Referendum for a Stronger Somerset

A local referendum will now take place for the people of Somerset from 18 May to 4 June.

For more information go to


Somerset MPs vote for HUNGER

Why our MP is wrong about free school meals, and what you can do about it

Like many people, I was appalled that last week Conservative MPs voted down a motion calling on the Government to continue funding free school meals over the school holidays in order to prevent over a million children going hungry during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This Scrooge-like decision is at odds with their previous extension of free school meals over the summer holidays through a voucher system, following footballer Marcus Rashford’s popular campaign and a similar motion in June. It is also in contrast to the Welsh and Scottish Governments’ recent commitments.

The government insists the best way to support families outside of term time is through the benefits system, which they argue is already generous enough, “rather than government subsidising meals”. Putting aside the fact that the government does in fact subsidise meals, for MPs and Lords in the Houses of Parliament at a cost of £1.7 million a year, it is clear from the groundswell of support for Marcus Rashford’s campaign that much, much more needs to be done in order to support struggling families through this pandemic and beyond.

Liberals in this country have a long and proud history of ensuring a strong safety net for the most vulnerable, particularly children. Free school meals were first introduced in 1906 by the then Liberal government due to concerns about poorer children’s health and nutrition. In 2014, it was the Liberal Democrats in government who introduced free school meals for all children in reception and years 1 and 2. And after some lobbying by the Liberal Democrat group and others, it is good to see that Somerset County Council have announced a £125,000 fund to provide more holiday meal support over the Christmas school holidays1. Liberal Democrats know that feeding children properly not only helps them concentrate, grow and achieve more, but that it is the right thing to do.

At the last count in January there were 1,806 pupils eligible for free school meals in the Somerton & Frome constituency, and with the pandemic leading to a recession, and the end of the Job Retention Scheme in October feared to result in yet more job losses, the number of families in need for support is going to rise in our local area. Our Conservative MP, David Warburton, voted along with the Government, and I wrote to him to ask him why.

In the public response posted on his website, Mr Warburton argues that Opposition Day Motions are ‘purely symbolic and designed to signal political differences’. This ignores the fact that the Government can agree to them without a vote, as it did in June’s very similar opposition motion about free school meals over the summer holidays.

Then he argues that an extension of the free meal voucher scheme over school holidays is ‘not the answer’ to food poverty, citing a Northumbria University and Healthy Living UK study2 (June 2020, by Prof. Greta Defeyter and Dr Emily Mann). However, the authors of this study are clear that their findings do not support the government’s decision to withdraw the voucher scheme, warning that children of a parent or carer unable to access the voucher scheme could be at risk of severe food insecurity. Instead, they call for further financial support.

Our MP then complains that the opposition motion did not include alternatives to how the scheme could be improved to help those who need it most, such as a mix of cooked meals delivered in schools or food parcels. But these alternatives already exist. In July of this year, Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy3 review cited evidence that an estimated three million children are at risk of hunger in the school holidays and that there is increased demand at food banks over the summer. The government needs to act on the recommendations, including to expand the eligibility of free school meals to include every child from a household where a parent or guardian receives Universal Credit or equivalent benefits. It should also roll out the pilot Holiday Activity and Food programme nationally as it only currently covers 17 council areas, so that the programme can support children in receipt of free school meals in all areas of England, in a way that complements and works with existing local holiday activity providers.

He also refers to the £63 million that local authorities received ‘to get food to those most in need – an initiative praised by the Trussell Trust.’ Indeed it was welcomed by the Trussell Trust but they also suggested the funding would run out and should be more like £250 million annually4. This was also not earmarked for child hunger, but was to be spent on a range of issues at councils’ discretion. It also appears that councils will have already used up the funding they received in July as the Government said on 4th August that it anticipated most of the funding will be spent within 12 weeks (July-September). So with this in mind. Ministers and our MP are misleading their constituents by using a council hardship fund which they expected to be exhausted by now, as a reason for not acting further on holiday hunger now and in the future.

The response around the country to the vote has been amazing. Communities and businesses across the country have demonstrated the best of British values, stepping up where the government has failed to support the most vulnerable. Marcus Rashford’s petition to end child food poverty has over 1 million supporters –



Read more

Cllr Helen Sprawson-White Joins Mendip DC Lib Dems

Cllr Helen Sprawson-White for Frome Oakfield Ward has joined the Liberal Democrats on Mendip District Council and has become a member of Somerton & Frome Liberal Democrats.

We welcome her back to the constituency and look forward to working with her in the coming years.

Read more



“We want to make it clear that the District Councils of Somerset do not support ‘One Somerset’ and the proposals for a single council for Somerset.

“The detailed work which the five councils of Somerset commissioned together clearly concluded that a single council was the wrong solution for the people and communities of Somerset.

