Town councils are the local part of our democracy and play an integral role in the functioning of our communities. In that respect, town councils give real power to local citizens at grassroots level.
The present Conservative government and the previous Tory-Lib Dem coalition have taken rural communities for granted, allowing for chronic underinvestment in public transport, broadband and public services. Our infrastructure and local small businesses have been neglected, which has led to a low-wage, part-time economy of unskilled employment. For far too many local residents on low wages, Bridport house prices are now unaffordable, often causing young people to move elsewhere, or stay living with their parents. This is unsustainable, and if not addressed will irreversibly change for the worse the fabric of our community and the market town feel of Bridport.
DEFENDING THE NHS AND OUR COMMUNITY HOSPITAL
We will support local health services in every way we can.
Incessant, austerity-driven underfunding and wasteful policies that put private company profit before patients mean constant cuts to our health and care services are worsening the crisis in the NHS that affects us all.
We support healthcare initiatives that don’t waste tax payers’ money on services with the primary goal of private profit, but do deliver much-needed services for our children, elderly and the chronically ill and disabled.
Labour gave us the NHS in 1948 — and only Labour will fight tooth and nail to keep it.
Bridport lacks a modern, integrated transport system that is reliable and affordable. Deregulation, combined with savage cuts to funding has left Bridport with not only a hollowed-out skeleton bus service, but has also left isolated those in our outlying villages. Younger people are prevented from taking up job opportunities away from Bridport either by the lack of evening and Sunday bus services, or the high fares. This lack of decent public transport has implications for everyone in Bridport in terms of education, jobs, tourism, local shops and businesses, as well as creating major difficulties for hospital patients and visitors.
As for pensioners, in the first four years of the Coalition government, funding for the national concessionary fares scheme was cut by 39%. As a result, in Dorset, subsidised evening and weekend bus journeys were withdrawn to save £850,000.The elderly and disabled must not be allowed to pay the price for these cuts by losing their bus passes. Neither should they ever be shamed into not using their passes on public transport.
We will campaign to retain Bridport’s bus station, and to see it put to full use with a revitalised seven-day service providing strategic links to nearby towns and railway stations.
We support the new twice-weekly town bus service and will aim to expand it into to a daily service, and for it to serve more outlying areas.
We will consult with residents on ways to reduce traffic congestion in our town and facilitate greater use of public transport and car share schemes.
We will explore the possibility of setting up a council-run, not-for-profit local car hire system using electric vehicles.
THE HOUSING THAT BRIDPORT NEEDS
Bridport needs high-quality, low-energy homes that are genuinely affordable social housing for local people to rent. This will be our priority.
The Tory government defines ‘affordable rent’ as 80% of local market rates and restricts funding for new social-rented homes. As a result, most local authorities no longer require developers to build social-rented homes if they are able to claim the development will not make a profit. To address this Bridport Labour will press for genuinely affordable social housing at rents that reflect the local low-wage economy of West Dorset.
We believe that our housing policy should begin by helping people on the housing register and those living in unaffordable private rental accommodation. To achieve this we will fully support housing developments that prioritise the delivery of low-rent social housing. This will ensure that all new developments deliver higher percentages of truly affordable social housing. Unless and until these criteria are guaranteed, Bridport Labour will oppose the Vearse Farm development and any similar large scale housing applications.
We will support housing initiatives led by local people, such as Bridport Cohousing, and explore innovative approaches to providing homes for sale and rent, such as Community Land Trusts, the Community Housing Fund, self-build projects and bringing empty buildings back into use.
A Labour town council will do more to make sure enforcement action is taken against irresponsible private landlords who are not complying with the law – ensuring decent standards are met in the private rental market.
We fully endorse Labour’s new policy to levy double council tax on second homes. Bridport Labour will also endeavour to work alongside other holiday hot-spot town councils, such as St Ives to close the loophole introduced by the government – which enables second-home and holiday home owners to avoid paying any council tax at all simply by the means of claiming business rate relief.
SUPPORTING THE LOCAL ECONOMY
Bridport’s future and its survival as a market town is linked to the success of our many independent shops, businesses and services, not forgetting the role our street market plays in attracting tourists to our town. But the move to online retail and the changing nature of the way we shop doesn’t need to mean empty high streets and job losses. It can mean a vibrant community space, with local independent shops, cafés and restaurants.
To achieve this, Labour in government will fundamentally review the business rates system to bring it into the 21st century – in the meantime we in Bridport Labour will identify ways to ensure our town centre continues to thrive. We will develop schemes to encourage local businesses and reward local shoppers.
