CHILDREN’S CENTRE UNDER THREAT
The campaign to save Wellington Children’s Centre in Courtland Road from the threat of closure is being supported by a petition started by local mum Rachel Condick and parents who use the centre. 650 signatures have already been added.
Rachel, who also spoke at the town council meeting this week, has urged everyone who supports the centre staying in Wellington to send that message to Somerset County Council. “I’m asking everyone to send an email to FamilySupportService@somerset.gov.uk, “said Rachael.”Use the title – Save Wellington Children’s Centre – and write why you think it shouldn’t close, have you used their services etc, and how it will effect you.
“When becoming a parent you can sometimes feel isolated but having the children’s centre and the wonderful staff that work there helps. Why would Somerset County Council want to remove a service that is working, a service that provides face-to-face support for many families in the town? The town’s housing is increasing which ultimately means more families … families who don’t want to travel to a neighbouring town or have their services cut.”
The children’s centre is part of SCC’s getset Services and provides family support and advice on a wide range of childcare issues including housing, special educational needs and managing behaviour. It was opened in 2007 and was rated as ‘Good’ by Ofsted in its last inspection.
In September this year SCC launched a consultation process to evaluate reducing the number of Sure Start children’s centres across the county from 24 to 8. Currently, Taunton Deane has 6 centres but the proposals under review would see that number reduced to two ‘family centres’, both in Taunton – Acorns Children’s Centre in Roman Road and Hillside in Eastwick Road. The other 4 centres would be ‘de-designated’.The Labour-led council set up 41 children’s centres in Somerset 12 years ago.
The future of the Wellington Children’s Centre is under review at the same time as other public services in the town are threatened. Wellington Community Hospital is one of 13 units across the county under scrutiny as SCC evaluates the options for delivering sustainable inpatient services and the Wellington-based Somerset Skill and Learning (SS&L) faces the consequences of what was initially a 97% reduction in its budget. It has since recovered £2 million in lost funding but faces losing a third of its staff and the closure of six centres. SS&L chief executive Susan Simon-Norris said: “We have no choice – the funding cuts have left us in a very difficult position.” SS&L employs 200 staff and currently provides courses for 10,000 students.
GRANTS FROM THE TOWN COUNCIL
After applying to the town council for a grant for their first time in their long history Wellington Choral Society have been awarded nearly £3,000 towards the cost of acquiring and modifying the staging needed for concerts. Previously the WCS had to hire staging on an event by event basis at considerable expense.
Other grants approved at this week’s council meeting included £2,750 for Reminiscence Learning to be spent on expanding its Community Programme in Wellington which works to raise awareness of how to deal with dementia in various settings.
Wellington Cricket Club were awarded £1050 towards the cost of its programme of winter coaching for young people, held weekly at Court Fields school sports hall. Councillors voted to award a grant of £140 to the Friends of Wellington Library to cover the costs of public liability insurance.
COUNCILLORS URGE SUPPORT FOR HOSPITAL
Two town councillors have urged people in Wellington to alert NHS officials as to how much the hospital is valued in the community. Comments can be lodged online at www.sompar.nhs.uk
“It would be a sad day for Wellington if the Community Hospital had to close. Having had relatives cared for there I couldn’t have wished for a better hospital.,” said Cllr Janet Green. “The support from the Hospital League of Friends have been unstinting. It would be very difficult for many older residents to access a larger facility to visit every day which often is the case when having a spouse needing the care of this great local establishment.”
Her view were echoed by Cllr Mark Lithgow who said,” I have also had relatives who have needed care from this valuable hospital and I can only say that the care was of a very high standard. This is a part of a worrying trend of recruitment issues across the NHS.
“Milverton is losing its GP practice, Musgrove Park Hospital is having to cancel non-emergency operations due to staff shortages.Wellington’s Community Hospital is one of 13 small Somerset hospitals at risk of closure. What does it take for the current ruling government to admit the NHS is in crisis. Serious decisions need to be taken to ensure the NHS is properly funded to provide the basic care needed for the vulnerable members of our community.
ANOTHER LIBRARY REVIEW EXPECTED
The future of Wellington’s library is once again under discussion at Somerset county council, just four years after the last major review into the library service – which has been told to cut £500,000 from its budget in the coming financial year.
Town clerk Greg Dyke reported to the town council after a meeting with SCC officials that “it became clear that the county council would be looking for ‘community support’ to keep Wellington library open.
“This could involve help from volunteers or some kind of contribution from the town council. The discussion also encompassed thoughts around reducing staff hours, community asset transfer, or co-location.”
