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Yeovil meeting overwhelmed and adjourned

A Yeovil Town Council meeting scheduled for this evening (3 October) had to be adjourned.

With just one item on the agenda, councillors might have been expecting a brief meeting in front of the traditional one person and their dog.

That the meeting was to discuss future funding for the Octagon Theatre project probably made a difference.

Due to start at 7.00pm, by 6.45 there were fifty people trying to get in. Fifty plus were already in the council chamber. Members of the press and Somerset Councillor Adam Dance were also unable to get in.

At ten past seven Cllr Graham Oakes appeared in the car park. Everyone who had been inside was ushered out. It was all a bit messy. Having attended many different council meetings in many different venues, your humble correspondent can confirm having it in a car park was a first.

Standing on a wall to make himself seem and heard, Cllr Oakes explained all. The meeting would be adjourned. Nobody had anticipated the level of interest in the future of the Octagon Theatre. It simply wasn’t possible to accommodate everyone who had turned up.

Cllr Oakes explained:”Tonight’s meeting will not happen. It will be rearranged in the near future. The meeting will effectively be adjourned. Next time we will find a bigger space.”

Town clerk Amanda Card reminded everyone: “no decision would have been given tonight anyway. It was simply a chance to investigate the options for the town council.”

But as Cllr Oakes made clear one of those options would be for Yeovil Town Council to provide funds directly to the Octagon project.

Oh well- until the next time!

Poll gives LibDems 3 seats in Somerset

A new poll by Stonehaven offers an interesting insight into the political map of Somerset. The poll is one of the first we have seen that uses the new constituency boundaries.

The predictions are surprising in some places and less so in others. With the new constituency boundaries in place our patch will include seven constituencies (replacing the previous five). These are Frome, Bridgwater, Wells and Mendip Hills, Glastonbury & Somerton, Yeovil, Taunton & Wellington and Tiverton & Minehead.

The predictions are interesting in as much as they throw out a few surprises. Though no one will be surprised to see that Tiverton & Minehead is being called for the Conservatives. They have already selected the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, Ian Liddell-Grainger. The suggested winning margin though is less than 1,000 votes.

More of a surprise perhaps is that Tessa Munt is predicted to lose out to James Heappey in Wells and Mendip Hills. The predicted margin is again tight just some 1,500 votes. What seems to us to be spurious, is the prediction that Labour will get 11,000 votes in a seat they have never been serious players. There is yet to be a Labour candidate declared for the constituency.

In Yeovil it may be unfair to suggest that calling the seat for sitting MP Marcus Fysh is a surprise. However that said his own party tried to deselect him and he is facing a popular and young LibDem rival in Adam Dance. Stonehaven call it for the Conservatives with a margin of 1,500 votes.

Equally odd is the suggestion that traditionally Labour Bridgwater will also be retained by the Conservatives. Their candidate is Bristol based Sir Ashley Fox. Labour have yet to select their candidate. Even so the predicted margin of in excess of 6,000 votes seems especially surprising.

Having just won Somerton & Frome for the LibDems, the seat will disappear at the next election. It is not yet clear if Ms Dyke will go for either Frome or Glastonbury & Somerton. However both are called for the LibDems in this latest poll, so perhaps it won’t matter.

However Faye Purbrick, who lost out in Somerton & Frome is definitely standing for Glastonbury & Somerton for the Conservatives. She will be disappointed by polling that suggest she would lose by over 6,000 votes. But given the result in Somerton & Frome, you can’t rule it out as a surprise prediction.

Much of the excitement caused by the poll amongst LibDems has been the possible defeat of Rebecca Pow in Taunton & Wellington. The Stonehaven poll suggests a nearly 2,000 vote win for LibDem candidate Gideon Amos. Ms Pow is a Minister of State at DEFRA has been involved in the sewage outlet issue. That said once again the Labour vote figure looks suspiciously high at 10,000 in a seat where they have not done well for a long while. Mr Amos who shares his rival’s love of publicity was quick to jump on the polling figures. Mr Amos said: “The Conservative Government has taken the votes of people in Taunton and Wellington for granted and run vital services into the ground. People write to me about the delays in treatment, the impossibility of seeing an NHS dentist, soaring prices and mortgages and filthy sewage being pumped into the Tone. This poll shows the momentum is with the Liberal Democrats in Taunton and Wellington.”

Mr Amos has been knocking on the door at both the 2017 and 2019 elections steadily building his vote and support. With Ms Pow a member of an unpopular government, this result would not be a massive surprise.

