Big Choices on Buses

Local people want local buses that connect to the wider region that are affordable and reliable.

Big choices on Buses” was an event held in Larkhall at the New Oriel Hall (16th August 2022), as part of the WECA Mayor’s appeal for greater community involvement with feedback and innovative ideas for bus services across the West of England.

The WECA Mayor, Dan Norris has been holding public meetings across the region this August, including Bathwick and Whitchurch, to review the bus network.  As the Ward Councillor for Lambridge, Joanna Wright said:

“I thought it vitally important that we invite Dan Norris to Lambridge with his “Big Choices on Buses” event for the residents of the East of Bath, where many are already concerned about the present bus services.”

“Mayor Dan Norris was unable to attend the Transition Larkhall hosted meeting, but he gladly pre-recorded a video for Lambridge residents, explaining some of the issues on buses are for him as WECA Mayor.”

Councillor Wright continued: “In my conversations with Metro Mayor Dan Norris it is clear that he wants to hear innovative ideas from residents about how he can use new money from the Department for Transport (DfT) to support the regions’ bus services. The DfT will not allow the Metro Mayor to use this new money for existing services which is why the “Big Choices on Buses” is so important. Local people have brilliant and innovative ideas, and he wants to know what they could be.”

Lambridge with its hilly streets and high-density living would be an ideal incubator for Demand Responsive Transport (DRT). Councillor Wright gave the example of how DRTs are used widely in Europe and have also been successfully trialled in Wales. A DRT is an app-based service that allows people to book a shuttle minibus from “floating bus stops” near to their homes, taking them directly to either their destination or a connecting service.  In the case of Lambridge this service could connect to the bus services on the London Road or to key areas in the local area that serve the community – the shops, the doctors’, the park.

Another idea from the New Oriel Hall meeting was to create mini-Park and Rides along the A46 and A4. And as Larkhall has, for years, been the unofficial eastern Park and Ride for Bath for large numbers of commuters. Councillor Wright said she knows that many residents would welcome such an initiative, but this must be implemented alongside a Resident Parking Zones and a Liveable Neighbourhood that, so far, the present Council has refused to do even though Lambridge is the only Ward in B&NES to have produced a compelling need and case with a university led transport survey on the number of cars passing through Larkhallhttps://transitionlarkhall.files.wordpress.com/2022/01/pngs.pdf

The Department for Transport Covid grant, which has kept bus services running, will soon end and, with a huge fall in passenger numbers since the beginning of the pandemic, this means there will be even less money for bus services. The region is also facing an acute shortage of drivers and this combination of fewer journeys made by bus and lack of drivers means that how private bus companies run services is likely to change over the short term. And however hard WECA or the local councils work with the private bus companies, the government rules over subsidies means that these services are not able to compete with commercial routes.

Unlike other Combined Authorities, e.g. Greater Manchester, the West of England Mayor does not have “precepting powers” to raise revenue for public transport.  Precepting means that every household pays a contribution in their council tax to the Metro Mayor to pay for public transport. It is “ring fenced” money, protecting its use to bus services only. Precepting would allow the Metro Mayor the option to create either “Enhanced Bus Partnerships’ or “Bus Franchising” with bus providers. This means that the Metro Mayor could run the bus service and state where the bus route network would be and the fares that would be charged. Andy Burnham in Manchester has precepting powers which allowed him to franchise the bus service, providing cheaper tickets and routes set by him. Creating a service that benefits the whole of Manchester, and no longer run to make profits for private bus companies.

Lambridge residents made clear at the meeting that they want and need local buses that serve their local community and connect with the wider region. A reliable service with affordable and easy to buy tickets. Currently many young people in Lambridge are forced to catch several buses just to get to school and back. And they cannot buy and use just one affordable ticket; having to pay multiple fares as each bus company uses different ticket systems. Unsurprisingly, this often results in young people getting parents to drive them to school, so the buses see less use and are at greater risk of being cut.

The existing 6A and 7 service has always been heavily subsidised and residents are genuinely fearful that the loss of these bus services will affect many who use the local shops in Larkhall Square, Morrisons, the Doctors’ Surgery at Fairfield Park, and the easy access to facilities at Alice Park. Many of these residents are elderly and often do not have access to a private vehicle and will be left isolated and unable to get to shops. These critical services have been fought for many times, the last time by Lambridge’s previous Green Councillor Lin Patterson who led over a hundred protestors and raised over 2,400 signatures forcing the council to scrap their plans to cut services.

The network bus review by WECA closes on the 31st of August 2022 so make sure you go online and let the WECA Mayor know your views on buses and the innovations you would most like put in place. https://consultation.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/infrastructure/big-choices-on-buses/ 

You can also join the Bath Bus Customer panel that meets regularly for full details contact Thomas Hughes at First Bus Thomas.Hughes@firstbus.co.uk for details or Lucy Travis at B&NES Lucy_Travis@BATHNES.GOV.UK

Cllr Joanna Wright

Driving Tests in the UK

Dear Wera Hobhouse MP

Open  Letter Re: Driving Tests in the UK

Please can I ask that you write to Grant Shapps, MP, Secretary of Sate for Transport on my behalf and send him a copy of this letter.

As the sole Green Councillor at Bath and North East Somerset Council, it has come to my attention that the system for driving tests is presently failing many local residents. From enquiring further into this matter it has become apparent that the driver test system is in fact failing many throughout the whole of the UK . This is of great concern as driving is a skill for business and services and the failure to put in place adequately trained people will mean further low productivity rates in the UK and possible system failure, as we have already seen in terms of the bus and HGV industry.

Presently the current system in place for booking a driving test is clearly not fit for purpose. Trying to book a test is complicated and cumbersome requiring endless checking of each and every day and no obvious system where a learner driver can see what options for tests are available to them. This is a badly designed booking system that needs to be urgently overhauled.

The present booking system only allows people to book 16 weeks in advance and appears to be booked up by private businesses who sell on the tests for profit, in the process misleading learner drivers of the dates available. This means that the average person cannot book a test unless they use a broker at a further charge. It also means that the average instructor taking learners through the system cannot get test bookings for their clients. This results in local driving instructors failing to get clients tested and affects their business.

It is clear that Covid has impacted the test system and this now means that all tests are booked up months in advance. This situation is further compounded by a system which repeatedly notifys learner drivers that they test they have booked is cancelled at the last minute, often the day before. This means that the learner driver has to then go back through an inadequate booking system to locate another date, often again months in advance, if they can even find one.

I recently spoke to a local driving instructor about these issues and was told that six of his clients had recently had their tests cancelled at short notice. There were no further slots available and he now has to begin all over again to get his clients ready for their next test, often months ahead. This has caused him to stop taking on new clients.

Please can I ask that you look urgently into this matter and let me and the many residents in Bath and North East Somerset know what actions are being taken by Government to improve the booking system, clear the backlog and provide a workable infrastructure that supports people learning to drive.

