The Green Party have launched their Mendip District campaign for the Somerset County Council Election, with more seats contested than ever before – and candidates personally endorsed by Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP.
The Green Party’s leader said: “Voting Green gives you the chance to elect councillors who will fight your corner, and stand up for your interests. We know that Greens can win in Frome and in Glastonbury & Street – and that by doing so and working with other parties we can make a huge difference. So if you want councillors to work tirelessly for your community please vote Green on 4th May.”
Green Party spokesperson, Mendip District Councillor Shane Collins said “Our candidates provide an opportunity for voters to oppose the cuts, defend services, protect green spaces, and our environment. Through working with our three Mendip District Council Councillors and our many Parish and Town Councillors, the Green Party can ensure Mendip’s towns remain vibrant.”
On 20th April, there will be a free public meeting at the Cheese And Grain, Frome, where Independents for Frome Town Councillors Peter Macfadyen, Mel Usher, and Jean Boulton will join the Green Party’s District Councillors Shane Collins, Des Harris, and Stina Falle, and the Green’s County candidates to discuss ‘How Frome can thrive as a green town in Somerset’.
In Glastonbury & Street, the Greens have selected hard-working Town Councillor and Mayor of Glastonbury Jon Cousins as their candidate, who said he was honoured to have been chosen, adding: “For years the Tories have taken their hold of Somerset for granted. But with the County Council £22million in debt, and Children’s Services in ‘special measures’ following the 2013 and 2015 Ofsted inspections – judging the overall effectiveness of arrangements for the protection of children ‘inadequate’ – we need to send a message that their complacency is not good enough. The Greens can win in Glastonbury & Street. We are a voice for real change, and represent real opposition to the disastrous Tory cuts in Somerset.”
The Greens are standing nine candidates across the Mendip District, including: Jon Cousins in Glastonbury & Street, John Clarke, Martin Dimery, and Pepita Collins in Frome, Peter Harlow in Shepton Mallet, David Hine in Mendip Hills, Paul Crummay in Wells, Jono Ekin in Mendip Central & East, and Theo Simon in Mendip South.
The election takes place on Thursday 4th May, and polling stations will be open from 7 am to 10 pm.
When all the High Street Banks deserted Glastonbury, our amazing community got organised and campaigned against the closures; calling for one branch to remain – a ‘Last Bank Standing’.
That call, and all the hard work that went into the flash mobs, petitions, publicity, and protests has been answered.
The Nationwide Building Society moved one step closer to opening their branch this week when Phil Goodridge-Reynolds, the new Nationwide branch manager, helped Glastonbury Mayor Jon Cousins and Deputy Mayor Emma George open the first current accounts in the run up to the branch opening.
Green Mayor, Jon Cousins said, “As Mayor of Glastonbury, I am absolutely delighted to join Deputy Mayor Emma George in opening the founding current accounts with Nationwide’s new Glastonbury branch.”
The Nationwide recently posted: “When the people of Glastonbury asked for a bank, it was a building society that answered and we’re looking forward to opening our new branch in the summer.”
“Our new Glastonbury Nationwide will be located at 3 High Street, and work has now begun on designing your branch, which is expected to open by this summer.”
Leading the new Grade II listed Glastonbury branch is Phil Goodridge-Reynolds, branch manager and his newly recruited Customer Representatives; Rachael Butt, Adam Leitch and Sonia Love, who are now ready to accept new customers.
If you’d like to open a current account, you can do so online HERE
You can also book an appointment in Glastonbury Town Hall.
Just call 0800 554 1590 (Monday – Friday 9.30 am – 5 pm, or Saturday 9 am – 3 pm).
Nationwide are also offering Glastonbury residents the chance to share £200 when they recommend one of Nationwide’s current accounts to a friend! For more information click HERE
Can there be any residents who were not shocked and dismayed when Somerset County Council’s £22m overspend was revealed in September 2016? This disgraceful situation is compounded by opposition County Councillors saying the County could even declare itself bankrupt by the end of the financial year in April 2017!