“Somerset’s District Councils have been focused in recent months on supporting our residents and businesses through the Coronavirus crisis. This remains our priority including focusing on how we help Somerset’s communities and economy recover. However, as Somerset County Council is determined to push the debate on the future forward during the pandemic, as four districts we will now be putting our collective efforts to developing an alternative proposal. We have always said would refocus on this when the time was right.

“We know we can offer a better future for the people of Somerset that reforms local government and is ambitious for our communities and their quality of life. Somerset does not deserve the cheapest local Government. Somerset deserves the best local government.

“We will develop the best plan for the future with the help and involvement of our communities.”


Read more

Councillors ask car park owners to follow their lead

I am  very concerned as lockdown eases that we make life as easy as possible for residents of our villages and town that need to shop and do business in Shepton. 


So I have issued the letter below, I believe it is a sensible and constructive proposal that councillors of all parties and none can support. I am looking to achieve a positive outcome and delighted that my fellow councillors Sam Phripp, Josh Burr, Edric Hobbs and Garfiled Kennedy (Liberal Democrats) and Chris Inchley (Independent)

Thank you !



Cllr Barry O'Leary

Read more

Cllr. Drew Gardner Speaks Up for 5G Safety

As reported by the Somerset Series Newspapers

Cllr. Drew Gardner Issues a Public Safety Warning

19 June 2020, Frome


Councillor Drew Gardner, Liberal Democrat Frome,  has hit out after 5G campaign posters across the Mendip area were allegedly laced with dangerous objects.

The posters had been attached to lamp posts, barriers and other street furniture in different areas of the district, with local reports suggesting they had been covered in objects such as razor blades in an apparent attempt to stop them being taken down.

The existence of the objects has been confirmed by Mendip District Council, although the exact nature of the items attached to them has not been confirmed.

Avon and Somerset Police says it has not received any reports about the posters, but the council has urged anyone who discovers them to report them to the landowner or the police immediately.

A spokesman said: "Mendip District Council was made aware of a number of cardboard signs which had been applied to street furniture, barriers, and the like, regarding 5G.

Click here to read the article




Edric Hobbs joins Lib Dems in Mendip

Edric Hobbs, Mendip District Councillor (Shepton West) joins the Liberal Democrat group at Mendip District Council.

“I am really pleased to be joining the local Liberal Democrat party and the other Lib Dem Councillors at Mendip,” commented Councillor Hobbs, who is also the newly elected chair of Shepton Town Council. “I have supported the change this administration has sought to bring about from the day I was elected – my priorities, my values and what I want to do for Shepton haven’t changed. One year in, and with a good understanding of what Mendip can get done, I felt that now is the time to join the Lib Dems, a party that seeks to include others in how they can make Mendip better.”

Councillor Ros Wyke, leader of Mendip District Council said: “I know that I am speaking on behalf of all the Mendip Lib Dems when I say how pleased we are to welcome Edric to the group. Edric was part of a whole new wave of councillors elected last year – an independent thinker and active voice in his community, well known for launching Shepton Mallet parkrun three years ago, and for all his hard work and commitment to Shepton Town Council.”

Since the local elections last May, Councillor Hobbs has been a Cabinet Assistant, member of the Council’s Planning Board and the Council’s representative on the Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership Committee. More recently, Councillor Hobbs, together with Councillor Matt Martin (Moore), has kicked-off work to drive forward one of the major projects at Mendip to increase active travel – cycling, walking and running – and reduce traffic and carbon emissions across the district. 

“Anyone who knows me will tell you how passionate I am about increasing cycling and multi-user paths across the district, including reinstating as much of the Strawberry Line as possible,” continued Councillor Hobbs. “It’s a big project and one that is only going to work through close partnerships with the County, City, Town and Parish Councils, as well as other interested bodies and organisations.”

This ambitious project is part of the Council’s Corporate Plan, adopted earlier this year, which is guided by the vision to build a fairer, greener and more vibrant Mendip. Whilst supporting local businesses and communities through the COVID-19 pandemic is the absolute priority, the Liberal Democrat administration is actively pushing forward other major projects such as responding to the climate and ecological emergency to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, initiatives to provide affordable and social housing, and the regeneration of market towns.

Unitary Proposal for Somerset

Wednesday 8th January 2020 12.30pm

“Local democracy at stake,” say Somerset Liberal Democrats in wake of plan to create new unitary authority

The Liberal Democrat Group at Somerset County Council has released the following statement in response to the Conservative Leader of the Council’s statement of intent to actively pursue the creation of a Unitary Authority for Somerset.

Read more

Upskirting 2019



Read more

County Council Elections. Approvals and selection process starts.

The approvals and selection process has started for the Somerset County Council elections in May2021. If you want to stand go to "Be a Councillor" for more information. An application form can be downloaded and more information about what it is like to be a councillor is also available.

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Email.