As a Green I am of the firm belief that driving is a necessary skill for many functions vital to our society – driving an ambulance, fire engine, taxi, a bus, delivery van, post etc. The present system is going to negatively affect everyone in the country.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Joanna Wright

Green Party Welcomes Well-Known Campaigner to Team Lambridge, Bath

Saskia Heijltjes has joined Joanna Wright’s team in Bath’s Lambridge Ward

Saskia Heijltjes said “In the past I have not been politically active, but I felt I have no choice but to get involved. The fastest route to change is via politicians who recognise that the current system is unsustainable and will act. Residents all over BaNES have tried repeatedly to engage with their councillors, and I saw that Joanna is one of the very few actually interested in delivering what families, children, and residents need. I felt compelled to help her work, and to help her campaign for more Green councillors that will listen, but most of all be brave and make the sometimes hard decisions that our ward, and the wider area, needs in order for us and our families to live in a safe and affordable environment”

Saskia, a local mother of two and founder of Kidical Mass Bath, continued: “The council and many councillors often promise to protect our children, act on the environmental emergencies and make our streets safe, but few act. BaNES has failed to make any cuts in emissions beyond what the national government achieved. In fact, if you factor in the pandemic with closed council offices and reduced services, their emissions have gone up in real terms. I see Joanna, the sole Green, being an often lonely voice calling for real action, and I just felt that I had to help.”

“I founded Kidical Mass with other parents because so many families were shocked and angry that vital safe cycling routes to schools and the University have seemingly been abandoned after concerted efforts by a small but vocal car lobby. After eight protest rides nothing has changed, and families and children are being ignored. I felt that getting involved in politics and the Green Party was the only route to actual change.”

Councillor Joanna Wright, the sole Green Councillor on B&NES Council, said “I am an artist, but I felt I had to stand for election in 2019 because someone had to do something. I could no longer stand and watch our communities struggle with dirty air, environmental problems, and dangerous traffic. It’s a lot to take on as a lone councillor, and while I have had lots of help from the party, it will be really great to have another Green dedicated to helping me serve the residents of Lambridge.

The two of us became active in politics for the same reasons, we can’t sit on the side-lines while the “status quo” continues and many councillors act in the interests of their own career rather than the community. We were promised that the council would act on the climate and nature emergencies as if they are emergencies, and on creating safe streets for our children, and it seems that the only way to do that is to have Greens on your side fighting for it.

With two of us dedicated to working in Lambridge it will give me the vital time I need to scrutinise and question the administration even more while, as a team, we will have even more time to meet residents and help them with their issues and problems.”

Cllr Joanna Wright speaks at B&NES Full Council, July 2022

On the 21st July 2022, B&NES Full council was held and Green Cllr, Joanna Wright spoke on many of the item agendas raised at this meeting.

This included a speech on the Constitution Refresh, in which Joanna has been instrumental in getting the Lib Dem’s to do a u-turn on the rules they had planned to introduce that would have required all speeches to be submitted in full days before the actual meeting. Joanna raised questions on the B&NES Treasury Management Outline Report wanting to know about the best outcomes from the Council’s investments. Cllr Joanna Wright queried the real intentions of the Lib Dem administration for bringing forward the Climate and Ecology Bill Motion, when it is clear that this council is presently failing to show leadership on the climate emergency. Joanna spoke about why Bristol Airport is big enough on the Bristol Airport Motion and finally on the Council Tax Surcharge Motion brought forward by the Conservative group, Joanna queried why the Council should subsidise property developers at a time when so many people can not afford a home or their rent.

To read Cllr Joanna Wright’s speeches see below or watch the meeting in full on the B&NES YoutTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/bathnescouncil

For full details of the agenda items and papers please https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=272&MId=5494

It is really clear that having a Green Councillor in the Council chambers is important as this is the voice that a Green brings to the room which is based on integrity and concern for the planet at a local and national level.

IF YOU WANT GREEN VOTE GREEN

Cllr Joanna Wright’s speech on the Constitution Refresh

The process to refresh this constitution did not involve the Green Party.  At no point was I, the sole Green Party councillor, included in the conversations or the work of the Constitution Working Group. This working group, which I believe has met regularly to decide how the council operates, is made up of the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Labour and the Independents. I am the only councillor not invited to take part, and this is discrimination. It states in the B&NES Equality Policy Commitment that:

“Bath and North East Somerset Council is committed to equality of opportunity for the whole community and believes that the diversity of the community is a major strength which contributes to the social and economic prosperity of the area.  The Council commits to working within the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that no resident of, or visitor to the area, job applicant, employee or other person associated with the Council is treated inequitably or in an unlawful or unjustifiably discriminatory manner.”

I would argue that by not including the only Green to the Constitution Working Group, the Council under its own policy has acted in a discriminatory way. I also point out that many residents in B&NES have voted Green and they have been discriminated against.

Over the many months that this group met, I was not consulted or spoken to of the decisions it was taking. It was not until the 13th June 2022 that the Monitoring Officer sent through the draft constitution for me to see and only from that point were my emails responded to.

Over several months I have been working with aggrieved residents with regard to the changes this Lib Dem group wanted to make to the constitution on the way speeches and statements were to be delivered at meetings across the Council.  An open letter was sent to Will Godfrey, calling on the Council to recognise the impact that these changes would have on residents. Over 400 residents signed this letter, and because of their action, this Lib Dem administration has done a u-turn.  A small victory for the freedom of speech for everyone in B&NES.

However, the constitution refresh has also changed how many questions a councillor can now ask at Cabinet or Full Council from unlimited to three.  This seems to be a deliberate attempt to stop smaller parties holding the larger parties to account since there are presently 35 Liberal Democrats, so they could easily ask three questions each, giving a grand total of 105 questions for the ruling party.  However, one sole councillor from an opposition party can only ask three questions – not enough to keep the administration accountable or be able to properly represent constituents. 

The Liberal Democrats manifesto at the last local elections expressed the concern they had about the lack of transparency and openness of the council. Many will argue that too many questions wastes precious Officers time, but questions are how opposition councillors keep the administration accountable and transparent.  Indeed, the refreshed constitution (4.4.12) states:

“Councillors are able to hold the local authority and fellow Councillors to account and are able to constructively challenge and express concern about decisions.”

This is the role of a councillor, and asking questions of Cabinet and the Council is a key way to do this, changing the rules from unlimited to three questions works in favour of the controlling party and little more.

To guard against power worship and subservience, questions are a form of scrutiny and this is the job of an elected councillor. It would seem that those who now have power are more concerned with keeping it, then being questioned on their actions.

The Green Party will therefore be voting against this Constitution Refresh.

Cllr Joanna Wright’s speech on the Treasuring Management Outline Report

Thank you to Officers for this in depth financial report, however there are some issues that do cause me some worry.

Firstly, in 3.19 and 3.20, which discusses The Lender Option Borrow Option (LOBO) loan, there is LOBO borrowing of £10 million.  The Liberal Democrat administration say that they were going to pay off this LOBO loan but the bank increased the interest rates, so now it would appear that the Council has changed its mind.  This does seem rather strange, especially as some LOBOs have some dubious terms for borrowing.  This clause does worry the Green Party and we would like to know why this decision has been made and what are the terms of borrowing for this LOBO?

