Thursday, 11 November 2010


County Hall,Taunton    ;- besieged by anti-cuts protestors
  Somerset County Councillors, it seems, can’t act fast enough to carry out the Government’s rape and pillage of public services. At the same time they are bullying people into believing the Con-Dem government’s lie that such cuts are inevitable and that they are behaving responsibly.
On Wednesday 10th November, Somerset County Councillors rubber-stamped cuts which will drastically affect budgets for highways maintenance, social care, education and the arts, as well as removing funding for Police Community Support Officers. In the course of next year, at the jobs of at least 1500 County Council workers providing valuable services to our community will be axed.
Four household recycling centres  in Dulverton,  Coleford,  Middlezoy and  Crewkerne could also close – so much for the Council’s commitment to recycling!
Anti Cuts protestors gather  in Somerset
Councils are struggling to balance their books because the Government’s recent Spending Review hit local authorities with a 45% cut in capital funding. This follows years of underfunding of local government by central government, forcing the run-down of social housing and making local services more expensive by forcing up council taxes.
Meanwhile, the richest 1,000 people in Britain own £336 billion between them, and they are getting richer all the time—their wealth rose by £77 billion last year.
The government could raise money by increasing corporation tax and taxing the super-rich. Yet Osborne has promised to cut corporation tax every year that the Tories are in office.
Over £125 billion is lost every year because the rich avoid paying tax, using “creative accounting” methods.
The Tories’ new bank levy is supposed to show that “we’re all in it together”. Banks that we have already bailed out with over £1 trillion of public money will pay us back at a rate of £2.5 billion a year. It sounds reasonable, until you realise this represents just 0.07% banks’ profits. It is less than the same bankers will pay out in bonuses to themselves this year! Because of Chancellor Osborne’s cuts in corporation tax, the banks will end up with more money, not less, out of the deal.
Glen Burrows  (Bridgwater TUC) speaking at the anti cuts rally
However, these cuts are neither necessary nor inevitable. They are a political crusade by the Tories, aided and abetted by the Liberals, to return this country to the conditions suffered by working people in the 30s, and we must organise now to stop them.
The General Election showed that the majority of British people do not want a Tory government. The Tories, a minority government, would not be able to carry out their long-dreamed of plans to dismantle the Welfare State were they not being propped up by the Liberals. What tragic irony that the architect of the Welfare State, Beveridge, was himself a Liberal!
Bridgwater Trades Union Council calls upon people to get involved in protests and demonstrations at every level – in the workplace and community, by supporting workers taking action to defend their jobs, and through petitions and letters of protest.

Monday, 8 November 2010


Hundreds of angry demonstrators marched through Taunton on saturday  and attended a mass rally to protest against Somerset County Council’s proposed budget, which is set to slash £43 million from public services in the county with a loss of 1,500 jobs. As the sea of banners and placards of parties, trades councils and union organisations came through the town centre, local residents and Saturday shoppers clapped, cheered and waved to the marchers in support. BBC Radio 4 reported the number of protesters as 500 but organisers said the turnout was much higher.

The demonstration was organised by UNISON and supported by the Taunton and West Somerset Trades Council. Nigel Behan, secretary of the Trades Council, said of the County Council’s budget proposals: “This level of cuts will make Somerset as we know it unrecognisable. All areas of spending have come under the axe and there is not a family anywhere that will be unaffected. The people of Somerset are being made to pay for a situation that is not of their making and it is the most vulnerable that will be hit the hardest.”

At the rally the line-up of speakers included the NUT, UNISON, PCS, the RMT, the Labour Party and Green Party. Ross Henley, the Lib-Dem leader of the opposition at Taunton Deane Borough Council and a Somerset County Councillor condemned the cuts and stated that in some cases they would be more expensive to implement than the amount they would save. Rob Thompson, a local sixth form student, condemned the cuts for the impact they would have on the his generation, denying children and young people the opportunities they needed to learn and flourish without having to fear the future. Speaker after speaker stepped forward to tumultuous applause to condemn the cuts outright and deny absolutely the Coalition propaganda that ‘we are all in it together’.

This was the first time for many years that Somerset had seen such a demonstration but UNISON’s campaign organisers agreed that it was only a beginning. An organiser said, “People from all walks of life have today vowed to stand together to defend jobs, public services and communities in Somerset”. She added, “We will organise and challenge the Council in every workplace, every organisation and every community in Somerset. This Tory County Council will never have our support”.