At present we have a fair balance between independent shops and chain stores. However Bridport Labour totally rejects the idea of building a new retail mall on either the Rope Walks (Waitrose) or the bus station car parks given that car parking, essential to our local economy, will be lost to a white elephant project which will destroy our local shops and businesses.
We accept that tourism is an increasingly important part of our economy, and we will support it by means of properly funding our Tourist Information Centre as well as acknowledging the part our flourishing and vibrant arts sector plays in attracting visitors to our town.
CHERISHING OUR ENVIRONMENT
Bridport must have a far greater say in planning decisions and in shaping developments that affect our town. We need robust community planning alongside full engagement with local electors that allows local people rather than councillors not associated with Bridport to decide the kind of community we the residents live and work in. We will insist that public council planning meetings about major new Bridport developments are always held here in our town.
We want to see brownfield sites prioritised for new developments before any building is considered in our beautiful landscape and AONB.
We will also work towards making Bridport and West Bay free of single-use plastics, and support initiatives to clean up our coastline, rivers and the sea.
The Labour Party is totally opposed to fracking, and as a town council we will fight to maintain support for Low Carbon Dorset in the event that the present European funding is lost.
We welcome the fact that Labour has pledged to end badger culls – which science tells us actually spread, rather than prevent, bovine TB.
Bridport Labour is supportive of the proposed Dorset National Park and welcomes the idea that Bridport would be at its heart.
A Labour town council will be custodians and champions of our landscape, agricultural, tourist and leisure industries. We will protect the unique character of our town, maintain our cultural heritage and do our utmost to guard against climate change and preserve our natural environment for future generations.
Young people are our future and we need to recognise their importance to our community and provide levels of funding that reflect this. Investing in facilities for young people is a down payment for the town’s future.
In the five years between 2011 and 2016, spending on youth services in Dorset was cut by a third. This has led to Bridport Youth Centre having to depend upon the services of volunteers instead of it being a funded service. We pledge to return funding to the level it was at before the Tories tried to sell this vital community service.
We need facilities for all ages and this includes those used by young families. Therefore we will fund and upgrade Bridport’s existing play area, and identify a site for a second play area elsewhere in the town.
There is clearly a demand for an indoor skate park in town and we will work with local young people to identify an appropriate location, and to find sufficient funding to replace their lost facility.
SUPPORT FOR OUR VULNERABLE CITIZENS
A Labour town council will set up a redistributive scheme to tackle poverty and inequality in Bridport. This will comprise independent groups of funders, businesses, residents and charities working together to fund grants to voluntary organisations, such as Bridport’s foodbanks, and to fund initiatives to address rough sleeping in our town.
We will also seek funding to set up children’s holiday clubs. There are approximately 170 non-school days a year where children cannot access free school meals, putting a lot of financial pressure on families that rely on this. Many families also suffer with social isolation during the school holidays, as they cannot afford to do activities, take their children on days out, or invite their friends over.
We will tackle isolation and loneliness in Bridport by introducing a Bridport Neighbourhood Cares scheme.
The police precept element of our council tax has risen year on year. However, our local police station is rarely open and there is a marked lack of police on our streets. The attack on a cash machine in Beaminster shows all too well that criminals feel they can act with impunity due to the extended response times and stretched resources of the police service.
A Labour town council will work closely with local police to identify Bridport-specific priorities and support the strategic targeting of their limited resources. On a wider level, a Labour government will redress the chronic underfunding of the police by successive Conservative-Lib Dem coalition and Tory governments.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE UNITARY COUNCIL SYSTEM
In the near future, our Town Council will be expected to take on more responsibilities from the new Unitary Authority. Bridport Labour welcomes the challenge and is ready for it. However under the present Conservative government it is very likely no extra funding will be made available – in fact further cuts to central funding are planned. Labour believes in devolving power to our local communities, but that requires that funding follows. You cannot empower local government if you impoverish it.
Bridport’s residents’ council tax is already the highest in West Dorset – while council tax remains a regressive measure hitting poorer families the hardest as a proportion of their income. In contrast to the present government, an incoming Labour government will give local government the extra long-term funding required by reforming council tax and business rates, and by considering radical new options such as a land value tax. Here in Bridport we will also look at ways to raise extra revenue for the town, for example by taking back control of our car parks from the unitary council.
Labour town council candidates pledge if elected to be readily accessible to all Bridport residents – to hold drop-in surgeries where any concerns can be raised, as well as public meetings to discuss council policy and planned developments.
A Labour town council will continually strive to harness the initiative, energy, drive and diverse skills of all Bridport residents by listening to and representing your views and ensuring these have a direct influence on decisions made – delivering real power to local citizens at grassroots level.