The Frome seat though is a surprise. There’s always been a strong Green and Labour vote in Frome and 4 of the 6 Somerset Councillors are currently Greens. Also the new constituency will take in the traditionally Labour mining areas of Radstock and Midsomer Norton. The pollsters though see it as a three way slog between Conservatives (14,300), Labour (11,400) and Lib Dems (19,100). Certainly the Labour vote in Somerton & Frome collapsed after local candidate Sean Dromgoole was deselected, but this will be a seat that Labour will hope to do much better in. The Green Party are also predicted to do well with over 6,000 votes, which given their strength in Frome could well be an underestimate.

Of course a poll is just a poll. But this is interesting stuff and if accurate would see our 7 constituencies split 4 Conservative and 3 LibDem. There’s a long way to go before we find out for real though.

Fire at Taunton Recycling centre

Fire fighters were called to a blaze at the recycling centre at Priorswood, Taunton, in the early hours of this morning. This was a major fire with up to 60 firefighters were involved at the peak of the blaze. The fire started in the Materials Recovery Facility where recycling is sorted for sending out to be reprocessed.

At this stage the cause is not known.

The recycling centre will be shut all day today (3 October). The Nerrols School nearby has also been closed for the day because of the large amount of smoke from the fire.

Residents are advised to delay any planned visits to the Priorswood site or consider alternatives. The details of other recycling sites and their opening hours can be found here:

Assault in Chard

Police are asking witnesses to come forward after a man was assaulted in Chard last month.

On Sunday 17 September between 1-2am, the victim and his wife were walking along Boden Street. A car pulled up and got the victim’s attention.

A man from inside the car then assaulted the victim, a man in his 50s, causing possible life-changing injuries to his eye. The victim was taken to hospital for treatment and has since been discharged.

The suspect is described as white, in his early 20s, with dark hair that is longer and wavy on top and short on the sides. He was said to be wearing dark clothing.

If you have any information, or witnessed anything, please contact 101 and quote reference 5223226709.

Roadworks return to Bruton

Somerset Council’s highways team are returning to Bruton next month. They will be resurfacing a section of the B3081, Station Road. the work was originally planned for the summer so that everything could be done in one hit.

It didn’t work out that way. Councillor Mike Rigby is Somerset Council’s Executive Lead Member for Transport and Digital. He explains: “This section of resurfacing was originally due to be carried during the summer but we had some challenges which impacted on that earlier scheme, so a decision was taken to stagger the remainder of the work and return at a later date. We hope that doing this essential resurfacing under an evening closure on weekdays reduces disruption on the network, but please ensure you plan ahead. Thanks to everyone in and around Bruton for their patience. ”

The preparatory work is due to start on Monday 16 October and will last until Friday 20 October. During this period the road will be closed between 6.30pm and 11.30pm each evening. The road will then be closed between 6.30pm and 11.30pm from Monday 23 October for three evenings so the resurfacing can be finished as safely and efficiently as possible.

The Highways team say that the road will be open 24/7 on weekends. It will also remain open outside the hours of closure on weekdays to minimise disruption as much as possible. Access for residents and businesses in the immediate area will be maintained throughout and a diversion will be in place.

The scheme is the final part of a comprehensive maintenance programme for the town.

Accident near Templecombe

A man was airlifted to hospital after a collision on the A357 at around 8.15 this morning (28 September). The collision happened at Horsington near Templecombe. He was riding a black Suzuki Bandit 600cc motorbike which collided with a wall and then a grey Kia Picanto. The woman driver of the Kia was uninjured. However the motorcyclist’s condition is currently described as potentially life-threatening. His next of kin are aware.

The road has been shut all day to allow accident investigators to do their work. It is expected to reopen soon.

Police are keen to hear from anyone who saw either vehicle in the moments before the collision, or who has any dashcam or other footage which could help. Please call 101 and give the reference 5223236553.

Somerton and Wincanton Police initiative for women

Avon & Somerset Police have launched a pilot ‘Walk and talk’ initiative in Somerset. The scheme was introduced by Police Sergeant Roseanna Green from the Wincanton and Somerton Neighbourhood Team. The intention is to build trust between the force and women residents. It also seeks to help the police to understand which areas women do not feel comfortable or safe in. 

The force is inviting women aged 18 and above who live in Somerset to get in touch. They will be paired with a female officer to take a walk at a mutually convenient time. The walks are flexible and will last around 30 minutes, they can take place any time of day. That includes early morning or evening as these are often times when women feel most vulnerable.

Members of the public are also encouraged to report areas in which they feel unsafe via StreetSafe. This is a website and phone app: StreetSafe | ( People can report either environmental or behavioural issues in their local communities that lead to them feeling vulnerable or unsafe. These will be fed back to the police to look at what they can do, along with partner agencies, to improve women’s safety on our streets.

