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Views from the South West

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Planning Communications and Consultation
local elections
politics and planning

Earlier in the year, Nigel Marriott, a Bath-based statistician with a strong track record of predicting both national and local election results, suggested in a Bristol Post article that the Tories in South Gloucestershire would need to work hard to keep hold of power at the Council.

Last week, Councillor Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire for the last five years, confirmed that he would not be standing for re-election in May so that he can spend more time with his family while they are young, without having to juggle the demands of public office.

Personally, I believe Cllr Savage has proved to be a forward-looking Council Leader, working effectively with neighbouring local authorities on key housing, infrastructure and economic development projects, many of which, more often than not, get incorrectly ‘branded’ as Bristol. 

Despite some inevitable political fallouts with his Labour leader neighbours in Bristol and WECA, over the years, he appeared to be successful in working across party lines when it mattered most, and certainly raised the profile and led the charge of South Gloucestershire well during his tenure.

Whilst the authority may have bucked the trend of Tory defeats in the region back in 2019, the departure of Savage, twinned with the slim Conservative majority, will mean that those canvassing to keep the Conservatives in power will have their work cut for them in the days between now and May 4.

Meanwhile, further down in the South West, despite the birth of the new unitary Somerset Council on April 1st, there is no rest for the electorate of the county town who will be voting for 20 representatives into the new Taunton Town Council (also known as Taunton Parish Council).

Somerset has a history of flick-flacking between the Tories and Liberal Democrats (both locally and nationally). The local political pendulum is currently in the Lib Dem axis, with the party holding 61 of the 110 seats at the unitary council.

There are some familiar Lib Dems on offer for the new Town Council, Tom Deakin, Caroline Ellis and Federica Smith-Roberts, with Diogo Rodrigues from the Conservatives, all already representing divisions on Somerset Council. Also standing are a number of prospective councillors from the former Somerset West and Taunton Council (previously created from the not-so-distant merge of Taunton Deane and West Somerset Councils) including current Taunton Mayor, Sue Lees, again Liberal Democrats.

Labour meanwhile is hoping the new Town Council will give the town’s residents a vote to break the duopoly and achieve a better balance. Libby Lisgo, Labour Group Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset West and Taunton Council, former Mayor of Taunton Deane and the Labour candidate for the Victoria ward, has backed the creation of a town council for a long time and said: “Taunton has been disadvantaged for decades by not having a town council. Everywhere else in Somerset has this sort of body.”

If the local electorate agree with Labour’s thinking, then we may see a break with tradition, resulting in something close to an even split on Taunton’s first Town Council. For the voters, I suspect they will be hoping that government structures will now settle down enough for those elected to get stuck into the job at hand.