The state of the County Council’s (in)capacity to manage its affairs is surely reflected in the level of service and protection it provides to families and children – with Children’s Services in ‘special measures’ following the 2013 and 2015 Ofsted inspections judging the overall effectiveness of arrangements for the protection of children “inadequate”.
If this were not enough, for many of us, there are daily reminders of the cuts implemented by Somerset in their attempt to claw back on budgets; perhaps the most immediate being the impact of the recent cuts and changes to the County’s bus services… and, what a shambles that has been!
Shouldn’t we be embarrassed to watch the current administration – seemingly incapable of keeping to their decisions; with one eye on the County Council elections in May – scrabbling around to find emergency funding to help cover the costs of the 67 service following the outcry from residents of Wookey Hole, Wells, and Burnham-On-Sea when the service was initially cut?
The County Council says it spends around £1.6m subsidising bus services across the county, but the huge pressure on all its budgets means it cannot afford to continue to fully support the services we need. Here in Street and Glastonbury, with so many of us reliant on the bus service, we’ve witnessed upheaval and several changes over the past year to the 29, 54, (3)75 and the (3)77 – with the withdrawal of the 55, following the collapse of WebberBus.
Glastonbury’s Mayor, and frequent bus user, Cllr. Jon Cousins recently commented: “Due to recent cuts the bus service on Sundays and Bank Holidays is limited or non-existent on some routes. There’s no bus service to and from Taunton at any time on Sundays! Evening services have also been reduced. In addition, it seems as though Wells Bus Station has now become the default destination if travelling to Street or Glastonbury from Bristol, Bath, or Shepton Mallet.”
Adding: “It sometimes feels that I’m the only Councillor in Somerset who ever catches the bus. Indeed, I’ve never seen a fellow Councillor on any the services I’ve used in the last 15 years… The fact that Councillors don’t use public transport must certainly account for the reason why there’s no direct bus service from Glastonbury to our nearest train station at Castle Cary!”
“One thing is for sure, if those Councillors responsible for determining the bus subsidies actually had to rely on public transport to travel around, then we’d have a best bus service in the UK!”
The loss of bus services affects access to a whole range of other services. According to a recently published report*, 51% of households in smaller rural areas do not have access to a regular bus service – and Government cuts are forcing councils like Somerset to slash spending on services by more than £27m, which impacts hardest on the young, elderly, and disabled people.
Glastonbury and Street Green Party understand that the bus service is absolutely vital for many people, and we believe it is time for a change. Be it simple improvements, such as clear, easy to understand, up-to-date information on local services being available at all bus stops or common sense approaches, for example – more bus stops with seating and shelter, or making it policy that local transport users must be fully involved in decisions on service levels. And surely, it should be expected that there would be provision of regular bus service to most villages and towns from their nearest station…
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If you would like to see a real change on Somerset County Council, then vote for the Green Party candidate in the County Council elections on Thursday, 4th May 2017.
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* Rural England Report: ‘State Of Rural Services’ [17th January 2017].
Glastonbury’s Green Mayor, Jon Cousins, calls for support of the ‘Mayors for Peace’ petition to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020:
“As a member of the international movement Mayors for Peace, I invite you to join me in signing the online petition seeking the total abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020, with a nuclear weapons convention – requesting the leaders of all nations states, and urging the United Nations to exercise strong leadership in the following:
To ensure that no city will ever again be destroyed by a nuclear weapon,
● Start Negotiations Now! on a nuclear weapons convention!
● Do not allow …war and do not target any city or civilian!
Cities Are Not Targets!”
The petition can be found HERE.
Mayors for Peace is an international organization of cities dedicated to the promotion of peace that was established in 1982 at the initiative of then Mayor of Hiroshima Takeshi Araki, in response to the deaths of around 140,000 people due to the atomic bombing of the city on 6th August 1945.
