Sunday, February 20, 2011


With only 3 months to go before important Town and District elections Bridgwater Forward is extremely concerned at yet another thundering silence from Sedgemoor District Council on an important area of Public interest. These elections will be the first chance for people to have their say on the decisions made by Tory controlled Sedgemoor over the past 4 years and ward boundaries have changed drastically.

Sedgemoor Labour Councillor Brian Smedley was on the sub committee that discussed possible changes and explains the process and outcome. 

The new Bridgwater Ward Boundaries

"When the Boundaries Commission chose Sedgemoor to be one of it's targets for change it was ostensibly to re-draw the electoral boundaries so that councillors represented equal numbers of constituents bearing in mind population changes. They were also looking at savings in terms of reducing numbers of councillors.

The sub committee set up by SDC spent most of its time arguing about specific streets- the West street, Bridgwater area being especially contentious, also the re-drawing of the Sydenham and Bower lines.. In particular the Tories constantly referred to 'my ward' as if specific areas were theirs by Feudal right of inheritance. At the end all 3 parties wrote their own submissions to the Boundaries Commission (who then made some half baked compromise and reduced the total number of councillors from 50 to 48). The Labour Group proposal in fact was that large towns such as Bridgwater should have 3 member wards, small towns should have 2 member wards and rural parishes should have single member.

The main changes for Bridgwater have in fact worked against the Tories reducing their 'safe' seats from 3 to 2 in the Durleigh area. In fact the former 'Quantock' ward which stretched from the Durleigh parish boundary through the Holford, Alfoxton, Co-op developments and from Quantock road and Durleigh road to North street has now been truncated at the Fairfield and Northfield. This has now been renamed WYNDHAM ward (largely because this was the 'house' name of this area during the Grammar school days being taken from the Royalist Governor of the Castle during the Civil war). This will return 2 District and 2 Town councillors.

The main change on the West side of the town is the creation of a WESTOVER ward. This ward includes the Town centre in it;s entirety plus the adjoining parts of West street, Camden,Blacklands and Anson surrounding the Northgate 'Tescos' site, plus Lyndale and the docks and then part of the old Hamp ward stretching from town centre to the start of Rhode lane. This will return 2 District Councillors and 3 town councillors.

The former VICTORIA ward has been moved slightly to the north so that it starts at Kendale road/Chilton street and then includes the new developments on the NDR. Again this will return 2 Town and 2 District councillors.

The HAMP ward has been reduced to the area of the old estate starting from the end of Rhode lane and being bounded by the Towns southern edge. Hamp will have 2 Town and 2 District councillors.

Across the river the EASTOVER ward remains totally untouched, bounded as it was and is by the river and the railway line. Again 2 Town and 2 District councillors.

The main East Bridgwater change is the re-drawing of the line in Sydenham. Whereas previously 'old' Sydenham had returned 3 members and stretched from railway line to a 2nd north-south line defining  the newer developments of Bower Manor and Silversprings, a new line has been drawn east-west across the junction of Fairfax road with Parkway thus creating a 3 member ward 'FAIRFAX' to the North of this -including the Sydenham rd/Bath road area plus Bower Manor and 'DUNWEAR' to the south of this including the Longstone end of Sydenham plus the Bridge estate, which will return 2 town and district members.

Politically this means that while currently the Party balance is 10 Labour (Hamp,Victoria,Eastover, Sydenham) 6 Tory (Quantock,Bower) the new wards , at a time of Tory unpopularity present a real opportunity for Labour to sweep the board.

Lib Dems have been rejected by Bridgwater voters for more than 10 years with not a single member surviving since the wipe out of 1999.

The remainder of Sedgemoor will be the battleground for the forthcoming election as since 1974 Bridgwater was subsumed into the District at the expense of its former powers as a Borough and is now submerged into this largely Tory district. Whereas in Bridgwater the balance is Labour 10 Conservative 6, the balance around the rest of Sedgemoor is Conservative 31 LibDem 3. This gives an overwhelming Tory majority on Sedgemoor of 37  Conservative against 10 Labour (the Bridgwater members) and 3 Lib Dem (entirely from the Burnham area).

Tory representation on Sedgemoor at 37 councillors is their highest ever and this means the 'Executive' is 100% Tory.

To gain sole control of SDC one party needs to achieve 25 seats. If no party achieves this then the Council goes to NOC (No Overall Control) The last time this happened was in 1995 when Labour took 13 seats (largely Bridgwater) and LibDems took 12 (largely rural). The Tories only regained control 3 years later when the so called 'independents' put on blue rosettes .

Voters will have 2 ballot papers on May 5th. One to choose their District Councillors and one to choose their Town Councillors. "

If anyone wants to know which ward they are in they can contact Brian Smedley on

Bridgwater Forward decided at its meeting this week NOT to stand candidates at the Elections but promised to organise a series of hustings meetings around the Town to 'hold candidates to account' and to 'endorse them or otherwise'. 

Pete Smith said " current councillors are off-putting, and the experience of working with them soul-destroying".

Chris Hooper said "local councillors don’t listen and most are past their sell-by date. They need to do a job for the town. "

Glen Burrows said "Any councillor who voted for the closure of the Splash and the sale of Northgate to Tesco is not fit to represent the people of Sedgemoor and should not get anyone's vote"

Kathy Pearce (Sedgemoor Labour leader) says "These boundary changes give a far greater emphasis to the town centre.  Therefore anyone who has been unhappy with the Sedgemoor Tories' decision to close the Splash and to sell Northgate to Tesco, now have a real opportunity to say "enough is enough".  Labour has consistently opposed these policies, offering viable alternatives which would truly regenerate the town centre, which time after time have been ignored.  For the future prosperity and vibrancy of the town, it is vital that we encourage people to come into the town centre by enhancing the leisure aspect of Northgate and the Brewery Field, along with retail investment, which is sympathetic to the town centre."

Joe Leach (Sedgemoor Lib Dem leader) says ""The new boundaries are curiously arranged, however the Liberal Democrats are taking the fight to the Conservatives, particularly in the North of the district, where various boundary changes will see close fights between us".

Bob Cudlipp (Independent) said "We need to encourage people to vote and we need more independents!" 

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