Secondly, there are some issues with regard to the Council’s liquidity, otherwise known as the ability to access cash when bills need to be paid. Early on in this report it states how the Council generates £235K from investments from £10 million that is invested.

It would appear that the Council has a great deal of liquidity that is presently not invested.  If the council did, for instance, put £25 million into investments they could be generating a healthy return for taxpayers of approximately £1 million. While £25 million might sound like a rather high figure, this report suggests that the Council does appear to have £40 million in liquidity. I would suggest that these figures show the Council could at least invest another £10 million and receive a further  investment figure of £235K.

Please can you explain why the Council has decided to have so much money in the liquidity pot, especially as the liquidity risk as set out on p510 is considered low?

Thirdly, in regard to the report stating money saved, please can you explain how much is against the spend of the Council’s budget in light of the inflation issues that all sections of society are facing?

Cllr Joanna Wrights speech on the Climate and Ecology Bill

It appears that the best this Liberal Democrat administration can do on the climate and ecological emergency that we are all threatened with is to repeatedly come up with motions to write to the Government.

 While this allows them to put out PR about how hard they are working to deliver a sustainable future, whilst failing to use their local powers to make significant change to aid the journey to net zero. Only recently (June 2022) in the Strategic Evidence Base for B&NES, this council has made no emissions cuts over and above those created by central government actions and none since the declared climate emergency. It seems that, factoring in the pandemic and empty council offices and reduced services, the council’s own emissions have, in real terms increased over the past two years.

The great power that this Council has, is that it is the Highway Authority. the council has the capacity to make quick and systematic changes to the public highway without needing the permission of central government. For example, it could have delivered 20mph zones across all urban areas, allowing many public highways users to feel safer cycling. It also could have delivered the North Road bus gate that would have given a strategic and safe cycling route to thousands who need access between key employment centres such as the University of Bath, schools and Wessex Water. These simple and effective measures would have enabled thousands to have safe cycling routes and make journeys that are carbon free.

It is clear that under the current leadership the Council have purposely pursued a transport agenda that has failed to deliver the leadership needed to reduce surface carbon emissions.  Over a year ago Cllr Guy told me ‘to dump the active travel schemes”. These schemes were centrally Government funded, so this leadership’s decisions have in turn resulted in this authority failing to receive substantial funding to pay for the necessary infrastructure needed to reduce carbon emissions.

The administration then submitted a sub-standard cycle resurfacing scheme through an existing path in Rainbow Woods that did not meet any of the government’s cycle funding criteria. 

The present Liveable Neighbourhood programme has consistently failed to put in place a simple strategic route map that would give all residents a clear view of the main routes across and around the city.  Instead of delivering visionary leadership with a flagship policy and a real journey to net zero,  B&NES has instead created piece-meal road closures with poorly delivered consultations. 

It seems very odd that we are being asked to support the Climate and Ecology Bill by this administration when it has consistently failed to deliver on many of the actions that it could have taken in the last three years.

For information I put forward an amendment yesterday to this motion and was told by the Monitoring Officer that the following points were not allowed, they were:

4. use its Highway Authority powers to deliver 20mph zones across all urban areas in B&NES

5. Deliver cycle infrastructure bids to Active Travel England to a standard that will mean bids are awarded funding

6. Deliver a bus gate on North Road

7. Deliver a strategic main route map of Bath for the Liveable Neighbourhood programme

8. Plant at least another 85,000 trees by 2023 – at least half in urban areas. Ensure there are plans to keep newly planted trees watered when they are vulnerable to dry/hot spells

9. Produce a workable plan to get solar panels on residents roofs, and insist that solar panels are installed on all new builds where they would receive enough sunlight to be viable

10. Resolve to insert these new requirements in an updated Local Plan and ensure that new developments comply

*************

Cllr Joanna Wright’s speech on the Cross-Party Motion from the Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Labour Groups and Cllr Joanna Wright on Bristol Airport Expansion

Thank you Chair

Bristol Airport is big enough and it is quite clear that the recent ruling by the High Court which effectively stated that the Government’s climate strategy is “illegal and inadequate” shows we are surrounded by rhetoric not matched by action.

The impact that the expansion of Bristol Airport would have on aviation carbon outputs is significant, but more importantly the expansion will blight the lives of all residents in the local area.

We are calling on the Government to overturn the planning inspectorate’s decision to allow these extra millions of passengers every year, if Bristol Airport is expanded. 

The Government’s own climate committee have said that there should be no net expansions of the UKs airports.  It is really incomprehensible that this decision has been made at a cost to local people’s health and well-being, the green belt and the effect to global emissions, which is literally causing us to be on fire. 

Everyone is being asked to find ways to address their own carbon outputs, yet Bristol Airport appears to think that it is special and this is wrong.

I repeat Bristol Airport is big enough.

Cllr Joanna Wright’s speech on the Council Tax Surcharge Motion

The Conservative motion doesn’t make sense. If someone buys a house that’s been left empty and has accumulated 300% Council tax on it then they should offer a lower price. If they know it’s going to take 2 years to do up and they need to pay 300% then they offer an even lower price. In this way ‘the market’ takes care of it. The Conservative motion presently would amount to the Council subsidising property developers rather than allowing market forces to work to stop owners letting property fall into disuse.

Many people in this country are unable to rent a property to make a home, let alone buy a house to make a home, because so many properties are empty, or have been made into luxury accommodation, HMOs or Air B&Bs.  The Conservative motion does nothing to address this. As Bath and surrounding North East Somerset is clearly a hot spot for property investment it does seem rather unfair that their motion will further make those wealthy from the buying and selling of property even wealthier whilst so many residents can ill afford their rent or ever dream of affording to buy a property to call home.

This Council should be resolving to tackle the housing crisis, by introducing Compulsory Purchase Orders for all empty properties as soon as the law allows, eg as soon as they have been empty for five years, and bring these to completion as quickly as legislation permits.”

The default recipient of residential property acquired via CPOs will be the councils, with the property allocated as social housing operated by the council – ie council housing

QUESTIONS from Joanna Wright to B&NES CABINET, July 2022

Question 1

In the Lib Dem B&NES Liveable Neighbourhoods information for the public consultation, the council haven’t put in any maps of the main routes and key network across the whole of Bath. Without the maps, people can’t see how they will be affected.  Therefore, everyone should be part of the consultation. Instead, B&NES Council under your direction have, it appears, used the consultants, AECOM, who are now consulting at a very limited street level. This doesn’t let residents take the wider view. People don’t just care about the street they live in, but about their whole city journey and the lives of their neighbours. This is poor engagement. It’s hard to see how this can be the foundation for effective delivery of the Liveable Neighbourhood policies. Poor engagement will also turn many residents against the positive possibilities of people friendly streets.

Is this how AECOM have advised that you run the consultations, and if there are differences, please share them?

What discussions have you had with AECOM conducting only micro-level, limited-street consultations?

