Bridgwater 2017: A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …..Then again Dickens always was a  bit of a whinger. And a tad indecisive. Two sides to every story? Ha! When’s that ever got anyone anywhere.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgwater….

Coming to Eastover!!!

It’s 2017 and Bridgwater is on the verge of opening its first major hotel in decades. The new Mercure Hotel in Eastover will have 108 rooms, conference centre facilities and a Marco Pierre White restaurant. Set to be the best hotel between Bristol and Exeter this will be a landmark for the town and a flagship for regeneration.

 

Currently in Angel Place…

It’s 2017 and the Bridgwater shopping centre at Angel Place has had its windows kicked in by a gang of twats.

And so has nearby Angel Crescent. Some traders can’t afford to repair them and some are wondering why they even bother…..

And the same gangs maraud around the docks, the Cornhill, the Brewery Field…

Disappointing…..

Bridgwater’s Quayside alive with culture

It’s 2017 and a £20million Tidal Barrier is on the cards for Bridgwater providing opportunities to not just prevent flooding but to once again make the river navigable, opening up the docks, the canal and the riverside so that 1,000s of new tourists and boom town residents might enjoy the attractive quayside facilities as the town once again turns it’s face to it’s waterfront.

Nice……

…but ‘have they’ got a home to go to..?

It’s 2017 and 2 drunks lay flat out on Binford Place looking to everyone like they’ve  been the victims of a drive by shooting, possibly from traders and residents who’ve had enough of the months of cat and mouse between an under-resourced police force and street drinkers who can’t even make it to the toilet before urinating on the very shop that’s sold them the booze.

And luckily its on the front page of the Mercury

Scotland’s nice this time of year….

It’s 2017 and the retail vacancy rate in the town centre has dropped to 8.4% compared to a national average of 13%, the lowest in decades as confidence returns to the town in the wake of the upsurge of workers coming here for jobs and houses as Hinkley Point opens its jobs bonanza.

It’s 2017 and Somerset County Council has cut even more bus services meaning people can’t get to the jobs open to them, oh and three quarters of the Children Centres are faced with closure, oh, and Adult Community Learning as well, that’s being cut by a similar amount.

But it’s 2017 and…well, Fairs here…soon be Christmas.

It doesn’t have to be like this

A Vision of Bridgwater …….

Bridgwater is on the verge of a bit of a boom with more opportunities than we’ve had in many years but everywhere you look Government policies just bring you back down again. When there’s money in the economy Local Councils and Public Services need to be able to spend it.

‘Austerity’ is stopping that and it has to end.

People know there’s big opportunities on the horizon for Bridgwater yet at the same time they focus on the negatives. There’s deadbeat drunks and addicts laying comatose on the streets of Bridgwater because Government cutbacks have destroyed the support services that safeguard them from this fate in the first place, and its Government cutbacks that have prevented the Police from dealing with the resulting increase in anti-social behaviour.

The answer is obvious – for a proper Police presence you need more Police and for more Police you need to stop the cuts and restore levels to what are needed.

‘Higher’…’Lower’..What do Points make?…

Bridgwater could burst forth like some bursting forth type thing

Bridgwater is 2 cities at the moment. One is optimistic and looking to the future, ready to take advantage of the opportunities landing on our doorstep which we are more than capable of rising to the challenge of embracing – look at the recent Quayside festival when the whole town came together to create a cultural extravaganza, a creativity that’s in the people’s blood and enhanced a hundredfold by the many new cultures from around the world that have chosen to make our town their town …..and then the other side of the coin is one of pessimism and sees only the bad in people, rather than the cause of that malaise, that says we can never do anything here worthwhile, never have and never will. So don’t even try.

They say cutback …We say Fightback

Of course, the Police should be able to  do something about anti-social behaviour but they need the resources to do this. This is why I’ve written today to Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens asking her to join us in a campaign against ‘austerity’, and for the resources needed so we can make our town safe and secure and one where we can feel confident to move forward together.

I wrote to her that “ Bridgwater Town Council has a very good working relationship with our Police, who attend every meeting, but all their valiant efforts flounder in the public eye because they are obviously under-resourced. You have admitted yourself that the police service has faced such cutbacks that it is now seriously underfunded and is currently being ‘pushed to its limit’. You have been asked to make a further £20million cuts by 2021 but admit that this cannot be done.”

A visible Police presence

At Bridgwater Town Council we agree that what is needed right now is a reversal of these cuts and for them to be replaced instead with greater investment in neighbourhood policing, which means “… more officers on the ground and more resources targeted at growing towns such as ours where you saw for yourself that these cuts are having a disastrous effect on the ability of the Police to deliver.You saw and heard for yourself the issues raised here are clearly connected to the inability to deploy adequate resources and in particular relate to  various ASB, drinking, drugs, unruly behaviour of both some older ‘street drinkers’ and the spate of unruly and criminal damage events from groups of younger individuals”.

‘Dark clouds forever’ or ‘Bright sunny uplands’??…the choice is yours*….(*NB only one of these involves Hinkley Point ‘not’ exploding)

I concluded by saying “The obvious and proven solution is the value of officers on the beat along with the regular deployment of the police mobile unit , regular targeting of trouble spots and individuals but with the necessary back-up resources so as not to cause displacement of crime elsewhere but to give re-assurance to the community that you will be able to respond swiftly and decisively when called upon to do so..You have said that you are ‘stretched to the limit’ already and cannot make any more cuts. Can we therefore urge you and all who value a Police Service which has the full confidence of its Community, to now make the strongest possible case for no further cuts and to campaign for an end to the Government’s policies of Austerity  which is also clearly seriously affecting the other back-up support services in the field of welfare, social services, youth support that has contributed to the increased social malaise and replace this with adequate increased investment to provide you with the resources to deliver.”

Short of saying ‘Vote Labour’ I think that sums it up.

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