The latter idea of placing key community services in the same building drew a comment from Cllr Andrew Govier. “In most towns you would have a library 75 yards from a Tourist Information Office and a Community Office,” he said.
Fellow councillor Marcus Barr went further and suggested that Wellington should raise its share of the council tax shared between town, district and county in order to be able to help fund the library. “In a town of this size the precept should be at least £100 a year,” he said. “We either help or we do nothing.” The current precept is around £40 per household per year.
NEW CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ON THE WAY
Entirely new Christmas Lights are coming to the town centre this year, supplied by West Buckland business The Festive Lighting Company – who count Edinburgh and Cardiff amongst their clients.
“New lights bring new people to the town. There’s an opportunity here to make Wellington look really special and people will embrace it,” said Cllr Ross Henley.
“It’s a damn good idea and will support the traders who’ve already put forward their own plan for enhancing the lights outside their shops,” added Cllr Janet Reed.
Town clerk Greg Dyke explained to the meeting that the new lights would be hired from Festive Lighting for an initial three-year period at an annual cost of £5309. He added that the existing Christmas lights, owned by the town council, were coming up to eight years old and needed repairs and replacements.
By also taking away storage charges the meeting felt that the new scheme would probably be cost neutral and might even save money – as well as massively enhancing the visual appeal of the town centre over the Christmas period.
“I think this is a way of moving forward and represents real value for money,” said Cllr Andy Govier.
ALL RHUBARB SAYS COUNCIL
Cllr Janet Lloyd was one of a number of town councillors who opposed a grant application from Wellington Sustainable Food Group for £683.50 towards the costs of planting fruit trees at Post Close community Orchard.
The council heard that in February last year the group was awarded £1600 for a similar scheme elsewhere in the town.
“The evidence from the Corams Lane planting is that no one has picked the rhubarb all summer. If people haven’t picked what’s already there, then why will they use the new trees?” said Cllr Lloyd.
The town council agreed to follow the recommendation of the Finance committee and turn down the application.
COUNCIL TO MOVE ON THE BASINS
Discussions are set to begin on a plan for Wellington town council taking public ownership of the Basins following a decision to undertake repairs to the wooden fencing on either side of the causeway that leads to both the Basins and the allotments.
Councillors heard from the town clerk that planned repairs to burnt and broken fencing would cost around £2,300 plus VAT. Cllr James Hunt suggested that inquiries be made to see if the landowners concerned would restore the fencing.
However, having heard from the clerk that the landowners involved – Sheikh Holdings, who also have Tonedale Mill – had previously been unresponsive, there was a feeling that the situation could not be left to deteriorate.
“It would be horrific if someone fell into the water because of poor fencing,” said Cllr Janet Lloyd. Discussion turned to the long-term future of this green area, created by Fox Bros around 200 years ago to provide controlled water power for the mill.
“I’d like to sort out the future of the Basins and find a way to transfer them to public ownership,” said Cllr Andrew Govier. “The Basins are a real asset to the town and this episode could be a lever for us to gain control of them. Spending money on repairs could be a catalyst.” The meeting agreed to seek permission for repairs and begin discussions on a possible transfer to public ownership.
COUNCIL VOTES TO REFUSE EXTRA HOUSES AT HERITAGE MILL
Greedy developers who try to game the planning system to squeeze in extra houses at the last minute have found little patience from sceptical Wellington councillors.
The town council were discussing an application from Strongvox to add four more houses to the new estate being built at Tone Mill. It came in the same week as news that the builders about to start work at Jurston Farm hope to add another 17 homes to their 600-house project.
“Yet again we’re being asked to approve major changes after approval has been given,” complained an exasperated Cllr Janet Lloyd.
She was supported by Cllr Andy Govier who said: “It feels like whenever a number is agreed for a site we know that somewhere down the line the developer will say ‘Oh, we’ve found room for a few more houses.’
“This creeping development was exactly what happened at Cades Farm where we found they wanted 100 more units.”
Councillors unanimously recommended refusal of the application to expand numbers at Tone Mill.
YES TO NEW HOME AT OLDWAY PARK
Plans to build a detached house in the garden of a bungalow at 15 Oldway Park, Wellington were supported by town councillors at this week’s meeting.
“I recommend approval. It’s a massive plot and cars can gain access from Blackmoor Road rather than going up Oldway park,” said Cllr Janet Reed.
The town council vote to recommend approval when the application goes to Taunton Deane planning committee for a final decision
MAYOR DONATES TO FIVE CHARITIES
Wellington’s mayor Cllr Gary James has opted to give away his £500 annual Mayoral Allowance to local organisations. The five groups of his choice were Wellington Carnival Committee, Wellington Silver Band, Wellington Community Centre, 1st Wellington Scouts and WHERE.
