Town and Parish Councils throughout Britain face the challenge of taking a much more proactive rôle in running local services. In Shepton, we are no different. As responsibilities for library provision, support for the Citizens Advice service, and even road surfacing, are curtailed or even cut entirely by higher authorities, we, as local people can either suffer in silence, or step up to the plate and do something about it.
Already Shepton Mallet Town Council is working hard to keep our library in the High Street, and has accepted that we will have to part-pay for the resurfacing of Town Street and the Market Square since the County Council has run out of money. Services that were once seen to be essential that were provided by authorities including the Police, the Department of Work and Pensions, and the District and County Councils are being reduced or withdrawn.
In South Somerset, Martock Parish Council has hit the headlines in the national Press since they have taken up the challenge of providing services which are no longer available from other authorities. Despite Martock having a population roughly half of Shepton, they have funded an extra bobby on the beat, directly helped people with advice on benefits and jobs, and has plans to provide housing for local people.
The Town Council faces many challenges but continuing to make Shepton a town a safe and special place to live in, work in and visit remains our top priority. If we want to support the services that are on our doorstep, we may have to take on much greater responsibilities as public finances are squeezed again and again.
Last Sunday, local historian, Alan Stone, delighted many visitors to the Town Council’s gazebo at the Sunday Market with his display celebrating the 700th Anniversary of our Market Charter. Again our monthly market attracted a steady stream of browsers and bargain hunters who turned out on a cold grey day to support local traders and learn more about our town and its long history.
With the clocks going back this weekend, we have a lot to look forward to with the Carnival season nearly upon us. As usual the Shambles and the Highwayman Clubs will do us proud with their impressive floats and their commitment to year round fundraising to give us an evening to remember in mid-November.
Inspired by the success of the Sunday Market, this year will see the first three-day Christmas market in Shepton. Again the hugely successful Lantern Festival will take place on the Saturday before Christmas, and in the preceding weeks, towns-people will get the chance to build their own lanterns and demonstrate the amazing creativity within our community.
Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council