Mayor of Glastonbury, Green Councillor Jon Cousins writes: On Wednesday 23rd November, I met with Chief Inspector Mark Edgington – Local Policing Commander for the Avon & Somerset Constabulary’s East Somerset Division – at Glastonbury Town Hall.
As with meeting the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens in October, the background to meeting with the Chief Inspector has been my attempt to help address the increasing anti-social behaviour that Glastonbury’s community has been suffering – the intimidation, drunkenness, racial and verbal abuse, and open drug dealing that so many members of our community have raised with me – a situation which has escalated with an attempted murder on 14th September, followed by a second serious assault on 28th October – both incidents were stabbings; both occurred in broad daylight; both happening within yards of one of our schools…
IMPACT OF POLICE FUNDING CUTS:
The other background factor, which Sue Mountstevens had been very candid about, is the impact of the austerity funding cuts imposed by central government on the Police service as a whole, and the fact that Avon and Somerset has been intentionally ‘dampened’ – provided with less resources than other constabularies, resulting in £14 million ‘missing’ from the budget; which means 350 fewer officers, PCSOs and staff than the average!
Mark Edgington came to the Town Hall with Inspector Mark Nicholson of Glastonbury’s Neighbourhood Police Team, and they met with me and the Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Emma George to explore the proposed options to help the situation in Glastonbury – resulting from my meeting with the PCC.
1) The deployment of officers for a ‘permanent’ day-time police presence in the High Street.
The Chief Inspector reiterating the message of the PCC – the Force has undergone major efficiency savings as a result of ‘Austerity’, and – in addition – will need to make further savings of £5½million… all of which has had, and will have, an understandable impact on resources and operations.
I observed that the biggest response I’ve received from Glastonbury residents was their concern around the lack of a visible police presence – and the feeling that this lack has contributed directly to the rise in the incidents and problems we are facing as a community.
This was something highlighted during my consultation in September, and, as a result, Cllr George and I had previously discussed the deployment of officers for a ‘permanent’ day-time police presence in the High Street with Inspector Nicholson and our local Police Team’s Sargent Slade.
Mark Edgington confirmed that under the Force’s new ‘Police & Crime Plan’ (2016-2020), Neighbourhood Policing was a priority; “meaning visibility on the streets.”
2) The developing a Street Pastor team.
We discussed the potential of a Street Pastor team to work as part of a multi-agency approach to addressing the anti-social behaviour. Mark Edgington was fully behind this initiative, and we agreed that this would be a useful option for the newly convened Glastonbury Multi-Agency Meeting to develop.
Mark Edgington endorsed the PCC’s assertion that people who are worried about reporting crimes and incidents because they fear reprisals should use this anonymous, independent service – which is not part of the police.
Find out more about Crimestoppers HERE.
4) Volunteers for Special Constables.
Mark Edgington felt that there was merit in promoting the Special Constabulary in Glastonbury; enabling people who felt strongly about the situation to volunteer for the Force. I mentioned that Cllr George and I would be meeting with the Special Chief Inspector Roger Ball and Special Constabulary Co-ordinator Katie Hancock later that day.
Find out more about volunteering for the Special Constabulary HERE.
5) The ‘Precept’ funding a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO).
The final option we discussed was the potential for Glastonbury to fund an additional Police Community Support Officer for the town through the Parish Precept (the amount of the Council Tax that goes to Town and Parish Councils).
This is something I’ve encouraged residents to comment on – through the Central Somerset Gazette and via social media. Feedback has been largely positive, but with the specific condition that a PCSO paid for by Glastonbury would be on duty only in Glastonbury; providing a visible presence in the town – not constantly being called away to other areas.
Mark Edgington and Mark Nicholson confirmed that the Town Council could fund a dedicated Glastonbury PCSO – recalled that PCSO Mel Rowlands was originally funded as a Glastonbury specific support officer.
