Lobbying the Goverment over local rail issues

All four local Councils have written to Lord Adonis regarding our joint concerns over the lack of clarity on the provision of sufficient rolling stock to cater for passengers using train services in the West of England. A copy of the letter was also sent to Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First Great Western.

The full text of the letter can be seen below:
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It’s not to late to nominate a business for the Chairman’s Business Awards 2009/10.

The Awards aim to recognise the achievements of those businesses who work alongside their local communities for a common cause with the aim of safeguarding the long-term viability of local life. The Awards contribute to the Council’s vision to make ‘Bath & North East Somerset an even better place to live, work and visit’. Every business nominated for an Award will be presented with a Certificate in recognition of their contribution to community life. The winners of the Award, one for profit making and one for non-profit making businesses, will be given £250 each towards a charity of their choice presented by the Chairman at the awards ceremony on the 24 March 2010.

Anyone can nominate if they think a local business deserves a nomination. Businesses can also nominate themselves.

The deadline for nominations is Friday 19th February 2010. Details of how to nominate and an application form can be found via the Charman’s page on the Council website>.

Initial budget announcement “merely surface dressing”

Initial budget announcements made by the Conservative-run B&NES Council are facing criticism from Liberal Democrat Councillors. Councillor David Dixon (Walcot), who shadows the Resources portfolio, commented:

These budget announcements are merely short term ‘surface dressing’ to mask the many cuts in this year’s budget and in future years. The Conservatives should be upfront about where the money is coming from. These extras are being paid for out of funds set aside for risks, which can now be reallocated, but this is one-off money and won’t be repeated in future years. Exceptional funds should be allocated to ‘invest-to-save’ projects to help soften the impacts of future pressures and to give the support the Council services need to reshape in light of the huge savings that will be needed in future years.

Reading the Conservatives’ budget statement you would think that Bath and North East Somerset Council was unique in facing cuts. Year on year, the Cabinet has complained about being ‘short-changed’: it’s about time they stopped blaming the Government and got on with the business of delivering the services our residents want. Every Council in the land is dealing with the adverse financial climate, but nearby Liberal Democrat-run Councils are looking at lower Council tax rises than B&NES: Portsmouth Council is looking to freeze Council tax this year and Bristol is looking at a 2% increase.
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Missed Friday Refuse and Recycling Collections


The Council’s collections seem to be worse this week than last week.  Missed or partial collections have been reported all across the through Oldfield Park and the Moorfields Estate. The Council’s website is not very up to date with advice, so we have asked the Council for an urgent update. Will said,

We understand the Council’s teams are working flat out to sort the backlog we would just like some better information and more up to date advice.

The Council’s most recent update is here.

Election count on election night

Bath MP Don Foster has written to Bath & North East Somerset Council asking them to count the general election result on election night itself, and not wait until the following day.

Local authorities are allowed to make their own choice as to when to count, and B&NES are expected to announce their decision at the end of this month. Liberal Democrat group leader on the Council, Cllr Paul Crossley has co-signed the letter with Don. Don said,

It’s my belief that democracy is best served by us counting on the evening. Voters are entitled to expect a speedy conclusion to elections, and I think it’s important that the count takes place on election night. That’s why I’ve written to the Council to urge them to hold the count on the night of the election.

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Cllr Sandry questions the Council’s Salting and Griting Policy

Cllr Will Sandry has formally submitted the following question to the Tory controlled Council on its Salting / Gritting Policy. The question will be formally put at the Cabinet meeting on the 3rd February 2010:

I understand that there is a priority system for gritting our highways during extreme weather. I have been contacted by numerous residents with individual gritting requests, however the common theme that seems to stand out is the need for improved gritting immediately around schools.

I understand that Chantry Mead Road (Moorlands Junior School) and Upper Oldfield Park (Hayesfield School – Widcombe Ward) were particularly treacherous. Would it be possible for your team to consider specifically adding these roads, or generally “roads around schools” throughout the district to the gritting programme in future years?

We shall let you know what formal response we get from Cllr Charles Gerrish in early February.

Lib Dems: Local Needs Not Government Targets

Liberal Democrats in B&NES are calling for the Government imposed targets for housing and other land use to be rejected and are saying planning policies for the future should focus on real local needs.