How are you going to retrofit broader public consultation into the process?

ANSWER From Cllr Warren

The Liveable Neighbourhoods programme is being delivered in line with the strategy adopted in July 2020. In line with this strategy, in June 2021 Cabinet agreed to proceed with the current 15 priority liveable neighbourhood areas. Between November 2021 and January 2022, a wide engagement was then undertaken which sought to identify key themes for each neighbourhood. Respondents expressed a desire for changes to improve pedestrian safety, reduce ‘rat running’ and speeding, improve cycling infrastructure and improve the public realm. The current stage of the delivery programme is co-design with the communities in the 15 areas. These workshops are focused on understanding people’s ‘lived experience’ of their communities – what’s good, what needs to be nurtured, key movement patterns and potential interventions. So far, they have been well received. The project team are also engaging with school children, young adults and other lesser heard voices within these communities to understand their thoughts and concerns, and what they would also like to see improved. The next step will be to feed back all that’s been heard at a series of exhibitions that will be open to all. The team will then engage again at the preliminary design stage and ultimately consult at the detailed design stage, either prior to implementation or via an experimental TRO approach. We are far from any final decisions being made and there will be ample opportunity for everyone to be part of the process

Question 2

What actions have been taken to include children’s voices and views across the region into the Liveable Neighbourhood consultation? Please give full details?

Answer from Cllr Warren

As part of the liveable neighbourhoods programme, Sustrans are providing support with additional engagement activities to increase the involvement of underrepresented groups alongside the main co-design workshops for the Phase 1 schemes. Activities to support youth engagement, resident engagement as well as support for a city-wide stakeholder event are taking place.   

Youth specific activities are being delivered in all 15 Liveable Neighbourhood areas, the engagement involves interactive drop-in sessions with young people, including carers where suitable. Sessions are taking place at organised activities in schools, after school clubs, youth clubs, through nurseries and at community events.  At these sessions large maps are being used to gather information with post-it and sticky labels to gain an understanding of what young people think of their street or area.

In three Liveable Neighbourhood areas there has been more in-depth engagement with young people, priority has been given to more deprived areas where possible, which so far has led to co-design workshops taking place with young people from Foxhill and Southdown. The co-design sessions provide an introduction to the concept of liveability, an audit of their street either physically or virtually, and the development of ideas on improving liveability in their street or area.

The outputs from the above sessions will be used to inform designs.

The youth engagement dialogue (in addition to the activities with other underrepresented groups) will continue as the liveable neighbourhoods programme proceeds through the prelim design/further engagement and detailed design/final consultation stages.

Question 3

As Ward councillor for Lambridge I am repeatedly being asked by residents and local businesses where are the Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) in Lambridge?  On repeated occasions CEOs have been asked to come to Lambridge to fine vehicles for overstaying on 30-minutewaiting zone in the Larkhall Square. It would appear that the CEO officers are directed by senior management to focus on the centre of Bath,thus many parts of the city are left with no CEOs checking on the misuse of parking spaces, including Lambridge. With the recent consultation of Resident Parking Zones (RPZ) in Walcot the need, I have asked repeatedly how will the Council be increasing the number of CEOs to oversee the many more cars that will now use Lambridge as the Park and Ride on the East of Bath.

Please can you give me full details of what CEOs have been Lambridge Ward in the last 3 months?

Please can you give full details of the number of extra CEOs that will be recruited to work across the city to maintain the RPZs and the misuse of parking spaces in non-RPZ sites across the city?

Answer from Cllr Rigby

As you’ll no doubt be aware the council is not immune to the national challenges facing many sectors across the country that are actively looking to recruit staff, noting that earlier this month it was reported that for the first time on record the number of job vacancies was greater than the number of individuals seeking employment.

The role of Civil Enforcement Officer (CEO), which can be challenging to recruit to under more usual circumstances due to often inaccurate national stereotypes, experiences higher turnover than other council jobs due to the physical nature of the role.  

Currently the council has 13 vacancies out of a total of 30 posts and we are working to address this shortfall and the national recruitment challenges by reviewing the way the role is both advertised and how the role is delivered operationally.  As a role that covers shifts across the working day, 7 days a week, it is often perceived as not attractive or compatible to many potential candidates that have ongoing commitments; for example, those with young families, or those that are in full time education.  An example of some early and successful changes have been implemented are the use of financial incentives such as golden hello and retention payments.

Even without these pressures, our CEOs are typically unable to respond reactively to reports of vehicles that are alleged to be in contravention as often the vehicles will have left by the time our officer arrives, and this reduces their effectiveness and impacts on other locations.  However, these reports provide valuable intelligence that the team use to proactively deploy officers to areas at specific times in order to address consistent issues, although of course resources may also have an impact on this.

Whilst it may appear that team resources are prioritised within the city centre, this is more a reflection of the fact that within the city centre there exists a greater concentration of restrictions and locations where motorists are more likely to exercise selfish behaviour.  We have a statutory duty to enforce a valid restriction and officers will seek meet this duty by balancing the resources that are available, with intelligence from the community a key part of this.  Reports can be submitted to the Parking team at parking@bathnes.gov.uk.

Technology also has a key role to play in providing more effective and efficient coverage, particular when resources are limiting.   Whilst we are unable to use our vehicles equipment with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to issue automatic Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) we can use them to survey vehicles in permit areas.  We operate the first compliant electric moped in the country fitted with these cameras, providing greater flexibility compared to a car as its able to stop in small spaces to investigate a possible vehicle without a permit.  Planned changes this later this year to our pay and display equipment so that cash payments are linked to our enforcement system will allow CEOs to cover car parks using our ANPR equipment in the same way (we will still have to have officers issue PCN directly) and this will release staff to cover on street areas.

Since April 1st this year, locations within the Lambridge Ward have received 229 visits by a CEO, recording 148 observations resulting a 49 PCNs being issued where compliance wasn’t achieved.  Whilst there are no proposals to add additional CEO posts to the team, the proposals described above are intended to reduce the number of vacancies and improve the effectiveness of CEOs so that these additional areas can be ensured of regular coverage.

Question 4

In November 2021 I asked this council for financial training from the Local Government Authority (LGA) and was told that it was not possible for me to have this training. The Treasury Management Code of 2017 states it is the responsibility of the relevant Officer for an Authority to ensure that all council members have access to relevant financial training. 

I have contacted both the CEO of B&NES and the Section 151 Officer and asked for financial training since November 2021. It is now July 2022 and over eight months have passed and there has been no progression with financial training for myself or any Councillor who does not sit on the Corporate Policy and Scrutiny Committee. Yet every councillor is responsible for signing off the Council’s budget. 

As Leader of Council are you able to put in place proper financial training for all Cllrs so that councillors can properly fulfil our legal responsibility to sign off this council’s budgets having been given appropriate financial training? 

Answer from Cllr Davies

The Council does not have an approved budget at an adequate level to fund external training courses for individual Councillors. 

