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.

A Rockabilly Romp to Celebrate Twinning Week

Red Smed putting on the style….of sorts

RED SMED INVESTIGATES……..

“Hipsters! Flipsters! And Finger Poppin’ Daddies!” (So that’s most of Highbridge ruled out) Have we got a treat for you this weekend! That’s not a question, that’s a statement. In fact we have. We’ve got Italy’s numero uno rockabilly band AFTER DARK back in Bridgwater for a whole week of twinning festivities culminating in an all star night of all stars at the Bridgwater Arts Centre on Saturday 22nd April. So here’s a final warning…Be there or be, I don’t know, cylindrical maybe.

But who exactly ARE these After Darks? What music do they play? What are their influences? And what on earth are they doing in Bridgwater? Continue reading “A Rockabilly Romp to Celebrate Twinning Week”

Born in Bridgwater???

Delivery of Child. Description ‘baby’. Stardate 16.11.89. Mary Stanley Wing, Bridgwater Hospital.

Now you can’t help where you were born. Or can you?? Although I have lived in Bridgwater for most of my life a little piece of paper tells me I was born in the fair city of Leeds. But in this town it’s about 50:50 whether you were born here or you weren’t.

For many years Bridgwater people have  had that choice. For instance, I’m writing now from the old Mary Stanley Maternity Hospital, which today is  flats, but which was once the birthplace of many Bridgwater people. In 1988 I was part of a campaign to save this building from closure and the result was that in 1989 not only did we win a small victory to save delivery facilities in Bridgwater – in the new Mary Stanley Wing at the old Salmon Parade Hospital – but my own daughter was born there that year.

Town Council launches  ‘Born in Bridgwater’ Campaign

When Bridgwater Hospital was closed we urged the maintenance of a delivery facility at the new hospital – again called the Mary Stanley Suite, after the 19th century dignitary.

At last months Bridgwater Town Council meeting, following concerns from users constantly being sent to Musgrove and a visit there by Mayor Alex Glassford (Fairfax) and Deputy Leader Kath Pearce (Westover) we decided to launch a ‘Born in Bridgwater’ campaign, to raise awareness of the options that the delivery suite presented so that people know they have the opportunity to have their children born in their town. A kind of ‘use it or lose it’ warning.

Mother of two Cllr Siobhan Wilson (Victoria) speaking at the meeting said “I would say that I think it is a shame if no babies are being born in Bridgwater now, particularly since there is a lovely new hospital in Bridgwater and a maternity unit waiting there. If this is because of staff/funding issues then we should try to help resolve these issues so that lots of new babies can be born in Bridgwater.  The new hospital is a valuable resource and I am sure many women, in the town and surrounding villages, would like to use it, rather than being sent to Taunton. Whilst it isn’t a ward with midwives on all the time if you book to give birth there then they open it for you when you’re in labour. “

A New Front opens

The people of Bridgwater unite to fight to keep their NHS maternity facilities in their town

Now the Bridgwater Trades Union Council has launched another campaign against the NHS STP project  which they believe could further set back maternity facilities in the town and have called for a public meeting to raise awareness.

A statement reads “20 years ago the people of Bridgwater fought a hard battle to keep an NHS maternity unit in the town. Will this battle have to be fought all over again?

NHS Somerset’s “Sustainability and Transformation Plan”(STP) – a semi-secret document for months – is now being forced through by the end of 2017 without any real consultation, let alone negotiation, with NHS staff, their trade unions and the wider public.

The government says that the 44 STP plans will deliver “financial balance and stability” in the form of £5 billion worth of “efficiency savings.” Are these weasel words for yet more savage cuts to services? Four community hospitals in South Devon, including Paignton, a town the size of Bridgwater, are already losing their hospitals.

The main fear of Bridgwater Trades Union Council delegates, and other local NHS campaigners, is that this STP will close our Bridgwater Hospital NHS maternity unit. Somerset’s STP is remarkably vague on local maternity details, NHS websites only state that there are no plans to close maternity units at Taunton and Yeovil, our Bridgwater unit is not even mentioned!”

STP or GO?

