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Political

Liberal Democrat gain overall control of South Somerset council

Welcome news from Somerset as the Liberal Democrat administration on a local council has been strengthened by the switch of a Conservative Party councillor.

Here’s the news release from the local Lib Dem team:

After over three years as a district councillor and just over one year as a county councillor Neil Bloomfield (Martock) has moved from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats.

In the 2015 South Somerset District Council election, the Liberal Democrats won 29 seats to the Conservatives’ 28. However, the three Independents decided to support a continuing Liberal Democrat administration. Shortly after the election, Cllr Amanda Broom (Chard) left the Tory party and joined the Liberal Democrats
and now Cllr Neil Bloomfield has done the same meaning once again the Liberal Democrats are in overall control.

Over the past three years under a Liberal Democrat administration, the council has robustly tackled the reducing grant from central government and met the £6m shortfall by transforming the delivery of council services at an annual saving of £2.5m and increasing income from its investments to deliver a further £3.5m of extra income. Against the national trend, this strong financial position means no cuts to public services.

Councillor Neil Bloomfield’s move was triggered by the financial problems at Tory-controlled Somerset County Council, which is on the brink of financial
collapse as extensively reported elsewhere. As a Conservative county councillor, Neil was Vice-Chair of the Audit Committee, and he refused to sign off the Annual Statement of Accounts. This followed the resignation of the Council’s Section 151 (Financial) Officer and his deputy over the financial state of affairs at Somerset. Councillor Bloomfield then resigned his positions on the Audit Committee and resigned from the Conservative Party.

Of his decision, Neil said, “I became involved in local government to make a difference and help people. For some time I’ve been struggling with the impact of the financial cuts both nationally and locally and the significant impact on local people. The County Council is failing in its duty to its residents and has made, and continues to make, poor financial decisions which have worsened things, possibly to the brink of bankruptcy. Like many other councils it should have planned ahead but its dogged approach means it may be too late for the residents of Somerset and the cuts to come are likely to be far far worse.”

Ric Pallister, Lib Dem Leader of South Somerset District Council and Jane Lock, leader of the Lib Dems at Somerset County Council added “Neil is an excellent councillor who works tremendously hard for his community and will continue to do so as a Liberal Democrat. We are delighted that he has decided that his values and principles fit better with ours than with the Conservatives and look forward to working with him.”

That 29-28 seat margin in 2015, by the way, was secured by just one vote when Sarah Dyke-Bracher regained the Milborne Port ward of South Somerset for the Liberal Democrats.

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