Although not a politician and, until two years ago, never even a member of any political Party, I was honoured to be invited to stand as the Labour candidate for Shepton Mallet and Croscombe in May’s County Council election. Like the stereotypical ex-military type, my protestations about what I saw as being wrong had been previously limited to complaining in the pub or writing letters to the Journal. Just in case actions actually do speak louder than words, I decided to do something about it. My first letter to our local newspaper was about the negative impact the Townsend retail park was likely to have on the High Street – 10 years on, my letter in the current edition is about the continued assault on the town centre and the proposed move of our library. Never having been a councillor, I have no idea of the pressures elected officials are under before deciding on such matters; however, I am a firm believer that hard-won public funding should be spent on what Council Tax-payers actually want rather than what, however well-intentioned, local officials think might be best for them. Very few people – outside the council – think that our amenities will be improved by moving the library. Equally, I am aware of very real anger about our potential loss of the Mid-Somerset Show site; more housing is required – but not at any cost. These, and other similar reasons, are behind my recent decision to act rather than merely complain.
If elected, my top 5 pledges will be to:
- – Champion the town in all decisions taken at County Hall and exert whatever influence I can on Local and Central Government to deliver much needed improvements to our town.
- – Work tirelessly to deliver the communications infrastructure – including roads, buses and broadband – that is desperately needed to both attract employers to invest in the town and better support existing local businesses to thrive in a challenging marketplace.
- – Promote an integrated approach to health provision that delivers improved local Adult Care and Mental Health services – losing beds at the Community Hospital only moves care problems elsewhere by putting further strain on social care and local acute hospitals.
- – Ensure that decisions taken on education, housing developments, community facilities and all other Local Government-managed services benefit tax-payers and residents first – and service providers second. Labour has promised to stop banks arbitrarily closing high street branches – with only Lloyds left in Shepton Mallet, this can’t happen soon enough.
- – Deliver the best achievable post-BREXIT conditions for Shepton Mallet families by working with county- and national-level agencies to safeguard jobs, apprenticeships, training places and associated legal and citizen-rights. Critically, educational outcomes must be improved to ensure that our young people are equipped to successfully compete for all available jobs.
More generally, I would additionally provide a means for residents to share issues and concerns with their County councillor and, in return, provide regular updates on progress achieved.