To accommodate Councillor Wright’s request, access has been given to the Council online finance training modules that give a comprehensive overview of Local Government Finance and Financial Management. In addition, the Council’s S151 Officer and Deputy S151 Officer will be providing an all-Councillor workshop on Council Finances in October to help Councillors prepare for the 2023/24 budget proposal. This workshop will have the added advantage of being specifically tailored to BANES Council’s finances, thereby ensuring that it will be an effective use of Councillors’ time and focus on the areas of particular relevance to their role as BANES Councillors.

Question 5

Many residents are unaware of the ecological emergency issues declared by B&NES Council and the ongoing need to restore habitat and nature recovery. Many see the long grass and plants in verges as purposeful neglect by the council. What pro-active and long-term messaging are you creating to be delivered throughout B&NES to enable residents of all ages and backgrounds to help support them and make better sense of the changes to grass cutting and weeds on the highway?

Answer from David Wood

There is information about the Council’s Let’s Get Buzzing project on the Council website which follows guidance from high profile, independent national campaigns such as The Blue campaign, and Plantlife’s Road Verges and No Mow May initiatives; and in line with the practices of most other district and unitary authorities. The Let’s Get Buzzing campaign has also been adopted by parish and town councils, such as Saltford and Radstock.  

Since September, B&NES has been inviting residents to help contribute to the Let’s Get Buzzing project by volunteering to help improve verges as part of the Neighbourhood Nature Area scheme. There is an explanation of the scheme on the Council’s website and an information pack will shortly be sent to all ward councillors to help publicise and promote the scheme.

Question 6

In May’s Cabinet I addressed a question to you asking “How will the Council begin to work with the UNESCO Slave Route Project to question the social, cultural and economic inequalities inherited from this tragedy? Will B&NES Officers read the Jan 2021 Healing the Wounds of Slave Trade and Slavery report and report back with immediate and practical steps towards connecting with the Slave Route project to Bath with the Council taking a lead in this work?”

Your response stated:

“The World Heritage Centre’s primary purpose is to help visitors to Bath understand what a World Heritage Site is and why Bath was inscribed as one. It is not a space where a detailed history of Bath is explored and the press release reflected this. However, in the permanent displays in the centre there is prominent reference made to the fact that some of the wealth that created Georgian Bath (and hence one aspect of the UNESCO listing – the classical, Palladian architecture) was derived from Britain’s involvement in the Transatlantic Trade. Further to this, Heritage Services would like to undertake a more in-depth exploration of this subject in the temporary display area of the centre. The exhibition programme for this space will be established post opening. It is worth noting that other institutions in Bath have, and continue to interrogate, the history of Bath’s involvement in Transatlantic Enslavement. Displays at Bath Abbey and the Holburne Museum will hopefully be complemented shortly by renovated interpretation at Beckford’s Tower. These sites all have direct connections to enslavement and it is wholly appropriate and highly relevant to their locations and specific histories that they have undertaken to exploring these connections. Whilst the World Heritage Centre can introduce the story to visitors to Bath, they will then be able to explore it in detail at these other venues during their visit to the city.”


Are you aware that using the term “Transatlantic Trade”, in this response, is in itself a way of obfuscating the role of slavery and fails to address the healing needed.  The lack of active historical information about the role of the “Transatlantic Slave Trade” and the huge profits that many in the city of Bath made from this human misery is at the centre of the question and the real need for Leadership in Bath and North EastSomerset is the ongoing challenge that is being asked of you.  What are you going to do to create immediate and practical steps towards connecting with the UNESCO Slave Route Project to Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site visited by millions every year?

Answer from Cllr Guy

At this time there are no further plans for B&NES to connect with the UNESCO Slave Route Project.

Question 7

What provisions are you making to put in place the Council owned site at Deadmill Lane/Gloucester Road into an appropriate allotment and possible orchard site in Lambridge? What is the timescale for delivery of this?

Answer from Cllr David Wood

The land at Deadmill Lane was given to the Council for use as an allotment as part of the S106 agreement relating to the development of Southbourne Gardens but the agreement did not involve a transfer of funds for the development of new allotments at Deadmill Lane and the £60,000 transferred to the Council was used to create new allotment provision at Fairfield Valley.

The principal obstacle to the development of the new allotment site at Deadmill Lane is the requirement to provide new pedestrian or vehicular access to facilitate vegetation clearance and ongoing maintenance. There is currently no budget for such a scheme. 

The Council has a right of access for vehicles and pedestrians across the adjacent land which has been recently subject to a planning application and refusal for the development of 15 affordable dwellings. The Council’s Parks Department had responded to the planning application consultation requesting that the developer provide a vehicular and pedestrian access to the Councils land at Deadmill Lane as a condition of planning permission.

In the event that there are any future planning applications relating to the adjacent land, representation for new access into the Council land will be made. In the absence of a budget to progress the scheme there is no timescale for the development of new allotments or community growing spaces on the land.

Question 8

Residents in the ward of Lambridge wish to run services under a public highway in a duct, using approved contractors, supervised by B&NESand fulfilling all regulatory requirements. 

They want to do this so that they can charge EVs, feed solar panel energy back to their homes from their gardens across the street and facilitate home working – all things aligned with confronting the climate emergency.  

Such needs are envisaged and facilitated by NRSWA Section 50, which provides a suitable licencing regime “…the street authority may grant a licence permitting a person … to place… apparatus in the street…”

NRSWA -The New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA), supported by relevant Regulations and Codes of Practice, provides a legislative framework for street works by undertakers (including utility companies) and works for road purposes – to the extent that these must be co-ordinated by street authorities.

B&NES council has to date refused residents this NRSWA Section 50 permission.

What actions are the Council taking to give residents permission to put ducts under the pavement to charge electric vehicles and or run cable from their homes from solar chargers?

Answer from Cllr Rigby

The New Roads and Street Works Act was written at a time before solar energy and electric vehicles were widely available. Our Highways team are concerned that a Section 50 licence does not provide the council with the necessary protection from liability and give it sufficient certainty should future works in the highway be needed to access or repair that cable and its ducting. This differs to when utility companies place their cables within the highway because these are ‘adopted’, which places certain responsibilities on them and cannot necessarily be replicated on a private individual through a Section 50 licence. 

The council is keen to enable more people to change to electric vehicles and to use solar power, but the placing of private electrical cables beneath a public road requires certain safeguards and guarantees that we are not currently satisfied can be sufficiently provided through a Section 50 licence.

We understand the government is reviewing this matter and we are also making legal enquiries as to how we can enable residents to do this whilst ensuring the council does not become liable for dealing with any future incidents that may arise from private electrical cables within the public highway.

Question 9

Presently it is very challenging for anyone to navigate the many supposed offerings for reductions on train travel, particularly with regard toyoung people accessing education. I have looked online at the GWR website and searched for information on the Scholars Scheme.  I could not find any reference to it. It is quite clear that many young people are unable to use the Scholars Scheme as neither the train operator or school have informed the student of this reduction, nor is there any information on the GWR website how, so how is anyone to know?  

This is not fair, and fares should be fair for young people attending education.