Saving the NHS is a joint priority for everyone in the labour movement

Dave Chapple, Bridgwater TUC Secretary, said: “In February this year, citing staff shortages among other reasons, NHS bosses cut the opening hours at Bridgwater Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit, despite being fully aware of our giant construction site at Hinkley Point, and the pressure that shorter Bridgwater hours would have on the accident and emergency wards at Musgrove Park. All over the country, towns and cities larger than Bridgwater are losing their NHS maternity units. If we are not to join them, and NHS Somerset cannot confirm our local maternity unit will stay, the whole town must be prepared to protest, as we did for the Mary Stanley twenty years ago!”

Taking up the Challenge

Bridgwater Labour Town Councillors out on the streets fighting for the NHS

Leader of the Labour Group on Somerset County Council, Leigh Redman (Bridgwater South) said “There is no doubt that the STP process will mean the NHS will suffer, and by default will mean jobs and service will suffer. I think it is simple ‘put the necessary resources in place that are needed to fund our NHS’, Bridgwater community hospital needs to be a community hospital, FUND IT APPROPRIATELY…”

Public Meeting

Dave Chapple Secretary of Bridgwater Trades Union Council launching their campaign.

Bridgwater Trades Union Council is holding an emergency meeting for NHS workers, trades unionists, and all those who use and depend upon NHS services, on Tuesday April 11th.

Speakers will tell us what they think of the Somerset STP plans as a whole, covering not just maternity but acute, mental health, and social care, and how best the public can respond.

Details of the meeting are as follows: Railway Club, Wellington Road, Bridgwater Tuesday 11th April 7.30.

Bridgwater Policing MATTERS

Incident in the Town Centre. The Police investigate.

This weekend an incident occurred in Fore street Bridgwater which set off a series of petitions and responses around the town. Liam Tucker posted “Just finished work. Walking down the high street. Lot of shouting going on. Found a large gang of teenagers ganging up on a 71 year old man. Throwing food at him. Spitting at him. In the high street. Women and children present. I intervened and stayed with the pensioner until one PCSO turned up. He was called by the coffee 1 manager who also attended. The cameras in town are not being monitored. Police presence bare minimum”.

Liam’s post immediately got the Facebook church bells ringing and comments ranged from  “when these kids gonna be stopped” to “this is getting ridiculous”,”this town really is becoming lawless”these feral teenagers” and “as a local councillor is there nothing you can do, our MP doesn’t give a damn” Continue reading “Bridgwater Policing MATTERS”

Want to Play a Part in Bridgwater’s Future? Of course you do. Here’s how.

gib map
If Cllr Smedley stares long enough at a map of Sedgemoor it will simply disappear….

So look. What say do you have on anything and who even asks your opinion anyway? Well, Bridgwater Town Council does and that’s a fact. And how do we do that? Well, for a start we have expanded our Vicar of Dibley sized mini parish council into an all embracing all singing all dancing experiment in People Power. Why? Because one day we want back the Borough status that was taken away from us by Sedgemoor District Council back in 1974. That’s what we want and that’s what we’re going to get.

So how are we doing this? Well, Bridgwater Town Council has 16 councillors and you elect them every 4 years. That’s democracy in action. But it’s not enough. So we wanted to find a way to get the people more involved. That’s why we set up a system of Forums, where the important issues of the town are put directly to the people who can discuss this with the experts, the service deliverers (not always the same people…) and the councillors. Continue reading “Want to Play a Part in Bridgwater’s Future? Of course you do. Here’s how.”

Now then…..about that 3 weekly waste collection idea….

Focus on re-cycling
Cllr Smedley has a peep into the recycle bin of life.

In the 2015 elections we promised to oppose any attempt by Sedgemoor Tories to change 2 weekly rubbish collection  to 3 weekly. Now it’s on the cards and we need to honour that promise. As Chair of Sedgemoor’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee I’ve asked for the proposal to be looked at in detail at our next meeting on Wednesday 7th December. This means that members of the public can attend and contribute to the meeting. But let’s first look at the actual report and the proposals.

It’s no surprise that the proposed changes are really to do with money and making savings. In this case £1.7m per year. The policy is dressed up in the environment friendly  brand ‘Recycle More’ which provides the headline justification for the move to 3 weekly collection. Continue reading “Now then…..about that 3 weekly waste collection idea….”