According to the budget that is being taken forward, the cuts are to be taken from the adult social care budget and the special education service. Subsidised bus services, bus passes and student transport will be axed, as will the library budget, forcing some libraries to close. Community policing will be cut, reducing the number of officers on the streets. 75% of funding for youth services will be withdrawn, as well as 100% of funding for theatres and arts groups. Eight household recycling centres will close and the road repair budget will be so severely reduced that an increase in road deaths and serious injuries will be inevitable.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


A warning has gone out from Bridgwater Trades Union Council, and campaign group Bridgwater Forward, after members attended a “Focus Group” meeting on 29th September,  in  Bridgwater Library,  organised by Somerset County Council. The meeting was part of a Review of Library Services throughout Somerset. 

Bridgwater people must act now if they are to save yet another valuable town centre  facility  from relocation, reduction, or even closure.

After all, we’ve already lost the Splash, County Court, Crown Post Office, Driving Test Centre and Tax Office, with the Magistrates’ Court to follow soon, while the Hospital and Police Station are moving out to the edge of town.

The County Council wants to save £252,000 from Bridgwater Library’s running costs: replacing library staff with ticket machines, or even volunteers; cutting opening hours; seeking commercial sponsorship or even mergers with school libraries.

Bridgwater Forward, Bridgwater TUC, and local-government staff trades union UNISON are already organising to oppose any cuts. They will be asking people to refuse to volunteer to cover the jobs of trained and professional library staff.

Libraries don’t just provide books: they are vital sources of information, education and ideas, valued and enjoyed by all sections of the community. The library’s DVD and CD rental service is the best and cheapest in town! The People’s Network and UK Online facility has proved particularly popular with older people and migrant workers. Schools value the additional support and facilities provided by staff (having lost swimming facilities, are Bridgwater children to suffer yet further leisure and learning deprivation?)

Trades Council Secretary Dave Chapple said:  “A Libraries Review should ask local people what improvements they want. For example, a book budget of £200,000 across the whole of Somerset is pitiful. Hampshire’s, by contrast, is £2.5 million! We’d like to see the whole range of services provided by the library better advertised, and what about improving road signage to the library, so more people can find their way there? This isn’t a Review. It’s softening us up for more unnecessary and unacceptable cuts in public services.”

You can help by visiting the Library in Binford Place, talking to staff about services available and filling in the Comments forms available from the library information desk, stating how important the library is to you and to the town

GLEN BURROWS  07722087675/ 01278 450562

Friday, 17 September 2010


We should congratulate ourselves on assembling a lobby at such short notice: there were 4 CHS staff, 2 Bridgwater Trades Council, 3 Yeovil Trades Council, 1 Unite rep. from Westlands, Chair of Bridgwater Senior Citizens’ Forum, 2 Bridgwater Forward, 1 member of Yeovil Green Party, and Unite full-time regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer.
Also present were representatives from BBC Somerset, Western Daily Press, the Guardian and a local Yeovil paper. I understand that BBC Somerset carried at least two reports of the meeting and our presence during the day.
At the beginning, Sheralyn, Sharon and myself were allowed to put questions/comments ( 3 minutes each) to the Board members. Sheralyn asked for an extension of the deadline for decision-making, Sharon asked for a staff ballot, and I said the consultation was inadequate, the “social enterprise” option should be scrapped and Community Health Services should remain within the NHS. Letters were circulated from Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP, Charlie Graham ( Green Party) and Brian Smedley ( Bridgwater Trades Union Council and Labour Party) all asking for an extension to the deadline for decision-making.
Chief Executive, Ian Tipney explained the background to the proposals to transfer Community Health Services. I’m not entirely sure what to make of a man who calls health spending: “ mapping the money to individual care pathways”, but when he claimed that the PCT “had engaged very thoroughly with staff” ( this is after a 12% response rate to the staff consultation) I realised we might be inhabiting parallel universes! He said that the debate should not be about a competition between two organisational forms ( i.e. setting up a social enterprise and merging with the existing NHS foundation) but finding the best way to organise and deliver community health services. This attempt to de-politicise the issue is used to persuade Board members that they are not taking part in the government’s ideological crusade against the NHS, but simply making choices about the best way to deliver services.  It may be that one or two of the members believe this: indeed, at the end of the meeting, one member asked whether it was true that a social enterprise would mean community health services being outside the NHS! It’s frightening to think that it had only just occurred to him! Moral: beware of people in positions of power who say they are not “political”! ( see PCT web-site and details of PCT Board members!)
Judith Brown summarised the feedback from staff ansd stressed that, whatever the outcome, there will be no additional NHS organisation: there are only two options remaining. 
Phil Brice then summarised the responses from stakeholders and public. He seemed to think that 36 responses was a satisfactory number. If we had expected some doubt to creep in that perhaps only giving people around 10 working days to respond to a complex set of proposals, during a fortnight in the summer holidays, might be just a tad unreasonable, then I can only say that the members were desperate to be reassured that this was not the case. In the questions and discussion at the end, most contributors said they were now reassured that the PCT had done the best it could in the circumstances! The responsibility was placed at the door of the government who they say are bringing deadlines forward. Why does it not occur to anyone to challenge the government? Isn’t this how elected dictatorships come about? Judith Brown and the Chief Executive were vague on some of the details of the transfer to a social enterprise, in particular in relation to pensions. Tipney said he thought it was important to “persuade” the social enterprise to set up a pension scheme comparable with the NHS! He is clearly unaware of what is happening to private pensions in the real world. Or is he?
What has shocked me from the start is that there have not yet been any discussions with the NHS Foundation Trust about a possible merger, so the Trust’s response to this option is unknown! Further proof, if you needed any, that the PCT made up its mind which option to recommend before they started the consultation.
Both Sharon and Sheralyn returned firmly to their opening positions in their remarks at the end of the meeting. They should be congratulated for insisting so calmly and effectively on the rights of staff to be properly involved. The recommendation of the PCT will be forwarded to the Strategic Health Authority, who will announce a decision on Monday.
Lindsey is organising a follow-up meeting for staff to consider the SHA decision and the next step for staff: date and venue to be announced