Representatives from these groups were each presented with a cheque for £100 in the Council Chamber.
Katie Rylatt – Wellington Carnival Committee
Geoff Samuel – Chairman Wellington Silver Band
Jill Mitton – Secretary Wellington Community Centre
Emily Cannell – Leader 1st Wellington Scouts.
Barbara Ford – WHERE
GRANT FOR MAJORETTES
Wellington town council voted to give the Somerset Red Arrow Majorettes a grant of £750 for uniforms and equipment after hearing that they had been based in the town for over 40 years and never before applied for support. Councillors made their support conditional on sight of a safeguarding policy for children involved.
PARKING PROBLEMS & SOLUTIONS
Wellington needs a full-time traffic warden and parking meters on Fore St says Cllr Marcus Barr. “The town is choking”, added Cllr Peter Critchard.
The town council was discussing the issue of parking problems after hearing back from Taunton council’s Parking Services department that they needed more evidence before considering a change or increase in warden hours.
However, other voices urged caution. “We should be careful what we wish for,” said Cllr Andrew Govier. “Lorries and vans will stop and unload to the shops on Fore St whether we have a warden or not.
“The odd motorist may use the long Loading Space to pop into Lloyds Bank but I don’t think that is the root cause of the congestion. I’m not saying people should park illegally but we may find we’ve just moved the problem down the road. I think the Longforth Rd lights are a bigger congestion issue than illegal parking.”
Other views were expressed. “North St is one of the major parking issues with lorries going down to Swallowfield and the new building site at Tone Dale,” said Cllr Janet Lloyd. “People are ignoring the single yellow line and parking well before 6pm”
The council agreed to explore ways of gathering more evidence about parking issues. The possibility of using Court Fields school pupils to conduct a survey was discussed.
ARMED FORCES DAY
Wellington Town Council will once again be giving its support for Armed Forces Day tomorrow with the laying of a poppy wreath at the town’s war memorial and the ashes of remembrance crosses scattered. Mayor Gary James will be joined by other town councillors in Wellington Park, Courtland Road, at 10am for the occasion and invites all members of the public to join the ceremony.
Members of the Royal British Legion Wellington branch and Army cadets will accompany the Mayor and . A prayer will be given as well as the exhortation by President of the town’s British Legion , Michael Rose.
Armed Forces Day aims to raise awareness of the contribution made to our country by those who serve and have served in HM Armed Forces and to provide an opportunity for the nation to show their support and respect.
Councillor James said: “The Town Council wanted to formally express its gratitude and respect to the men and women who have served and currently are serving our country. We also wish to recognise the hard work they have carried out.”
Residents and visitors who would like to mark the occasion are welcome to join the Mayor for the ceremony. The Friends of Wellington Park are providing seating for veterans. Please contact Pete Critchard on 01823 668698 if required.
For more information about Armed Forces Day log onto the website at www.armedforcesday.org.uk
NEW VISION FOR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Wellington town centre could have a very different look this Christmas. Retailers are making plans to install an artificial tree lit by white LED lights above each shop front. The idea has been inspired by the success of a similar scheme at Crediton in Devon and traders have had discussions with the town clerk there.
“The big issue drawing people out of the Waitrose car park – usually packed on a Saturday – and into the town which is often empty and looking a bit sad,” said Sharon Davis, of Flowers & Interiors, one of the Wellington Traders Group introducing the scheme.
Each installation of tree, lights and bracket is expected to cost around £150 and fundraising will begin soon. “They’d belong to the town, not to individual shops, because traders come and go,” explained Sharon. “We won’t raise enough money to do all the shops in one year, so we’ll plan to start at the Longforth Rd traffic lights and work our way into town.
“We’ve got a nice little town and we need to get people in to see it. It can’t be about one street, whether it’s Fore St, High St or South St. If it works for Wellington then it works for every shop.”
Last year a group of South St traders banded together and organised a road closure and a street event. Some retailers elsewhere in the town felt that had a negative impact on their businesses.
WTG has been in discussions with Wellington town clerk Greg Dyke who outlined the scheme to members at the recent town council meeting. It met with broad approval from councillors. “I really support this initiative. It’s a group of shopkeepers who really want to see the town looking great,” said Cllr Janet Reed.
Mr Dyke told the council that some money had already been allocated for adding to the main Christmas tree and overhead lights. This money is independent of the WTG scheme. In addition the council spend in the region of £14,000 per year storing and installing the existing lights.