As Cabinet Member who leads on issues around young children what will you be undertaking to make sure all schools across B&NES offer students the Scholars Scheme?

Answer from Cllr Dine Romero

We are working with schools to promote sustainable and independent travel to schools; advocating for affordable fares across the public transport network with WECA and other transport provides such as the Rail Operators is a key part of this. We will shortly be recruiting a school travel officer and will ensure that they pass on all information received regarding travel offers to schools.

Question 10

What has the East Express Feasibility Study cost to date?  What is the forecasted carbon output of this bus route?

Answer from Cllr Warren

The West of England Combined Authority funded a feasibility study into a bus service on the East of Bath. The East of Bath Express Feasibility Study has cost approximately £130,000 (2020/21 financial year). The study investigated the potential demand for a high frequency direct, metro style bus service along the A4 corridor between Chippenham and Bath. 

We are in the process of preparing the report for publication and will release it in due course, containing detail of carbon emissions for the options modelled.

Question 11

Please can you list the actionable quantified roadmap to carbon neutrality that you are overseeing?

Answer from Cllr Warren

The latest progress report on climate action was brought to Council in March and can be found here:  https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/documents/s70850/Climate%20Emergency%20Annual%20Report.pdf  with the outline route map in the Appendix here: https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/documents/s70936/Appendix%20-%20Climate%20Report.pdf. As noted in this year’s report, more detailed work on the route map is being undertaken in 2022-23 and will be reported in the next annual report to Council.

Question 12

What actions have you taken as Cabinet Member to work with housing associations such as Curo and LiveWest to deliver safe cycle storage solutions to many residents who live in properties with no place to store a bicycle?

Answer from Cllr Warren

We are committed to improving safe cycle storage facilities and will be trialling on-street cycle storage hangers by the end of 2022.

Question 13

Brighton is set to become the first city in the UK to take action against second homeowners and holiday lets after a wave of buyers during the coronavirus pandemic pushed house prices to over £500,000. Local Green Councillors have voted to ask officials to draw up proposals which will ban new-build second homes and holiday lets in some areas of East Sussex.

What actions are you and the Cabinet putting in place to deal with the many second homeowners in Bath, the holiday lets and the air B&B Accommodation that has now made Bath and surrounding areas unaffordable to many local residents?

Answer from Cllr Davies

Preparation of the new Local Plan for B&NES is now underway, and this provides the opportunity to review the evidence and consider the options for introducing controls over new second homes and short-term holiday lets in the district.  Seeking to meet the housing needs of residents is an existing Council commitment and will be a priority for the new Local Plan.

Question 14

What regulations are in place for short term lets in the city of Bath? How could B&NES implement a citywide landlord licensing scheme that sets standards for rented properties and funds a bigger Private Housing inspection team?

Answer from Cllr Davies

The regulatory framework for dealing with the residential private rented sector is complex.  However, it does include some scope for the licensing of the private rented sector and which has been adopted by the Council.  The Council therefore already requires all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the city, and larger HMOs outside of the city, to be licensed.  The licensing fee is ring-fenced to fund the operation of the scheme.  However, this licensing scheme will expire at the end of next year and the Council will be reviewing future options, including further licensing models.

Question 15

The continued roll out and testing of VOI Scooters in the WECA region is a great benefit to many residents. However, as a councillor on the east of Bath this extension has failed to address the real dangers on the London Road due to the lack of cycle/scooter infrastructure and the high numbers of accidents already taking place for cyclists.  The VOI scooters have been programmed not to work on the canal and nor can a resident use them to get to the University using North Road. This is therefore making journey purposely long and putting many residents in danger on a road already littered with signs on the cycle infrastructure due to the works on Cleveland Bridge.

Please can you let me know:

Was the University included in part of the discussions about the route to the campus at Claverton?

Why has North Road been avoided?  This seriously impacts many on the east of Bath and fails to deliver sustainable connectivity?

There appears to be no connection between Batheaston and Bathampton – why?

Will the Canal and River Trust be asked for permission to use the canal route?

Answer from Cllr Warren

The Voi e-scooter trial is being undertaken by WECA, and WECA will be able to respond to issues pertaining to the trial.

Question 16

Ella Roberta Adoo Kissi-Debrah died on 15 February 2013 at the age of nine as a result of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution in London. She was a bright, talented girl who loved sports, music and reading. Ella was the first person in England to have air pollution named as a cause of death by a coroner, but every year tens of thousands of people around the UK are killed by air pollution. In his report, the coroner urged the government to take action to bring air quality up to minimum World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

In a recent press release on air pollution in Bath (16th June 2022) it states:

“The report notes that while air quality across the city has improved – with a clear decreasing trend in NO2 concentrations across all 123 monitoring sites – three sites within the zone continue to exceed the EU and UK limit value of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air (μg/m3).

These sites at Walcot Parade, Wells Road and Dorchester Street, remain a concern for the council and will be carefully monitored. In 2019, 11 monitoring sites in Bath exceeded the limit value”

Please can you give full pollution details of the data for the sites at Walcot Parade, Wells Road and Dorchester Street and how they differ from the World Health Organisation air quality standards?

What is the time scale left for the Council to be compliant in the shortest time possible? Will the Council be fined?

Answer from Cllr Warren

Full pollution details of the data for the sites at Walcot Parade, Wells Road and Dorchester Street can be found in the 2022 Air Quality Annual Status Report for which can be found at this link: https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/sitedocuments/Environment/Pollution/final_asr_bnes_2022.pdf

The World Health Organisation published revised air quality guidelines in 2021 where they recommended that the air quality guideline level for nitrogen dioxide is reduced to 10 μg/m3;  this guideline level remains a recommendation and is not currently incorporated in UK legislation.

The Council was required to achieved compliance with the Ministerial Directions in the shortest time possible and by 2021 at the latest.

The question of whether the Council should be fined is a matter for the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU).  However, the Cabinet Report makes reference to recent comments from JAQU where ‘JAQU understands that local monitoring shows that Bath is making good progress towards achieving legal compliance for Nitrogen Dioxide levels’.

Question 17

The B&NES Liberal Democrats brought a motion to the March 2022 council meeting titled “Cleaning up our rivers”.

Please can you let me know what work is the cabinet currently pursuing to reduce the cumulative pressure from development on our water and sewage systems?

Have you asked the Chair of the Climate Emergency and Sustainability Policy, Development and Scrutiny Panel, Cllr Karen Walker to invite the Chief

Executives of Wessex Water and Bristol Water plus senior representatives from the Environment Agency and Natural England to attend a meeting to answer questions on the current levels of sewage discharge?

Have you asked from this date onwards, in all planning consultation responses for major developments, to clarify which treatment works will be managing the sewage; whether it has the information available to assess the impact on the number or duration of sewage discharges into local rivers or seas, and if it does have this information to share it (noting that this can only be requested not required)?

