A COMMUNITY volunteer who has spent countless hours trying to improve the town has defended himself after receiving backlash.

Steven Heard, a disabled man who is deaf and has mobility problems, is a well-known face around Minehead, and recently became a town councillor.

Over the years he has dedicated himself to tidying up the town, including clearing up dog mess and litter, often at his own expense.

But Minehead Town Council has been receiving complaints about Mr Heard, and had concerns he was 'giving the impression he was working on behalf of the council'.

A recent video circulating on social media shows Mr Heard, who relies on lip reading to understand what is being said to him, being confronted about where he has placed green waste, when he was clearing leaves from the town centre pavements.

A report from Minehead Town Council said: "The chairman reported concerns had been raised in respect of the activities undertaken by cllr Heard involving litter collection and grounds maintenance.

"The concerns centred upon the fact that Cllr Heard was giving the impression that he was working on behalf of the council when undertaking these activities.

"Some councillors expressed their concern over cllr Heard's activities and advised the matter had been reported to them by various members of the public.

"The acting clerk advised that complaints had also been made via the office." The council minutes explain there was an issue regarding if Mr Heard was covered by the council's public indemnity insurance, which they are seeking clarification on.

The spokesperson added: "The acting clerk and the chairman advised members of the committee that cllr Heard had in the past, been given informal advice to curtail his activities and that he should not give the impression he was acting on behalf of the council.

"The mayor recommended the council write to Somerset County Council and Somerset West and Taunton Council to explain that Cllr Heard was not acting under the direction of MTC, nor were his actions sanctioned by MTC."

But Mr Heard says his volunteer work started long before he become a town councillor, and he has not given the impression he was on council business.

He said: "I want to make it clear that the work I do for Minehead and its residents, including the removal of weeds, the collection of litter and any other odd jobs that I see, I do on a voluntary basis. I do not expect payment, and I do not present myself as being on council business.

"I have been volunteering in Minehead for far longer than I have been a councillor. In fact, one of the reasons I believe people supported me being councillor was that I put so much of my time and energy into making the town better, often at a personal cost to myself, but more recently through the kind donations of residents.

"When I work voluntarily in the community, I do not wear any identification that puts me with any of our three councils, town, district or county. If anybody asks me what I am doing, I tell them I am a volunteer, working to improve the town because I love it and hate to see it looking tired."

He said his posts on social media often receive comments from people telling him he should get involved in local politics, to which he has the pleasure of telling them he is already involved.

He added: "I am saddened that my work in the community is yet again being brought into question, this time under the guise of concern for insurance. I have had various conflicts with all three councils in the past, due to my insistence on those who serve us doing what they are in position to do, and several of those concerned not liking my determination.

"I will continue to do the voluntary work that I do, alongside my position as town councillor. I hope that MTC can support me in doing this, rather than attack me.

"I often feel attacked by those in positions above me, and I don't know why. All I want to do is make the town better - and I am."