Chris Inchley for Somerset County, Mendip District and Shepton Town Council’s
I spent my life in Shepton, attending Waterloo, St Paul’s School and Whitstone Schools. I have been lucky to work in Shepton since I left school.
I have had the privilege to represent Shepton Mallet as a Town Councillor and being Chairman on two occasions.
For the past four years, I have represented the Town Council on the Citizens Advice Bureau management committee and the In Bloom Committee; I also chaired the Cenotaph enhancement scheme.
I am a governor at Whitstone school, I have just become the chair of the Leisure Centre Committee, learning about the investment required at the centre, and this will be very challenging in the coming years.
The most important qualities of your representatives must be reliable and most importantly honesty.
I have had a very good attendance at Town Council, unlike Conservative members forcing four by-elections in the last four years at Town, District and County Councils.
Twelve months ago at the General election, all political parties were opposed to cuts in frontline public services, opposed VAT increases, opposed hikes in Tuition fees and cuts to the Educational Maintenance Allowance, no Party supported the top down fundamental reform of the National Health Service, all these proposals were never put to voters. These were the hidden agendas of the Conservatives and lib dems.
As of the 5 April 2011 the average family will be £1736 worse off because of tax, tax credits changes (i).
I genuinely believe in locally accountable affordable housing, I am deeply depressed by the governments housing policies; cuts to public housing building grants, housing benefit changes that effect single under 35 year olds and forcing local housing providers to charge 80% of the private housing rates, with less secure tenancies, a safe secure home should be a human right and is the basis of security and freedom. That is why I will work to achieve more affordable housing for Shepton.
The most pernicious cuts this government are making is to legal aid, this will effect people with complex housing and welfare problems, those with employment tribunal issues, giving vulnerable people less protection against powerful people and agencies. Justice should be for All.
In Shepton there is a real challenge to improve the educational attainment of our young people; the focus has to on raising aspiration and improvements to teaching and learning.
I believe schools should work together sharing expertise, I reject this governments policies on free schools and opting out from the local authority family of schools. The OECD has stated that the Education Maintenance Allowance is good for economic growth, yet the Conservative and Lib Dem government will cut money to young people of modest income.
Young people have been at the forefront of the government cuts, with tuition fee increases, cut to EMA, Future for job fund, locally we have seen 75% cuts to the youth service, 100% cuts to the Arts.
Young and old will be affected by the cuts to local bus services, Shepton effectively cut off after 6.00pm in the evening and on Sundays, your local County Councillor must find a solution to this, we must also re-route a Bristol bus through Shepton. Central government has also cut the subsidy for bus pass users from 64p a ticket to 32p, a further cost of operating bus services.
Why is it Shepton Police station has been closed? This is a frontline service that no other Town will endure in the Mendip district, the County Council has cut it’s funding for the PCSO by virtually 100%, this will have a negative impact on policing in our community.
I remember standing in the cold last New Years Eve with people queuing to sign the Town’s petition to Save our Library, there was an universal revulsion of the loss of our Library, Shepton spoke as one, Libraries should not be closed, free access to books is essential in a civilised society, despite this victory, there is still a 20% cut in this vital Shepton Library service.
We have seen countless cuts made at brake neck speed, with little consultation and no planning, these cuts are like watching a car crash, slash and burn forced by the government grant settlement, these cuts will be seen to be too hard too fast. Whilst our services are being culled, Somerset County Council is employing a Consultant at £800 a day for six months.
I want to see the regeneration of the High Street; the District Council has sat on a budget for an Urban Design Statement for three years, now this study is complete this has to followed through with ruthless efficiency, in those lost three years countless opportunities must have been missed.
The Urban Design statement includes resurfacing of the Town Street area, improved lighting, better street furniture and more events to increase footfall, I would add better business support is required.
The Little Ostry and Petticoat Lane area needs to be regenerated, Councils should use all the tools available to them to get this area developed, the Conservative administration was criticised by the Audit Commission for their planning service not helping our local economy through the recession, Little Ostry is a classic example.
Mendip and the County Council need to be more active in the growth of new businesses, including land for business units and employment.
Shepton has a wonderful landscape, the canopy of trees and green spaces, planning decisions needs to respect Shepton’s environment, that’s why I will work to defend the green areas at West Shepton Playing Fields and the Showfield at Cannards Grave Road.
New housing has to fit sympathetically within the environment.
My promise to the elector is simple, I will work hard for you, I will put Shepton first, and I will work with other councillors of the elector’s choice and most importantly the residents to make Shepton better.