Police Sergeant Roseanna Green said: “We know there are women out there who don’t feel completely safe walking the streets. We want those women to know what we will listen and that we are committed to doing all we can to make our streets safer. We want to take the time to have a proper conversation and build an understanding of the concerns and worries that women and girls are facing in our communities to help us bring some positive and proactive change on our streets.”

People want their GPs back

A survey commissioned from YouGov has looked at people’s attitudes to their local GP. Commissioned by the Rebuild General Practice campaign the results gave clear messages. To be honest the messages would surprise no-one – except of course government and the Department of Health. It follows up nicely on t6he lead story in the September edition of The Leveller® “The Doctor Won’t See You Now”

The messages from the survey are:

  • Nine in ten value having a GP who can offer long-term support for their medical conditions (95%)
  • patients also value elements of general practice such as being listened to (97%) – so not five minue appointments
  • and being seen in a friendly environment (90%) – arguably not in portacabins
  • it is important that they see the same GP each time they visit their local surgery (56%)
  • patients (55%) would prefer to visit their GP for a minor ailment. As opposed to other primary and secondary
    care services like A&E (4%) or walk-in centres (18%).

The message from GPs is not surprising either. They say there is a crisis in general practice caused by lack of funding. Added to a failure to retain doctors in the profession. Which in turn leads to an inability to deliver the continuous, community-centred care patients want.

Responding to the results, Dr Justin Geddes Medical Director of the Somerset LMC commented: “We welcome this survey. General Practices in Somerset continue to adapt to overwhelming pressures every day to provide the very best service we can. We want to be able to give and receive the best care possible. We recognise the value we bring when we can do our job and want our doctors to be central to leading healthcare in our communities.”

Of those who said it was important to see the same doctor every time, 74% said this was because they didn’t need to explain their medical history each time. While 55% said they believed this would mean more accurate diagnoses. Oddly it appears that it is the patients, not NHS England, that recognise the efficiencies in that system.

Octagon Theatre project on hold

The project to refurbish and extend the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil is to be put in hold. The Theatre closed in May but since then no actual renovation work has taken place.

Instead Somerset Council have had contractors carry out “detailed and intrusive survey work.”

This was required to prepare a more detailed contractor’s specification for the next phase of works. Which could of course mean new costs will be identified as a result.

However the real problem with the project has been South Somerset District Council’s obsession with short term d borrowing. The project finances relied heavily on borrowing over £16m at an assumed interest rate in the order of 2-3%.

With the rise in interest rates in recent months this model is unlikely to be economically viable. The interest repayable was to be offset by ticket sales revenue.

Without significant hikes in ticket prices, that model is unsustainable at current interest rates.

Officers are apparently speaking to funding partners to update them on progress. Shorthand for if they can forward larger grants.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had announced a grant of £10m towards the development.

SWT – No Somerset trains on strike days

SWT has provided an update on the latest round of industrial action. This follows a failure to negotiate further with ASLEF to resolve their ongoing pay dispute. The last time the rail companies agreed to meet the unions was in April. Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, said: “While we regret having to take this action – we don’t want to lose a day’s pay, or disrupt passengers, as they try to travel by train – the government, and the employers, have forced us into this position. Our members have not, now, had a pay rise for four years – since 2019 – and that’s not right when prices have soared in that time. Train drivers, perfectly reasonably, want to be able to buy now what they could buy four years ago.”

The latest set of industrial action will be as follows:

  • Friday 29 September – overtime ban
  • Saturday 30 September – strike action
  • Monday 2 October – overtime ban
  • Tuesday 3 October – overtime ban
  • Wednesday 4 October – strike action
  • Thursday 5 October – overtime ban
  • Friday 6 October – overtime ban

On Strike days SWT have confirmed they will be running no train services through Somerset. All services through Templecombe, Yeovil Junction and Crewkerne will be cancelled. No SWT services will use Yeovil Penn Mill, Bruton, Castle Cary or Frome.

On non strike days the overtime ban could result in cancellations. However SWT say their services for those days will be up to date by 27 September. Please check their updated timetables before you travel.

Stuart Meek, South Western Railway’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “I’m sorry to say that, due to industrial and strike action by the ASLEF union over the next two weeks, we will be forced to make changes to our timetables. We will run an extremely limited service on both Saturday 30 September and Wednesday 4 October and our advice to customers is to only travel if their journeys are absolutely necessary. While we will run as many services as possible on days subject to overtime bans, our advice to customers is to check before travelling.”

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