DEAR editor,

Visiting Taunton, a couple of weeks ago speaking to over 70 people who came along to the Community Innovation Centre (CICCIC) in Paul Street to discuss how with our local Lib Dems we can put the heart back into Somerset - I was amazed to see literature from the Conservative Party.

I can well understand they want to deflect attention from the £10 million they wasted setting up a District Council they are now abolishing and tens of millions on refurbishing council offices at the same times as slashing services for children and disabled people. However, basing their Somerset Council campaign today not on plans for the future - but on attacking investments made by the LibDem administration I led between 2001 and 2007 is at the least backward looking.

What the Tories call “vanity projects” and unwanted “debt” was in fact investment in local children’s centres, Taunton Library, the Museum of Somerset in our historic castle, recycling centres, public transport and Park and Ride services and included replacing outdoor toilets for rural schools and ensuring children were no longer taught in classrooms with leaking roofs and no insulation. This was at a time when ALL Councils were forced to borrow for capital items, unlike today when the Government does the borrowing and Councils bid for funds.

Does this mean that a new Conservative Council would do without the bridge over the mainline railway from London to the West Country at Silk Mills – another of our county council achievements? I know they like to live in the past but are they really saying they would rather see the old level crossing still obstructing the traffic at Silk Mills? I well remember the delays it caused to businesses and ambulances and the wonderful opening ceremony when it was replaced.

For all their desperation, interest payments the Conservatives complain about amount to no more than £1.30 out of your monthly council tax payments - even in total the interest amounts to only 5% of the County Council’s budget.

In contrast LibDems have focused on investing in the future of the people of Somerset. As our team running Somerset West and Taunton have demonstrated, LibDems have wisely secured returns that have balanced the budget without any cuts to services.

The Conservative literature is most misleading their as their local leader says this money “could have been spent on … roads, libraries …improving our environment”. It was and he should retract this highly misleading letter which implies otherwise.

The choice is clear: the LibDems’ professional handling of public finances which underpin exciting plans to tackle the future, or the Conservatives‘ living in the past of their financial chaos which as The Times recently reported, brought the County Council to the brink of bankruptcy.


Baroness Cathy Bakewell MBE, Leader of Somerset County Council 2001 to 2007, County Councillor from 1993 to 2013