Answer from Cllr Wood

We are in the process of setting up a scrutiny inquiry day to examine our new responsibilities within the Environment Act 2021 and also following the Lib Dem Full Council Motion March 24th 2022 ‘Cleaning up our Rivers’ –   

We are working closely with Wessex Water and Bristol Water through the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and are working with them both on their next investment plans for the period 2025-30 to help improve the water quality of our rivers

Planning applications don’t take a blanket approach as it wouldn’t be relevant to all major applications, but we consult our Drainage colleagues and/or the Environment Agency in cases where there are some planning implications for discharge into any watercourse or drainage matters.

Question 18

In May 2022, I wrote to Dan Norris, Mayor of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) about my concerns over Cleveland Bridge and I received the following email from Dan Norris.

“The original funding bid for the Cleveland Bridge works, submitted by Bath and North East Somerset Council, can be found here: https://travelwest.info/app/uploads/2020/05/Local-Highways-Maintenance-Challenge-Fund-LHMCF-02-Cleveland-Bridge-Application-Form-FINAL.pdf

Based on this funding bid, the works to Cleveland Bridge received a £3.5million grant from the Department for Transport allocated in February 2020. Details regarding this funding award is found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/869349/challenge-fund-schemes.csv/preview

As indicated in the funding bid, the Department for Transport provided the grant funding on the basis that the local authority would meet any additional costs over and above the requested amount.

The Department for Transport (DfT) also provides funding for road maintenance through the Maintenance Block grant (MB) which is directly allocated to the West of England Combined Authority for road maintenance. The allocation for Bath and North East Somerset Council was £5,915,274 in 2021/22 and for 2022/23, £6,997,343 for road maintenance activities. This includes for bridges and structures, potholes and road resurfacing works. The allocations provided are detailed within the following report, that was provided to the West of England Combined Authority Committee on the 28th January 2022: https://westofengland-ca.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s3292/15b%20-%20CRSTS%20report.pdf

As the Maintenance Block funding is transferred each year to the local authorities for the maintenance of their local road network, Bath and North East Somerset Council will of course be responsible for local maintenance priorities on their local road network including the allocation of this funding into maintenance priorities, and it is therefore for Bath and North East Somerset Council and local councillors, to prioritise this spending on road maintenance, bridges and structures. If additional funding was required for the Cleveland Bridge works, then the maintenance block funding allocation provided could be utilised to undertake the works.

Regarding the issue of lorries utilising the bridge, Bath and North East Somerset Council, as the Local Highway Authority, can of course determine any traffic restrictions on the bridge through the traffic regulation order (TRO) process. This can include weight limits on bridges if required. Any decision regarding weight limits on the bridge would of course be subject to a consultation process, with the final decision being made by the Local Highway Authority.”

As Cleveland Bridge now has no known date for being fully reopened how much will the overspend on Cleveland Bridge be?

Answer from Cllr Rigby

The council announced in April that traffic management will remain as investigations continue into how to solve the complex engineering issues discovered in January during the agreed repairs to the Grade II* listed structure. The corrosion is a safety critical issue and was revealed when sections of concrete were removed from the hanger bars which support the main trusses of the bridge. The bars are essential to maintaining its structural integrity but are not commonly found in bridges. The engineering solution is proving a technical challenge as any solution will be bespoke and there are few experts in this historic methodology. We will be providing a fuller update regarding the hanger bars in the coming weeks. The extensive repairs will be assisted by a £3.5m grant from the Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund, and by the Department ForTransport’s headroom uplift for maintenance. The forecast cost will be updated once the hanger bar repairs options are agreed.

Question 19

As part of the team that helps to organise Kidical Mass in Bath, I am aware that Saskia Heijltjes has written to the Council on several occasions asking for Council support at the end of the bike rides from the Council’s Travel Road Show Team.

I have also reached out for support to WECA’s Travel Road Show Team asking for support only to be told that all support for this should come from B&NES Council.

It appears to me that there are a enormous number of consultations and policies to support active travel, yet when a community action group supporting this activity, which is a core council strategy, approaches B&NES, the Council has very little, if any resources to offer. This is really not good enough in light of the Climate Emergency.

To date we have still not received any response of the support that B&NES can offer.

Please can you let us know why?

Answer from Cllr Warren

Unfortunately, it won’t be possible to provide these services on the 17th July. However, we are working with Saskia to provide a Dr Bike booking on the 24th September, a full day before the next Kidical Mass, and to support the Kidical Mass with Roadshow representatives on the 25th.  As the Roadshow team are funded by the DfT Capability Fund which ends September 30th, we are unable to confirm bookings after for May until the DfT announces a replacement funding stream.

Question 20

Are you aware as the Co-Chair of the Health and Wellbeing board, that this board is not filmed or made available to all residents on the Council’s YouTube channel? Please can you find out why the Health and Wellbeing board is the only board not accessible to the residents in Bath and North East Somerset via the variety of on-line connectivity options available to the Council?

Answer from Cllr Romero

When webcasting meetings began the small team only had the staffing and technology resources available to webcast a limited number of selective Council meetings including Cabinet, Council, Scrutiny and Planning. This did not include any partnership meetings such as the Health & Wellbeing Board. I will ask the team whether they can review the current arrangements and whether it would be possible to webcast the Health & Wellbeing Board meetings in the future.

Question 21

Presently residents who take on a B&NES allotment receive a letter of eviction for not maintaining their plot as set out in the B&NES allotment policy.  In many cases this leads to many residents instantly giving up on their allotment plot and returning the plot often in the state that they found it, in poor condition.  This cycle then repeats itself. Many residents have complained that they feel that they are being unfairly treated and the letter sent, sends a message of overwhelming failure and that the Council appears uncaring. 

As a ward Councillor I have repeatedly heard on the doorstep from residents about the issue of eviction from allotments and those, in some cases with mental health issues, are reluctant to sign up for an allotment due to the perceived view that they will be evicted. Therefore, the benefits of the allotments are lost for many residents that would value t the health and wellbeing outcomes that allotments offer.

Please can you ask the appropriate officers to examine allotment policy, particularly with reference to eviction letters?

Answer from Cllr Wood

Since the onset of the Covid pandemic there has been a nationwide increase in the demand for allotment plots and this demand has not abated. The average waiting time for an allotment plot has doubled to two years and is greater than that on some sites. Currently, there are circa 900 applicants waiting for a plot on the Council waiting list. It is important therefore, that allotment sites are actively managed, and that underutilised and unused plots are made available to waiting applicants.

To this effect, Council allotment sites are inspected 3 times each during the growing season. Plots are inspected to ensure that they are being adequately cultivated by the tenants. Plots deemed to be not adequately cultivated are sent a Notice giving the tenant 4 weeks to remedy the issues. Tenants may also be sent a notice for other reasons, commonly rubbish or sapling removal. Tenants are required to have 75% of their plot cultivated. 

New tenants are exempt from inspection for the first 3 months of their tenancy and are expected to have cultivated around 25% of the plot after the 1st 3 months. Typically, the allotments officer will take a reasoned approach to new tenants, provided that an effort has been to madeto start cultivating the plot after the 1st three months. Consideration is given to those unable to tend to their plots due to illness, or bereavement. 