B&NES Council is currently consulting residents and others on a vision for our area for the next 20 years. Liberal Democrats have criticised the ‘Core Strategy Spatial Options Consultation’ document for being based on Government targets for housing and jobs which are based on flawed and outdated economic projections and which do not fit in with what local people really want.

Plans for the future of our area must start with the needs and views of the community and not be driven by ridiculous Westminster targets. We have previously said ‘No Way to 21k’ and we continue to reject the Government’s agenda to impose housing targets on local people.

The Government requirement to build urban extensions is a key example of a crazy idea dreamed up in an office in London. We oppose the proposals to despoil Bath’s beautiful surroundings by building isolated and soulless new settlements on green belt land.

Yes we do need more housing in the district, but we should first make sure that all present housing is fully utilised – this includes empty homes, flats above shops and basement properties – and we must make sure ‘brownfield’ sites are used before any new land is even considered for development. This will include challenging the MoD to make a decision concerning their surplus land in Bath and finally getting to grips with Bath Western Riverside.

Village communities should be able to work out their own local solutions for affordable housing for villagers, as Hinton Charterhouse has done.

Where we do build new houses we should insist on a high percentage of social and affordable housing – it is a scandal that our own young people cannot get onto the housing ladder because of high land values and high house prices.

A familiar problem in many parts of Bath is family homes which have been turned into houses in multiple occupation. We should insist that most students are housed either on campus or in purpose built blocks and the Government should take purpose built student accommodation into account towards housing targets.

Tackling the refuse and recycling collection bad weather backlog

The Council has announced that they are stepping-up their efforts to clear the backlog of both refuse and recycling across the district caused by the recent bad weather. The Council has allocated extra vehicles to help catch-up.

The Council’s current household advice is as follows:

Households are asked to put their waste out on their scheduled collection day. The Council will make every effort to collect it – crews are working exceptionally hard to clear the backlog.

Refuse crews will be operating on Saturday and Sunday 16th and 17th January to catch-up on an areas that were not collected on Friday. A small number of Recycling crews are operating on Saturday. The Council says it will do its best to collect any outstanding waste, but if it is not collected please take your waste back in and put it out on your next scheduled collection day.

Households who have not had their waste collected can use the Recycling Centres which have been open since Friday 8th January. Opening times are 8am – 4.15pm weekdays and 8am – 3.45pm on weekends. Further details are available on the Council website: www.bathnes.gov.uk/wasteservices

Logistical collection issues

Following the improvement in weather conditions, the Council and its recycling contractor May Gurney have allocated extra resources to clear the backlog caused by cancelled collections. The Council has an additional six refuse vehicles operating next week. The recycling contractor has an extra five vehicles working.

Because of the different types of vehicles used for refuse and recycling collections and the varying vehicle capacity for materials, this has resulted in some households experiencing their recycling being collected and not their refuse, and vice-versa. If this happens please put your waste out as normal on your usual waste collection day.

Please let Will and Shaun know if you are still experiencing an difficulties after this week.

Local Councillors response to Core Strategy consultation

Cllr Will Sandry has responsed to the Council’s consultation on the development of it Core Strategy (planning strategy) for the area. This is what Will stated:

It is shameful that the Universities have increased the combined number of their students by about 10,000 over the past fifteen years without building very much student accommodation on campus or in purpose built blocks in the City. Their inaction, leaving accommodation to “market forces” has meant that many young people in the City are disenfranchised. Young people who would like to be first time buyers have been priced out of the market by a lot of the housing stock in areas such as Oldfield Park being taken up by investors letting homes to the student market.

As first time buyers have moved to Frome, Midsomer Norton and Radstock, they now have to travel to their workplace in Bath. This has put a huge strain of the transport networks, the environment, and the local housing sector in those towns.

There should be more in the core strategy about student housing. The Council should set tough targets for the Universities to house more of their students on campus and the Core strategy should make it easier for the Universities to build on their campus. Unless the Core Strategy delivers a robust and sustainable strategy for housing our student population (about 20,000 people or 20% of Bath’s population) the Core Strategy will have failed the people of Bath and North East Somerset.

Both Will and Shaun have responsed to the Core Strategy consultation as part of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Council.