Double By-election Success!

In an unusually high turnout for local by-elections Tom Deakin, 26, today [07/10/20201] won the Wilton and Sherford seat on Somerset West and Taunton council becoming the LibDems’ newest and the district’s youngest councillor, in the early hours of this morning. 

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The Government's announcement of a 1% pay rise for NHS staff is pitiful given all that the NHS has done during the pandemic.

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Excluded and Forgotten

Helen Heyns of Love Lifestyle

Above: Helen Heyns of Love Lifestyle, a home relocation and decluttering service. Her business has been impacted hugely by Coronavirus but she has received no financial support. The business is close to closing.

Millions excluded from Coronavirus support

Coronavirus has hit people hard across the country. Financial support from the Government has helped many, but the Government has unfairly excluded thousands of local people, largely self-employed and small business owners, from receiving financial support during the Pandemic. Many people have sadly lost their jobs and many small businesses are closing, in a time when things are more difficult for everyone.

The new organisation Excluded UK has estimated that 10% of the country’s workforce were unable to access meaningful support and so fell through the cracks of the system. These were often the people who needed help the most. As of the writing of this paper, the Government has still not provided any support to these hard working people. We believe that the exclusion of these people from financial support during Coronavirus is hugely damaging both to the economy and people’s lives. Supporting them would be a good start to an economic recovery after Coronavirus.

The Government and councils need to work hard to ensure that our economy recovers quickly once Coronavirus is out of the way. This country needs more jobs and support quickly for the millions of people who have suffered as a result of Coronavirus.

Conservative Council Chaos

Somerset Count Hall Building

After bringing the County Council to the brink of bankruptcy, the Conservatives now want to introduce a single council to cover all of Somerset. This would mean each councillor represents TWICE as many residents.

The Liberal Democrats have criticised the Conservatives for firing the starting gun on local government reform during the pandemic when councils had important new work to do. In Somerset, the Councils were, until recently, collaborating on how best to reform local government structure. The Conservative County administration walked away from negotiations, and decided to push ahead and publish its business case during the Coronavirus Pandemic. The District Councils, including Conservative Sedgemoor, have rejected these plans and published their own ‘Stronger Somerset’ proposal for two councils, East and West Somerset. These proposals help to reform local government without harming democratic accountability like the Conservative plans.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Conservatives are pushing ahead with their plan in order to cover up their financial mismanagement of the County Council. In November, the County Council asked the Government to cancel the planned elections next May, if they can abolish themselves before the next set of elections, and raid the District Council coffers while they are at it, then they can distract from them running the Council finances into the ground. We believe this is the wrong action at the wrong time.


Free School Meals U-Turn

Child with bowl

The Government was forced to make an embarrassing U-turn on Free School Meals in November this year following a huge amount of pressure from footballer Marcus Rashford, supported by the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives had previously refused to extend Free School Meals to cover the school holidays for the duration of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Coronavirus has had a significant impact on people’s livelihoods with many people losing jobs and burning through their savings. Free School Meals are a lifeline for many families who would otherwise struggle to afford to feed their children. The Government stubbornly refused to provide this additional support until the pressure from the country became too much and they fortunately changed their minds.

Meanwhile, after Lib Dem pressure, Somerset County Council allocated £125,000 to feed the over 8000 Somerset children eligible for Free School Meals during the October half term. However, we recently discovered that they failed to spend even a penny of that allocation. The Lib Dems called on the Conservatives to step up over the Christmas holidays and we will be checking that they followed through.