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Bridgwater Arts Centre 25th September


Come and join Bridgwater Peace Group at Bridgwater Arts Centre on 25th September, for a day of music, dance and discussion about peace, war and community, starting at 2pm, and finishing at 11pm. The event is supported by Bridgwater Trades Union Council.

Singer, song-writer, author and activist Leon Rosselson, described as “folk-music’s most
accomplished mischief-maker” will perform some of his best known songs, including “ The
World Turned Upside Down”, and talk about his life as a peace activist. Joining him will be
a number of guests from peace movement, to talk about their experiences.
A singing workshop will bring together the themes of peace and folk music, and give
people an opportunity to participate in some community singing
In the evening, Skabro, a 7-piece band from West Somerset, are playing authentic oldskool
ska, with support from Dave Chapple’s Red Shadow Sound system, playing the best
of vintage reggae ska on original vinyl, and a good time is guaranteed for all.
Bridgwater Peace Group believes that peace is not just the absence of war, but involves
people working together to build a society based on respect and tolerance, where
problems are solved through negotiation, not conflict. And, of course, plenty of music and

Admission: is free from 2-6pm. Tickets for the evening event with Skabro: £3 in advance;
£4 on the door ( tickets available from Bridgwater Arts Centre , Tel. 01278 422700)
Present programme (subject to change)
14.00 Greetings and first Speaker
14.45 Voice of the People singing workshop
16.00 Speaker
16.30 Leon Rosselson
Finish of afternoon session 18.00
20.00-24.00 SkaBro and disco

FURTHER DETAILS: Phil Parratt: mob. 07719951031
Note: Bridgwater Peace Group and its sister organisation Sedgemoor Peace Group were
established in the run-up to the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq, and have continued to
campaign against wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bridgwater Peace Group has also
organised local events in support of peace and taken part in national demonstrations,
including protests against Israeli attacks on Gaza and Lebanon.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Somerset NHS workers to lobby Primary Care Trust meeting, 15th September

Health Visitors, School Nurses, community hospital and other workers, as well as members of the public will lobby the meeting of Somerset Primary Care Trust on Wednesday 15th September, in Yeovil, to persuade the members of the county’s NHS Primary Care Trust to vote to stay within the NHS, rather than turn the Community Health Service into a Social Enterprise.

There is widespread concern that a token ‘consultation’ with both staff and members of the public has been rushed through during a peak holiday period, and the PCT are insisting that the final decision must be made at their September meeting. Staff are asking for more time for a proper consultation, involving staff AND public, which will end with the final decision being made by a democratic staff ballot.

The key Somerset PCT meeting is being held at Yeovil, headquarters of the Somerset Primary Care Trust, on 15th September. The campaign is asking for maximum staff and public support at the meeting, which is held at Wynford House, Lufton Way, Yeovil, BS22 8HR, starting at 10.00am.

The lobby will assemble at 9.30am. Members of the public are invited to put questions to the PCT at the start of the meeting.

For more information, please contact:


Secretary: Dave Chapple, 1 Blake Place, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 5AU
Tel. 01278 450562

Saturday, 11 September 2010


A message from Dave Chapple Bridgwater TUC Secretary;-

"Trades unions believe in, and campaign for justice and equality, in the workplace and in the community. Bridgwater Trades Union Council's message, in the workplace and in our community is that if we work together we can achieve these aims. That's why we have an organisation  which brings trades unionists together to campaign  around local concerns and make links with other groups in the community.

If your trade union branch is not yet affiliated, contact your Branch Secretary or contact me ."

tel;- 01278 450562
mobile ;- 07776304276
1 Blake Place Bridgwater Somerset TA65AU