Category Archives: Uncategorized

Brief return for former Somerset leader

Yesterday there was a by election for Mendip District Council (MDC) ward of Butleigh and Baltonsborough. The successful candidate will barely get their feet under the desk before the council is abolished in April next year. But even so there has to be a by-election because the rules say there must be one.

The vacancy was caused by the death of Nigel Woollcombe-Adams. Mr Woollcombe-Adams was a long serving councillor (35 years is long serving in most people’s books). As well as being a former Deputy Leader of MDC, he was a Cabinet Member, and former Chair of the Planning Board.  He was also a former Somerset County Council member.

The by election saw former Somerset County Council Leader, Ken Maddock, retain the seat for the Conservatives. Mr Maddock resigned as Leader of the council in 2012 to stand in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. He lost out to Independent candidate, Sue Mountstevens.

Mr Maddock now returns briefly to local government. He won the by election – but only just. Liberal Democrat Claire Sully, who is now the county councillor for the area lost out by just 4 votes.

The full result:

  • Ken Maddock, Conservative – 393 (ELECTED)
  • Claire Sully, Liberal Democrat – 389

Another clerk leaves Chard

The town council meeting for Chard was cancelled this week at short notice. Scheduled for Tuesday 4 October, the meeting had to be called off after the clerk, Paul Russell, resigned. Mr Russell had been Town Clerk since 2022.

There seems to be a problem with clerks at Chard Town Council. By our count there have now been 9 town clerks in the space of ten years. No-one stays in post very long.

That leaves two possibilities. One that the selection process for town clerks is flawed and they keep choosing the wrong candidates. Or two, there’s something toxic in the working environment for the town clerk.

Whichever the answer is, it is not encouraging for the town’s taxpayers.

Update

Since writing this piece we have received a lot of information from the public about bullying behaviour surrounding certain members of the town council .

The Leveller would like to hear from anyone – in strict confidence – who can offer more evidence of this sort of behaviour.

We would also like to hear from people who complained to the Monitoring Officer at SSDC.

Please contact us at levellereditor@gmail.com

Death after Cannington collision

Police were called to the Cannington Bypass at around 6.20am today (Wednesday 5 October). This followed reports of a serious collision between a car and a motorcycle. Sadly, the motorcyclist died at the scene. Specially trained officers are now supporting the family during this time and our thoughts are with them.

The road was closed while emergency services attended. It has since reopened.

Avon & Somerset Police are now appealing for witnesses. Did you see the collision? Do you have dashcam or ring doorbell footage that could help? If so, please contact the Police on 101 and quote reference 5222239417.

Controversy stalks new Taunton council

Last week a long meeting of Somerset West & Taunton Council presented proposals for a new town council. Th efinal proposals come at the end of a long Community Governance Review process. Although many like the idea per se, a large number of residents do not like the specific proposals put forward. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure those who did not like the proposals had their say. They did. The meeting lasted nearly three hours. However at the end the proposals were voted through by the LibDem majority.

Today the same proposals came to Somerset County Council for ratification. This was a much shorter meeting with little time for public representation.

Not everyone is happy. Notably Cheddon Fitzpaine. The parish council will lose chunks of the parish to the new town council. Despite widespread and vocal opposition to the changes, they felt the views they put forward were ignored.

And in today’s meeting the Conservative block complained about debate being curtailed. Legal advice about the way in which the Community Governance review had reach its decision was important to the decision. Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr David Fothergill requested the legal advice be given to all Councillors. This had been given to members of the Executive the night before the Extraordinary Meeting of the County Council. However, there were no copies ready for Councillors to receive prior to debate of the item.

Extensive debate followed but all held in camera. When council reconvened in public session, Cllr G Oaks and Lock of Yeovil proposed that the Council move forward with the vote. All Liberal Democrat Councillors, excluding Cllr V Keitch of Ilminster, voted to move on from public debate.

Representatives of Cheddon Fitzpaine who had come to hear the debate were disappointed.

When put to the vote, it was passed by the full council.

SCC noted that the commitment to a Town Council for Taunton was made in the business case for the new, unitary council in Somerset. Both the district and county councils worked in partnership to deliver shared pledges on creating the new Town Council.

A Shadow Taunton Town Council will be established to lead and oversee the work to establish the new council. Robes, chains and other regalia associated with Taunton’s Mayor will be transferred to the Town Council. In future the council’s chair will take on the role of Mayor.

The first elections for the 20 councillors to the new council for Taunton will be held on the first Thursday in May in 2023.

4 days of strikes on Somerset buses

RMT Union members working on buses in Somerset will take strike action from 10 October. they are fighting for better pay and conditions. Four days of strike action will take place on the following dates:

  • 10 October
  • 21 October
  • 4 November
  • 11 November

Around 400 workers are planning to take action in Somerset and in a similar action in Cornwall too. They are furious that many of them are only paid just over £11 an hour and have only offered a small uprate to £12 an hour. At the same time they note that First Group paid out £500m to shareholders in 2021/22. First Group is the company that run Somerset’s buses. The RMT state that First also made an operating profit of £226m.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Our members have no choice but to take strike action following an insulting and paltry pay offer. The public in Cornwall and Somerset who our members faithfully serve need a service that pays workers properly, so they do not leave the industry, creating chronic bus shortages. We are determined to win for our members, and we urge First Group to come to a negotiated settlement with RMT.”

