Wheels keep turning in Wells

Wells City Council is the only one of its kind in Somerset. But finding councillors to stay the course is proving tricky. John Osman has been granted 6 months leave of absence. But Mr Osman is an experienced councillor who will no doubt be back in due course.

But keeping a full council has proved tricky. A full slate of councillors are elected every four years. So we had an election for all the seats on the council in May 2019.

Yet barely a year later in May 2020 we had three resignations and new elections for councillors in St Cuthbert and St Thomas Wards

By May 2021 another four councillors had resigned and we had elections to fill four vacancies in Central Ward, St Cuthbert’s Wars and St Thomas’s Ward.

Then following Cllr Parker’s resignation earlier this year a by election was called for 13 July (next week). This will be a three way race between Wells independents (Denise Ann Dennis), LibDems (Tony Robbins) and Conservatives (Mandy May Thomas-Atkin.

So a full house once again? Er no. Because another councillor has resigned. This time it is Deputy Mayor Oliver Hartley. He has resigned for personal reasons. And that is fair enough.

We acknowledge that sometimes your workload changes, sickness strikes or family circumstances change. There can be plenty of perfectly valid reasons why a candidate who thought he had the time to serve the council, simply gets blindsided by the events that life can throw at you.

But Wells City Council has been unlucky with the high turnover of councillors. Holding elections to elect new councillors is expensive. Of course as many will say, the price of democracy is worth paying.

Being a councillor is a thankless task. You can be publicly criticised, you don’t get paid and there is an awful lot of work to get through. It is worth bearing all of those things in mind before standing as a councillor.

The high turnover of councillors serves no-one well. Certainly not taxpayers who are paying every few months for another set of elections.


  • I like to think the council at Wells.
    Is really a parish council,with a Royal Charter, granted by the Queen.
    That followed the last local government reorganization in 1974
    When most power were striped a way, and handed to Mendip District Council.
    It is a pity the people stood in the 2019 election.
    Did not do their homework,all these bye elections have cost nearly £20,000
    Payable by the Wells CC (parish council)
    Funds that could have been better speed.
    This is what happens when a parish has four policital parties

  • Good afternoon Andrew,

    I found your recent ‘Wheels keep turning in Wells’ article really interesting. I thought that, as the fourth member of the May 2019 Wells City Council to resign – after Andrew Fawcett, Geoff Dickson, and Tony Robbins – I should get in touch. I gave a full account of my reasons for going, to avoid any ‘scuttle-butt’, but also just to be open and transparent, what the community (rightly!) expects of its Councillors.

    As you know, whenever a Councillor resigns, their replacement will either (a) be co-opted by the rest of the Wells City Council or, if a certain number of signatures are received, (b) be by-elected. It is well-known in Wells that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties nearly always call for by-elections, as the more democratic option – but each by-election costs Wells about £4,000. This weighed very heavily with me – it is not a decision I would have made in any other circumstances.

    This is also the reason I would also not put myself forward as a candidate to be re-elected during the current four year period. I have already cost approximately £4,000 – I think that would be adding insult to injury!
    Given the unusual turnover of Wells City Councillors lately, I wanted to flag up that a more time- and cost-effective approach might be to co-opt new Councillors, until the scheduled local government elections in May 2023 take place. Candidates could still come forward from all parties or interest groups for co-options in between.

    Remember, Wells is a parish council and until the decision as to whether Somerset becomes a unitary authority is made, it will remain one, exactly like all the other parish councils in the area. The main difference between them, is that Wells has got a lot more property – which seems to be on the increase too. On which note, maybe a comparison of rates bills with other parish councils within Mendip might make for interesting reading…

    Kind regards,

    Celia Wride
    645th Mayor of the City of Wells
    Councillor for West Ward, St. Cuthbert Out Parish Council

  • “TALE/TAIL OF TWO PARISHES”! (Wells v St Cuthbert Out )


    LD:482, WI:348. CON: 174

    The olde ‘adage’ resonates ‘chickens coming home to roost’. A successor, the 645th Mayor of this ‘acien regime’ has spurred me to contribute to the ‘contemporary’ Wells City Council (parish-governance.) We witness pace the LG Reorganisation of 1974 (always commence at ‘root’) the abandonment of the former Urban & Rural Councils, which had served the communities well (my clear recollection of Honoured Freeman, Douglas Cursley) sometime Town Clerk, advising the ‘rent’ arrears at transference to Mendip District Council around £100 and in the event a ‘holistic’ personal approach to ‘citizens’ concerns, validated with those ‘elected’ members, wholly dedicated to ‘service’ across the community, without regard to ‘doctrinaire’ party politics. Many of us can reflect, pace Alderman Webster many an ‘independent’ spirit; the subsequent ‘rampant’ emergence of ‘political’ labels of the 80s enjoined by the then ‘national’ parties; the writer witness to a dearth of ‘prospective’ candidates and the ‘coercion’ of individuals to contest as ‘paper-candidates’ thus becoming elected with no raison d’etre.

    Fast forward to the third millennium the ’emergent’ Community Investment Companies (CICs) with no ‘democratic’ mandate, masquerading as an ‘Independent’ Party (neither fish nor fowl) a travesty, as articulated by a previous correspondent, a disdain of the National Code of Local Government Conduct, pace Nolan. Interestingly the two local ‘minor’ parish councils ‘chalk & cheese’ the former, shenanigans at Wells Town Hall over latter years; the ‘co-opted’ members of the ‘peripatetic’ 17 member, St Cuthbert’s Out to be emulated.

    Of course, those of us with memories, the ‘departure’ of a ‘former’ Town Clerk (Wells Journal, 1 October 2009: ‘Town clerk quits’.) therein to follow the ’emasculation’ of our Mid Somerset Newspapers, circa 1851 without a ‘whimper’ from any of the ‘tiers’ of local governance, former editors/journalist etc and HMG deferring, pace the Cairncross Review to the ‘ether’ of the House of Lords! History does repeat, in the emergence of the Pamphleteers of which the LEVELLER to achieve within a ‘decennial’ Somersets ‘largest’ circulation newspaper, forensic in its local governance reporting. ‘Journalism’ reminiscent to that of Honoured Freeman, Michael Chamberlain, the bench-mark to his former ‘apprentices’.

    The writer attempting without ‘success’ to ‘lobby’ the nine Somerset MPs of whom James Heappey MP an ‘undertaking’ for the return of the Mid Somerset Series ‘archive’ in its entirety to Wells Museum; our local custodian, now therein a ‘worthy’ cause for ‘both’ minor-authorities? Paradoxically HMG to the ‘fore’ in the ‘propaganda-war’ with China v Hong Kong, in the demise of its local ‘daily’ newspaper, readily acquiescence in the ‘corporate’ annihilation of our local newspapers.*

    In a testimonial on my behalf the late ‘lamented’ Sir Christopher Clarke OBE, asserted “In contrast to his style and civic responsibility, I often found other members of the City Council aloof, preoccupied with the ceremonial rather than the practical and unwilling to engage openly and fully with others. I am not surprised if Councillor Livings has found it difficult to get attention to serious issues”.

    The writer lived in the Cheshire ‘parish’ of Handforth, sometime, recently ‘immortalised’ across the national media; replicated here in Wells!

    “Ich Dien”!

    *ISBN 978 1 78239 970 4 MAILMEN: Adrian Addison

    1953 ‘Publish & Be Dammed: Hugh Cudlipp


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