and start a rolling programme of replacing litter bins in Collett Park with a more robust type, the Conservatives plan to cut this budget by a third, without explaining the consequences, so we don't know what will be reduced, despite asking our contractor to draw up planting schemes.

The Shepton in Bloom committee are looking to introduce new hanging basket holders and new planters, there also is work needed on the street furniture, much is dirty and needs repainting, again the Conservatives cut this to a third of anticipated expenditure.

After the recent debacle of the Conservative Mendip District Council cutting the fiances to the Tourist Information Centres, the Town Council representatives asked for more money, so the Community development group recommended an increase to £5000, but those Conservatives thought a double dose was required and cut the grant to £3600.

The Police Support officer requested that a speed indicator device should be purchased for the Old Wells Road, the Community development group agreed, but those Conservatives decided, that despite police and residents concerns, they would just remove the budget.

This years stunning digital arts festival received a £1000 grant from the Town Council, Shepton leading the way in new technology, experts in the field did workshops, again the Community development group wanted to support this unique festival, but the Conservatives just removed the funding, so no grant next year.

Shepton 21, the local regeneration partnership asked for funding for a project to supply perspex A5 flyer stands and to produce high quality flyers to advertise events going on in the Town, this is important as there always seems be an information deficit in the Town, this scheme cost £1500, the Conservatives decided to give just £500.

The Council gives money to community groups, and to earmark money for community projects this amounts to about £7000, but this has been cut by the Conservatives to £4800.

Shepton Mallet Town Council will use £17,500 from reserves and keep a similar for next year, so in fact the Town rate payers are giving an interest free loan for the Conservatives election strategy.

Still one good piece of news, I managed to persuade the Council to use the interest from our capital fund to replace the old fashioned workings of the Town Clock for a new electrified motor, instead of waiting three years under the Conservative proposals to replace, we can now move with speed, and once again our Town Clock will be working.

The Conservative budget was a classic bodge job, trying to look like there doing something, but with a stroke fundamentally undermining project after project. Like the Conservatives nationally, they confuse political strategy with sensible policy, still we'll get another year of being moribund.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Public Service

This week we saw further evidence that the former public utilities are abandoning their commitment to public service.

BT has offered the three remaining red telephone kiosks, at Cannards Grave Road, Charlton Road and outside the Downside Inn to the Town Council for them to adopt, this with the clear intention of removing these payphone kiosks from service.

Whilst it may be that these payphone kiosks do not receive heavy use, two of the three are on the edges of Town, these serve an important public service in a semi-rural setting.

The A37 has been labelled a Red Route by Somerset County Council, this is because this road has a high level of serious and fatal accidents at various junctions, the Downside payphone kiosk is 100 yards from one of these junctions, so one day, this payphone kiosk could be of critical importance.

Over the previous decade, BT has tried to remove several payphone kiosks in the Town, BT has removed 31,000 payphone kiosks nationally in that period.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The First Post

This is my first post.

The blog will be my take/thoughts on my part of the world, but I will concentrate on;
  • British Politics
  • Society, including my 'Parish pump'
  • Sport in general
  • Comment on football

The Shepton Mallet Digital Arts Festival is happening this week, worth a look!