This will be disappointing to Somerset County Council (SCC) who have recently launched a big campaign to persuade people to use the buses more often. SCC are caught in the middle. The services are provided by First and the union members are First employees.

A38 collision Wellington

Police are appealing for witnesses to a collision which took place last week.

A silver Toyota Yaris was involved in a collision in Nowers Lane on the A38 south of Rockwell Green. They believe the collision happened at about 8.15pm on Friday 30 September. The driver, a man in his 50s, was taken to hospital where he remains in a critical, but stable, condition.

Police are seeking witnesses, or dashcam footage from other motorists in the area at the time. If you can help then please call 101 and quote reference number 5222236015.

Chinnock Hollow meeting (again)

Chinnock Hollow has been closed since 21 February 2021 following a significant landslide. That involved 20 tonnes of rock and sand as well as a large tree descending on the road. The debris rolled down the side of the 12-metre wall of the hollow, burying part of the road below. This followed a less serious incident just a week before.

Immediately after the landslip an investigation was launched into the likely causes. Actions needed to secure the road and potential hazards were also investigated. This included an in-depth engineering report which in turn revealed the substantial risk of another landslide.

Two public meetings were held in which the county council was castigated for inaction. Local residents complained at the problems caused by the extended road closure.

Now there has been a change of power at County Hall. Some of the most prominent critics of the council’s inaction, are now actually part of the administration.

So local people may be interest in a meeting called for 12 October. It will be held at 7.00pm at in East Chinnock at Cott Farm Barn. The purpose of the meeting is:

  • to give the Highways Team a chance to bring local people up to speed
  • and allow local people the chance to ask questions and share their views

Keinton Mandeville accident

A man was taken to hospital last night (Wednesday 28 September) after being seriously injured in a collision. Police were called to the scene on the High Street, near Barton Road, in Keinton Mandeville at about 9.15pm. The driver, a man in his 40s, was treated at the scene by paramedics and taken to hospital. He remains in hospital today. No-one else was involved in the collision.

The road was closed overnight while emergency services were at the scene and recovery work carried out. Repair work to ensure the area was safe was also carried out after a telegraph pole was damaged.

Police are appealing to the public for witnesses to come forward or for anyone with dashcam footage that might help. If you think you can help please call 101 and give reference number 5222234298.

Police close up Yeovil house

Magistrates have granted Avon & Somerset Police an application for a three-month closure order against an address in Stiby Road, Yeovil. Police say the property is linked to antisocial behaviour, drugs and other criminal activity.

Over recent months, a number of people living in the surrounding area reported the issues they were facing to police. This enabled the force to seek the court order. They were supported by South Somerset District Council who will ensure environmental concerns raised will be addressed.

Peter Gubbins, Area South Chairman for South Somerset District Council added: “We welcome the court’s decision and thank our partners at Avon and Somerset Police for their decisive action in this matter. Ensuring our residents feel safe in their homes and communities is a key priority for this council and we will continue to support the police alongside other partners to take positive actions to achieve this.”

Acting Police Sergeant Declan Quinn explains “No-one should have to experience crime on their doorstep or feel unsafe in their neighbourhood. We believe the closure order will help prevent these incidents continuing and we’ll continue to work closely with the community to make sure such problems are not repeated.”

Police outside the address in Stiby Road

Council saves part of Wells 126 service

Somerset County Council has stepped in to save part of the 126 bus service from Wells to Weston super Mare. First West of England announced in the summer it was discontinuing the 126 service. Despite a petition from local MP James Heappey, First confirmed they would discontinue the service anyway.

Today Somerset County Council announced they had found and alternative company to provide the service. Libra Travel is a family run business that operates from the small village of Chilcompton. They already supply services for Somerset County Council, West of England Combined Authority and Wiltshire Council. 

The services is a lifeline for local communities – the 126 connects Wells to Cheddar, Axbridge, and other outlying villages.

However the new service will only run as far as Axbridge. Continuing on to Weston super Mare requires support from North Somerset Council. As yet that has not been forthcoming. Many residents will be disappointed that the link to Weston super Mare has been cut. The service is a vital link for those trying to get to Weston Hospital or Weston College.

The Somerset Bus Partnership has expressed disappointment at the service cut. They have called for urgent meetings between SCC, North Somerset and the local MP. They are urging a resolution before  First Group withdraw the service on 9 October. Meanwhile from 10 October the new operator will be continuing to provide the Somerset leg of the 126 service. There’ll be a regular service between Wells and Axbridge which will also serve the Blue School at Wells during term time.

Wells MP James Heappey said: “This is a great victory for residents along the Cheddar Valley. I’m hugely grateful to everyone who signed my petition and utterly delighted that the route has been saved.”

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