They confirmed that:
“Although a PCSO does not have the power of arrest, they play a vital role, being the ‘eyes and ears’ of the community – feeding intelligence to the Neighbourhood Team’s Police Officers.”
“PCSOs can deal with vulnerable people and – with regard to the new Public Space Protection Orders – they have the power to issue dispersal notices and warnings.”
“A key element of the PCSO role is to problem solve with partners as well as responding to calls for service. This is important as being a good problem solver means that our officers treat the cause of the problem rather than just the symptoms. If a Glastonbury ‘One Team’ emerges from the current Multi-Agency Meetings, a new PCSO, paid for by Glastonbury, could undertake a co-ordinating role, helping to support the town’s areas of multiple deprivation.”
Several Town Councillors have wondered if a PCSO could assist with parking enforcement. Mark Nicholson confirmed that a PCSO can issue parking tickets to a car parked on a double yellow line if it is accompanied by an obstruction. The inspector went on to say, “PCSOs can issue tickets on behalf of other agencies (such as ‘NSL’) and I have an enquiry with them to see if that could be done for the Glastonbury PCSO.”
The Chief Inspector told us that “in terms of where a Glastonbury funded PCSO would start and finish their duty – what police station they book on and collect their equipment – I am unable to say with any certainty, but for the time being they would start at Street.” (N.B. Glastonbury Town Council may be able to provide an alternative ‘start and finish’ location for the new PCSO in Glastonbury).
Whilst Chief Inspector said that, in exceptional circumstances – “if there was a danger to life and limb and no other officer was available” – he would need to call away a PCSO to another area, he guaranteed that:
At the Town Council’s Finance & General Purposes Committee meeting on 29th November 2016, it was established that a Glastonbury funded Police Community Support Officer would add £11 to the Council Tax per band ‘D’ dwelling in Glastonbury – less than £1 per month.
Cllr Jon Cousins
Mayor of Glastonbury
Glastonbury Council, St. Edmund’s Ward
Town Hall, Magdalene Street, Glastonbury,
Somerset. BA6 9EL
East Mendip Green Party will pay you to switch from EDF* to Ecotricity or Good Energy
• £40 for switching gas and electricity dual-fuel
• £20 for switching single fuel
Leader of the Green Party group on Mendip District Council and initiator of ‘Switch EDF Off’, Councillor Shane Collins posted on social media: “Feeling frustrated over Hinkley? So are we. EDF are in deep debt – €38billion and counting. Let’s switch EDF off by boycotting them. Please spread the word and let’s break EDF – and nuclear – and support renewables. It pays to go green! ”
If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please take a look at the ‘Switch EDF Off’ website.
* As well as EDF, who are 65% nuclear, East Mendip Green Party will pay you to leave any provider of nuclear energy. For instance, British Gas is 35% nuclear. Check the fuel mix of your energy provider HERE.
The Association of Green Councillors (AGC) has highlighted Glastonbury & Street Green Party’s members in their national review of ‘Green Councillor Achievements – Changing the way councils think 2014-2016’
Glastonbury’s Green Councillors feature at the top of the list of ‘Firsts’ – “celebrating Green solutions are cheaper and better for people”.
Featuring the Green led Town Council’s ban of chemical herbicides – proposed by Cllr Alyson Black in June 2015 – and the Council’s subsequent adoption of non-toxic weed control, the AGC website states: “Glastonbury Greens managed to implement what is thought to be the country’s first ban on chemical herbicides (for use on council owned areas). They introduced Foamstream, an eco-friendly herbicide as a replacement.”
To find out more please visit the AGC website HERE.
Glastonbury’s Green Mayor, Cllr. Jon Cousins announces: “The Nationwide Building Society is opening a new branch in Glastonbury!”
Following our community’s high profile Last Bank Standing Campaign earlier this year, the Nationwide Building Society has spent the last three months exploring the viability of opening a new branch in the town – consulting with various stakeholders, holding an on-line poll, and taking part in the Neighbourhood Plan consultation event on 14th and 15th October in the Town Hall.
