Bridgwater Town Diary

Some things what happen in Bridgwater and some equally personal thoughts about them by Westover Councillor and Town Council Leader Brian Smedley. All opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily not bonkers.

Bridgwater Mayor an “Example for Young People”

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Madieran President Albuquerque and Bridgwater Mayor Rodrigues with Bridgwater-Portuguese resident Ana Luisa.

Bridgwater’s new 28 year old,Portuguese born Mayor Diogo Rodrigues continues to hit the headlines and bring some great publicity for our town at the same time. First it was a much covered Mayor Making ceremony, attended by the Portuguese Consul and which was filmed by Portuguese TV ,by the BBC and extensively in international newspapers, then it was a visit to the Czech Republic touring factories and  family centres, taking part in conferences and meeting councillors and young people. This week it’s an invitation to London to meet the President of Madiera, the Portuguese island where Diogo was born.

The meeting was held at the Casa Madeira Restaurant in Vauxhall, London where a lunch was held to celebrate his election as Mayor of Bridgwater.

The President of Madeira, Miguel Albuquerque, said “The Mayor of Bridgwater, Diogo Rodrigues, is an example for other Portuguese youth to participate in public life and reach ‘the centre of decision making of political life’. He is an example for young people who want to play a role in public life and to secure a role for our community in the decision making places, and the council is a great place to start because of the principle of closeness to the people”

The President and Mayor exchanged warm words before the President invited himself to visit Bridgwater when he nexts visits the UK next year.

Continue reading “Bridgwater Mayor an “Example for Young People””

Bridgwater’s New Mayor Hits the Ground Twinning

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Diogo Rodrigues on his Czech Travels

Diogo Rodrigues is Bridgwater’s latest Mayor. 28 years old, a restaurateur and Portuguese born (on the island of Madeira) he is hitting the news everywhere he goes. Britain’s first Portuguese born Mayor, Bridgwater’s youngest Mayor and we’re checking records to see if he’s the shortest ever Mayor…but that’s a good thing as one of his themes is youth and making eye level contact appears to be paying dividends. Diogo’s first major project as Mayor was to visit the Czech Republic where he had been invited to attend an International Conference of funding and to celebrate 100 years of Czech independence. He took with him a small support group including Town Council Leader and Czech link founder Brian Smedley, Chair of the Czech Freindship Society Tim Mander, and SDC funding projects worker Julie Cooper. They packed a lot in and here’s the story.

Bridgwater twinning with the town of Uherske Hradiste in 1992 and yet again made history when it became the first British town to twin with a Czech town after the Velvet Revolution. Our shared histories go back to the Vernon Bartlett election of 1938 when Bridgwater was the only town in the UK to vote against the Munich Agreement. To read that story click here. Continue reading “Bridgwater’s New Mayor Hits the Ground Twinning”

Another First for Bridgwater as UK’s First Portuguese Mayor Takes Office

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Cllr Diogo Rodrigues, Mayor of Bridgwater, is congratulated by the Portuguese Embassy

Bridgwater has had some ‘firsts’ in its time. First town to petition against the Slave Trade (1785). First town to vote against the Munich Agreement (1938). First town where someone under the age of 21 could vote (1970) and now home to Britain’s first Portuguese born Mayor.

For the year 2018-19, Cllr Diogo Rodrigues will be Mayor of Bridgwater. Diogo was born on the Portuguese island of Madeira but has lived in Britain for most of his life. Since being elected to Bridgwater Town Council in 2015 to represent the Dunwear North ward on the Sydenham estate, Diogo has been especially active in youth matters, setting up a Youth Forum, introducing a grant system to seed fund new and existing youth projects and successfully campaigned to increase that fund this year. At the age of 28 Diogo is also Bridgwater’s youngest ever Mayor. Continue reading “Another First for Bridgwater as UK’s First Portuguese Mayor Takes Office”

Bridgwater Town Council: Leader’s Report 2018

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Brian Smedley,Leader of Bridgwater Town Council

Bridgwater Town Council was formed in 2003 and we pride ourselves on being the closest elected authority to the people. We remember and aspire to the achievements of the ancient Borough of Bridgwater, sadly replaced by Sedgemoor District Council, or as we have called it, Direct Rule from Cheddar, in 1974. However, one major change this year has been the replacement of Sedgemoor’s former chief exec with Bridgwater girl Allison Griffin, and we are already noticing a greater degree of co-operation between our authorities. In Somerset we have 3 tiers of local government – county, district and town or parish. Sometimes this can be confusing as to who is to blame. But inevitably, it’s not us. So we therefore also welcome the current conversation about local government reform based around Unitary status and will argue for the strongest powers for the locallest authorities.

Bridgwater Town Council has opened wide its doors over the past few years through our system of Forums whereby members of the public, other authorities, service providers and so on can join with councillors in specialist themed meetings relevant to the predominant issues in our town.  Our Town Development Forum has looked at all our major projects with particular emphasis on the Northgate situation. It was here that town and district opposed each other for several years over the demolition of the Sedgemoor Splash and it’s threatened replacement with a massive Tesco Extra. Through working together now we are agreed on a leisure led project, the retention of green space, a primary school and a small scale supermarket which complements rather than has a negative effect on our town centre, and provides the crucial linkage with the docks via the Celebration mile.. Continue reading “Bridgwater Town Council: Leader’s Report 2018”

“Are You Being Conservatived?”: A Cheery Christmas Message

Christmas is a time for thinking about those less fortunate than yourself. For me that’s 2 blokes I met in Dorking last week and most of the Burton Albion Fan base on Boxing Day. But lets for a change think of those MORE fortunate – the Conservatives.

In Bridgwater we thought we’d got rid of them, but we haven’t. 14 Labour Town councillors and 1 Tory  yet there they are, appearing from out of the blue, getting involved in our lives and making those little decisions on our behalf that always turn out so bad. Bridgwater may be a solid Labour town but every now and then it’s the Tories who run Sedgemoor, or the Tories who run Somerset, or the Tory we send to Westminster, that seem to always pop up with that all important final say. Continue reading ““Are You Being Conservatived?”: A Cheery Christmas Message”