RESCUE PLAN FOR YOUTH CENTRE
Wellington’s youth centre was only weeks from closing until the town council agreed to rescue it with a funding package worth £51,000 over three years. The meeting heard a detailed account from Cllr Andy Govier about the financial problems at the centre and voted almost unanimously to support a rescue plan.
Councillors praised the work of the centre in providing a safe location where young people could socialise on two weekday evenings and have help and advice available from experienced youth workers.
“It’s no longer a youth club where kids go to play ping pong. There are all sorts of important counselling services and support,” said Cllr Peter Critchard. He was supported by Cllr Charles Biscoe who added that supporting the centre was a “proper use of council funds and has a demonstrable effect on the town”.
A dissenting voice came from Cllr John Thorne who queried whether the rescue cash represented value for money. “I’m not going to support spending £17,000 a year for three years to deliver four hours a week of youth club activity,” he said. “When it comes to drug abuse or teenage pregnancies, there are other agencies that do that kind of work.”
Town clerk Greg Dyke explained that saving the youth centre would only require just over £6,000 per year of new expenditure as there was already a degree of spending in the same area that could be diverted to the youth centre.
LITHGOW ELECTED TO COUNCIL
Lib Dem candidate Mark Lithgow has been elected as the new town councillor in the Wellington by-election.” I would like to thank the people of Wellington North who have come out in support of me in the by-election,” said Lithgow. “This by-election was due to the sad passing of the late Gloria Copley, who was a marvellous town councillor. I will work very hard to carry on all the good work that Gloria did over many years.”
“I feel honoured and humbled to be chosen to represent the people of Wellington. I have already received messages wishing me well and good fortune whilst carrying out my councillor duties.
“I am very much looking forward to working together with the other councillors to ensure that Wellington is not the neglected part of Taunton Deane and that matters that affect Wellington and are within the gift of Wellington Town Council are addressed in a collaborative way, thus ensuring Wellington has a fairer and louder voice in Taunton Deane.
“I wish to pass on my regards to Robin Dickinson, who was the Conservative candidate standing for the Wellington North seat. I do hope he continues to offer his experience in helping making Wellington a better place for all of us to live.”
GRANT FOR THE BIG TENT AND OTHER CAUSES
Cllr Charles Biscoe argued vigorously this week against the town council giving a £500 grant to a Churches Together summer holidays project called The Big Tent, a children’s Bible club.
“I think the council should not be using taxpayers’ money to promote a specific religious belief, Christian or not. We may leave ourselves open to all kinds of other faiths that we are less comfortable with coming to the council for money.
“And I struggle to see the community benefits of these churches using public money to recruit young people to their beliefs.”
Cllr Janet Reed opposed Cllr Biscoe, saying: “It’s not about pushing Christianity down children’s throats. It’s about teaching them how to behave.”
The council voted to award the money to The Big Tent, with Cllr Biscoe the lone opposing voice.
Town councillors voted to make a £2,500 grant to Wellington Carnival Committee after hearing that the carnival was struggling to remain viable, with decreasing revenue from street collections etc.
Councillors met recently with members of the carnival committee and received reassurances that the grant would go directly towards running costs for the annual parade and not be an indirect contribution to the charities that the Carnival donates to.
Carnival officers made a presentation to the council prior to the main meeting outlining the plans of the South Somerset carnival federation to acquire land on the edge of Ilminster and build a shared workshop complex to construct the large and complex floats that the rival clubs build each year.
No to Dementia but Yes to Genesis
Councillors voted against a start-up grant of £750 to a new body called Wellington Dementia Action Alliance, arguing that it would appear to duplicate services already provided in the town. At the same meeting a grant of £750 was given to Genesis Youth theatre to assist with the costs of equipment and specialist coaches.
DEBATE OVER FUTURE FOR EMPTY SHOPS
Plans to convert an empty hairdresser’s in White Hart Lane to residential use provoked a lively discussion over the future of vacant shops in the town at this month’s town council meeting.
Cllr Andy Govier opposed the planning application saying: “Once a shop has gone to residential use it’s gone for ever as far as retailing is concerned.
“Smaller premises like these are ideal for a start-up business and I remember people coming to me only a year or two ago desperate to find a shop to rent. I realise that we have a number of empty shops in the town centre at present but this is a cyclical situation in my view.”
Cllr John Thorne took a more pragmatic view. “Loose Ends has moved to bigger premises in the High St and there are 16 other ladies hairdressers in the town. It’s disappointing but you can’t argue against it happening.
“Online retailing is affecting every shop except those that are offering services that you can’t get on the internet – like hairdressing.”
The council voted 5-4 to recommend approval for the change to Taunton Deane planning committee who will consider the application next month.