On 18th November, the Nationwide issued the following statement:
“Thank you to the whole Glastonbury community and those who have joined in showing their support for us coming to the town. We’re delighted to announce that Nationwide Building Society will be opening a branch in the heart of Glastonbury next summer with the location to be agreed early next year.
“We’ll work closely with the local community to make sure your branch understands the services and facilities that you need. Above all, we want to provide a branch that works for the community and that will lead to local people actively using the service and opening accounts.
“There will be lots of opportunity for the town to influence and help shape the branch over the coming months and you’ll be instrumental in its future and success.”
To find out more – visit the Nationwide’s website HERE.
Mayor of Glastonbury, Green Councillor Jon Cousins writes: On Tuesday 18th October, I met with Sue Mountstevens – the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) – at Glastonbury Town Hall.
The background to our meeting has been my attempt to help address the increasing anti-social behaviour that our community has been suffering for quite some time – the intimidation, drunkenness, racial and verbal abuse, and open drug dealing that so many of you have raised with me – a situation which came to a head with the serious assault near St. John’s Church on 14th September…
In preparation for the meeting, I’ve had several conversations with the local Police Beat Team; and the Deputy Mayor and I also met with Sergeant Slade and Inspector Nicholson… I also talked with an Area Commander, and I can tell you that – from Constable to Commander – I received the same response to my questioning:
The force seriously lacks resource; six years of cuts to the Police budget mean a loss of apparently 600-700 officers to the Avon and Somerset Constabulary…
On 13th September, I also asked you – Glastonbury’s community – for your thoughts on what I should raise with the PCC; to tell me your concerns; your issues; your ideas. I received lots of feedback from you, and I took a long list of the issues you raised to the meeting.
Finally, in the week before I met with Sue Mountstevens, I helped to arrange and took part a ‘multi agency’ meeting about crime in the town – with representatives from the police, town and district council, a number of support services, the PACT team, and the Church. This was very productive, and also gave me further points to raise.
Sue Mountstevens came to the Town Hall with her Staff Officer, Detective Sergeant Ashley Jones, and met with me and the Deputy Town Clerk, Gerard Tucker.
Not surprisingly, the first issue we discussed was anti-social behaviour; the main concern for so many of us in the town. I asked the PCC why there was a lack of a visible police presence in Glastonbury; why there was not a beat officer patrolling, on foot, up and down the streets in the centre of our town? Many of you had fed-back that you felt the lack of police presence contributed to the rise of anti-social behaviour over the summer.
Part of Sue Mountsteven’s response was a practical point – since PC Mark Pople moved to Street, Glastonbury’s Police Beat Team has been short staffed, with a number of officers coming into post and leaving again… However, the good news for Glastonbury is that Sergeant Martha Spikes – who previously worked in the town a few years ago – has transferred from Wells to join the local team.
The PCC also confirmed that in the future, Inspector Nicholson would be able to re-deploy officers to a ‘permanent’ day-time police presence in the High Street – something would certainly be prioritised next summer. However, the PCC did comment that with the reductions in the police budget officers could still be called away to other areas if required.
She informed us that the new Public Space Protection Orders – which Mendip District Council are currently developing – would also provide Glastonbury with a number of additional ‘Enforcement Officers’, who would work for the District Council.
We discussed the ‘multi-agency’ approach; particularly the work of the ‘One Team’ in dealing with troubled families and individuals. The PCC was pleased to hear about the meeting of the multi-agency group in Glastonbury the week before. One of the points raised at the Glastonbury multi-agency meeting was the proven effectiveness of ‘Street Pastors’ in dealing with street drinkers, addicts, and anti-social behaviour in Bristol. Sue Mountstevens told us about possible funding available to support Street Pastors team in our town.
