Does Bath need a stronger voice in public decision making? Do we have a democratic deficit? And if so, what can be done about it?
Since B&NES was created in 1995 and Bath City Council was abolished, many have felt that a voice for Bath is needed. Communities in North East Somerset have town and parish Councils, but the same is not true in Bath. The Charter Trustees and Mayor of Bath are now purely ceremonial bodies.
Various ideas have been tried out – from the Better Bath Forum, to the Bath City Conference (started by our administration). In May this year, we suggested building on the success of the annual Bath City Conference by setting up a Committee for Bath.
To save money, we suggested this could be a Council committee but with a strong role for the public and interest groups of all sorts. This would mean existing administrative structures could be used and there would be no extra precept for residents. It could lead to more devolution of decision-making.
Since May, a working group of councillors have been looking into this idea (and other options) and have published a report on their findings.
So, if you are interested in a stronger voice for Bath – or if you feel there should be no change – please do take a look at the report and respond to the consultation.
The report and questionnaire can be found here: LINK
The deadline is 26 August 2014.
After seven years of hard work, local Councillors have finally adopted a core strategy for the Bath and North East Somerset area. The core strategy is the top-level policy that guides planners about where housing and other developments can go – and crucially, where it cannot go.
The policies in the core strategy will deliver 13,000 homes (including 3,300 affordable homes) and 10,300 jobs over the next 15 years; it will protect large swathes of the green belt and will ensure that B&NES can get money for vital infrastructure from developers. The strategy was voted through by a large majority of Councillors from all parties.
Lib Dem Councillor David Dixon (from Oldfield ward) commented:
“The final adoption of the Core Strategy is good news for our area as a whole because it paves the way for homes and jobs for local people. Everyone will have heard stories of local people who have been forced to move out to find somewhere affordable to live, despite working in Bath. Local people need homes, services and jobs.”
City centre Councillor Manda Rigby (from Abbey ward) said:
“We will now have certainty about where development is allowed and where it is not allowed. Three years ago opposition Councillors chose to play politics instead of adopting a Core Strategy at the first attempt.
“While we have been without a Core Strategy, there has been a massive increase in applications for new estates; without a complete policy to refer back to, we have lost a number of controversial planning appeals. It was good to see residents from some of the villages in North East Somerset coming along to full Council to say why the core strategy is so vital to protecting our green spaces.”
Councillor Paul Crossley (from Southdown ward) added:
“The policy which was adopted was the only deal on the table for B&NES. We couldn’t amend it to remove the South Stoke proposal or any other proposal. If we had not adopted it, we would have had to start again from scratch and would be left completely vulnerable to uncontrolled development in the meantime. By allowing limited development, with safeguards and masterplanning, on four small sites currently in the green belt we have stopped development on any other part of the green belt.”
To see the webcast of the full Council meeting, please click HERE.
Pressure from the Liberal Democrat-run council and passengers has resulted in welcome changes to bus fares in Bath. The key changes are the introduction of discounted fares for children and young people and a flat fare ticket for adults within three miles of the city centre.
Councillor Caroline Roberts, Councillor for Newbridge and Cabinet member for Transport, commented:
“We welcome these fare reductions which we have consistently been calling for. The Liberal Democrat administration set up the B&NES Bus Expert Improvement Panel (BEIP) to improve communication and the working relationship between operators and the Council. Now, this improved co-operation is bearing fruit as First has agreed to one of our top priorities – reducing the cost of bus travel.
“As a Liberal Democrat administration, we want to do everything we can to promote sustainable transport and increase the number of people who find that public transport is a convenient and affordable option for their journey”.
Councillor Roger Symonds (Liberal Democrat, Combe Down), the Council’s Member Champion for Public Transport, said:
“We must attract more people on to the buses if the fare reductions are to be sustainable and we know that the two most important issues for people who use the buses are cost and reliability. The Council can do its part to improve reliability and punctuality through improvements to road and junction layouts. These are included in the Council’s capital projects plans for the future.”
Steve Bradley, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bath, added:
“The Liberal Democrat-run council has secured a great result here. Earlier this year, our Party ran a Bath bus survey, with a huge response. We have taken residents' views to First, and are pleased that they have listened. Transport is Bath's biggest challenge, and I'm proud that the Liberal Democrats are delivering on it.”
Here’s the full list of changes to fares:
- An adult flat fare has been introduced, costing £2.20 to cover any journey on city services (within approximately three miles of the bus station);
- The ten-journey ticket has been retained (£20): it offers ten single journeys in the city zone within a three-month period;
- Children under 15 will be entitled to 50% discount on all tickets – a flat fare will be £1.10 and a ten journey ticket £10;
- Young people aged 16 to 21 and students with a First ID card will be eligible for 30% discount on fares;
- Return fares have been withdrawn, but the day ticket has been reduced to £4 for adults (from £4.40 peak / £4.20 off peak) and will be available at any time of day;
- A weekly pass has been reduced to £17 (equivalent cost per day is £2.43);
- A monthly ticket will cost £66 (equivalent cost per day is £2.13);
- An annual ticket has been reduced to £650 (equivalent cost per day is £1.79).
For more information about First’s fares review, please see: www.fairerfaresforall.co.uk
Rob Appleyard, Councillor for Westfield Ward and former Chairman of the Council, has joined the Liberal Democrat group on Bath and North East Somerset Council.
Councillor Appleyard commented:
“After a lot of soul searching, it’s become clear to me that I cannot support the Labour party either nationally or locally.
“I’ve been proud of Labour’s stance on education, but I’ve been disappointed at the way they have played games over our children’s futures. The Liberal Democrats have worked hard to keep all our children’s centres open.
“But instead of engaging with the Council on this most important issue, I’ve watched the Labour Party's narrow focus from the sidelines for no more than political point scoring.
“When we are talking about services that people rely on, I cannot support a party that is putting politics ahead of their residents’ need. There is no doubt that the Liberal Democrat approach to full consultation and listening generates full transparency when reaching difficult decisions.
“It is this approach that made it natural for me to join the Liberal Democrat Party and group.”
Leader of the Council and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Paul Crossley (Southdown), welcomed Councillor Appleyard:
“I'm delighted that Rob is joining the Lib Dem Group on the Council. We've worked hard to be a listening Council that delivers for residents, and I'm glad to see that's been acknowledged by him.
“Rob's a Councillor who works hard for his community. He'll be a real asset to our group.”
The political balance on B&NES Council is now: Lib Dems 29 Councillors, Conservatives 26, independents 6, and Labour 4 (their lowest number since B&NES was formed).
Councillor Manda Rigby (Abbey), Deputy Leader of the Lib Dem Council Group, said:
“Labour support has consistently shrunk in Bath and North East Somerset. Residents have seen that Labour can’t deliver and the Conservatives won't listen to local people. The Liberal Democrats are the only alternative to the Tories.”