INCREASE IN DRUG DEALING:
Another issue that many of you are concerned about is the increase in drug dealing in the town – particularly of the most harmful and addictive Class A drugs, like heron and cocaine. This is something that the Police are fully aware of, however, as the PCC reiterated, without residents reporting incidents, there is a disconnect between police intelligence and local knowledge.
We discussed the fact that many people who have got in touch with me about witnessing crimes – such a drug dealing – are scared to report these incidents to the Police for fear of reprisal. Sue Mountstevens understood people’s reticence, and reminded me about Crimestoppers – the national confidential reporting charity (independent to the police) to which the public can make truly anonymous reports about any criminal activity of any kind. This seemed like a very useful option, and I am providing a link HERE for anyone who is interested:
HEALTH AND WELLBEING:
We discussed issues around health and wellbeing, and the impact on policing from cuts in the support services for people with mental ill health, for the homeless, for vulnerable people, for addicts.
I mentioned the recent closure of Turning Point’s centre at the Old Library; the County Council’s cutbacks to the drug and alcohol service – this was an area that Sue Mountstevens was obviously passionate about, and she was not impressed by Somerset County Council’s performance. She said that as a result of the increased impact of mental ill health on the police service, she had placed professional mental health workers into the police call centres. Apparently, the only large authority in the Constabulary’s area not to financially support this service is Somerset County Council… !
I was amazed to hear the PCC talk about how 86% of the incidents Avon and Somerset deal with are not crime related – e.g. mental health incidents, safeguarding, and missing persons! I was shocked to discover that in the Avon and Somerset area, there are over 5,000 missing persons – many of them children…
IMPACT OF POLICE FUNDING CUTS:
Sue Mountstevens was very candid about the impact of the austerity funding cuts imposed by central government on the Police service as a whole, and that Avon and Somerset had been intentionally ‘dampened’ – provided with less resources than other constabularies, resulting in £14 million ‘missing’ from the budget; which means 350 fewer officers, PCSOs and staff than the average! Apparently, the PCC doesn’t have the power to set the amount of funding, and couldn’t explain why Avon and Somerset has seen a disproportionately low amount of funding!
I explained to the PCC that I was very disappointed to hear, from every level of the force – from Constable to Commander to Commissioner – about lack of resources. I asked: “If you are not responsible for funding the Police, who is?” “Brandon Lewis”, she replied, “the Policing and Fire Minister…”
I will attempt to arrange a meeting with Brandon Lewis MP, he threatened to come and see me earlier this year, but he pulled out at the last minute…
In concluding our meeting, we discussed a number of options which might help the situation in Glastonbury.
1) as mentioned above, the deployment of officers for a ‘permanent’ day-time police presence in the High Street;
2) developing a Street Pastor team, to work as part of a multi-agency approach to addressing the anti-social behaviour;
3) encouraging people who are concerned about reporting crimes and incidents, for fear of reprisal, to use Crimestoppers
4) Special Constables – residents who have had enough, and would like to make a difference, could apply to join the Special Constabulary… There are apparently vacancies for over 300 Specials in Avon and Somerset! I have asked the PCC to contact the Special Constabulary Coordinator in respect to recruiting for Special Officers in the Glastonbury area, and to make a closer collaboration with the Town Council and Special Constabulary
5) Finally, there is the potential for Glastonbury to fund an additional PCSO post for the town… However, that is something I would like to know your thoughts on…
With regard to a Glastonbury funded PCSO:
a) there has already been some discussion by the Council’s Town Centre Working Group about funding a private security firm to ‘police’ Glastonbury…
b) until 2002, Glastonbury Town Council used to annually fund Glastonbury Fire Station’s second Fire Engine…
c) a Glastonbury PCSO, funded through the Council Tax would probably cost each household around £1 per month…
What do you think? Is £1 a month worth a dedicated Glastonbury PCSO?
I look forward to your comments.
Cllr Jon Cousins
Mayor of Glastonbury
Glastonbury Council, St. Edmund’s Ward
Town Hall, Magdalene Street, Glastonbury,
Somerset. BA6 9EL