The allotments officer is open to contact from tenants by phone or email to discuss in detail the requirements of the notice sent to them, to answer any of their questions and listen to any of their concerns.

Question 22

The plans for a ramp to replace the steps from the canal into Sydney Gardens is it believed were dropped due to budget issues. The new entrance from Beckford Road presently has no drop kerbs so is inaccessible to people on wheels coming from the canal and crossing the road. 

Please can you give full details of how the with accessibility issues and using wheels will be able to access Sydney Gardens other than making a long detour to the front of the park?

Answer from Cllr Warren

The pedestrians crossing at the Sydney Rd / Beckford Rd / Warminster Rd signalised junction provides a safer option to cross the A36 and access the park, we will keep under review the need for any further provision.

Question 23

Please can you give a full update on the Citizen’s Panel that you organised to deliberate the Active Travel measures for North Road?

Answer from Cllr Warren

Britain Thinks the Consultants appointed by the Council to undertake the Citizen’s Panel on active travel have now completed the project. The draft Report was circulated to the Cabinet Members Cllr Manda Rigby and myself on Monday the 11th of July 2022. We are now in the process of examining the report with Bath University who assisted us in sponsoring the panel. We will shortly be looking to make the report available to the Council and the general public. The “call for evidence” as part of the information gathering to assist the panel in their deliberations received over 750 responses and we are aware that there will considerableinterest in their findings.

Please Listen and Let us Choose How we Prepare our Speeches

FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE, PEOPLE ACROSS BATHNES 

ASK COUNCIL TO DROP “FULL WRITTEN SPEECH OR NOTHING” RULE CHANGE 

PEOPLE ACROSS BATHNES HAVE COME TOGETHER IN WORRY 

THAT THE COUNCIL’S LIMITING THEIR CHANCE TO BE HEARD

They are the politically active – from every party in Bath – and the completely party-free. They’re current and former councillors, GPs, teachers, retirees, writers, parents,teenagers, grandparents and many more. Over 300 residents have been joined by the leader of the Labour group, leader of the Conservative group, and the council’s only Green councillor, signing an open letter asking for Bath & NE Somerset Council to reverse its plan to insist people must submit full written speeches if they want to speak at a Council, Cabinet, or any scrutiny panel meeting.

They’re worried the council is putting up new barriers to ordinary people – and some groups in particular – that will prevent them being heard by their elected representatives.They hope the council will back down over its proposals which insist that you can’t speak unless you send in a full written speech in advance

Their letter says the council’s proposed rule “acts as a barrier to political and community participation for many ordinary people,” and asks councillors to “consider the needs of residents of all ages and abilities as a matter of urgency, and reverse this.”

The open letter is still open for people to add their names: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/open-stakeholder-letter-to-will-godfrey

They are especially worried that some residents may find the council’s demands for an advance written speech even more of a challenge than most: the elderly, people with some disabilities or medical conditions, young people, people whose first language isn’t English and anyone who isn’t confident about their written English. 

The authors include environmental sustainability campaigner and social entrepreneur Vipul Patel, and Gill Kirk, a speechwriter, playwright and library campaigner who also wrote an open letter to councillors and the Chronicle in March about these proposals. Many other concerned residents, such as former Conservative councillor Bob Goodman, have also raised the issue on social media. 

“Speeches to the council are of course about making your case in a clear and persuasive way. You only have three minutes to do that, you can’t speak for longer, and you don’t have a right of reply after you’ve spoken,” Gill Kirk said. “People deserve to be respected and manage their speech-making in the way that works for them. Lots of people like to prepare some bullet points as a guide, then speak from the heart. Once that’s over, they can polish the text and send it in. Why is this no longer good enough for the council, when it’s worked reasonably well for years?”

The letter says, “You’re asking for a GCSE-standard piece of work as an ‘entrance exam’to be allowed to tell the council their views,” says the letter, and adds, “rates of functional illiteracy (1 in 6, or 16.4%) suggest that over 30,000 friends and neighbours are more likely than most to avoid having to submit a written three-minute speech.”

The issue was discussed passionately at the Council AGM on May 12th (covered by the Chronicle). Liberal Democrat proponents of the plan to change the speaking rules said: 

• “It is an enabler of not less, but better, democracy” Winston Duguid, Widcombe & Lyncombe

• “People are getting a bit confused” – Manda Rigby, Bathwick

• “I do think a little bit of politics is playing here” – Rob Appleyard, Lambridge

• “It’s perfectly reasonable” – Duncan Hounsell, Saltford

• “This is clearly not a debate about democracy and freedom of speech; this is a set of individuals trying to score political points” – Kevin Guy (Leader), Bathavon North

[youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfKMFcTj510]

On the other side of the debate, most letter signatories added comments with their names. Here are just a few of their messages they wanted to send to BathNES’s controllingLiberal Democrat group, who – with the majority of council seats – are in charge of the final decision when Council votes next month: 

• The Council’s Labour Group Leader, Robin Moss: “We need to encourage more people to talk to the council, not put them off”

• Former Conservative councillor (now Police & Crime Commissioner) Mark Shelford: “Fair enough to ask for the title of the talk but not for the contents as this could be seen as censorship.”  

• Diversity campaigner B In Bath: “By bringing in these new requirements, the Council are making it significantly more difficult for the public to access them and bring matters to the Council, prioritising the Council’s comfort and ease over the public”

• Cllr Joanna Wright (Green): “The council works for the public and should therefore operate in a way that hears that voice.”  

• Councillor Karen Warrington (Deputy Leader, Con Group): “Upholding democracy. Not allowing this Council to obstruct democracy & interpret Rules for their own political advantage & because they don’t want to be challenged.”

• Resident Sharon Gillings, “I’ve spoken at council and it is daunting. Another barrier is appalling- make engaging in democracy easy.”

• Former Liberal Democrat councillor Lisa Brett“I recognise the need for Councillors to hear from the full range of people they are elected to represent, including those with learning disabilities, for whom English is a second language, for whom time is restricted and they want to speak from the heart.” 

• Resident Rachel Willis: “Over 30000 people in B&NES are functionally illiterate. Many more are too busy to find time to attend council meetings, let alone provide a full statement ahead of time. This will stop people being able to exercise their democratic right to hold the council to account.”

• Former Green councillor, Lin Paterson: “One of the planks in the election of the current council majority was transparency and listening to the public. This betrayal of those values would have a chilling effect on democratic participation, eventually leading to mistrust, fuelling resentment of the council.”

• Resident Laura James: “This new amendment is a barrier to many marginalised groups. It must be overturned.”

• Resident Michelle Creed: “their job is to listen, solve problems, represent us.” 

• Resident Jonathan Ford: “Why are you making it difficult for people to have a voice?” 

• Resident Peter Andrews: “Any erosion of our rights address our elected representatives in the council chamber is to be deplored and reversed.

• Save Bath Libraries campaigner Dionne Pemberton: “Speaking at council meetings was key to the Save Bath Library campaign, it was also a fairly stressful experience and that was without needing to submit a speech in advance. Any tension to citizens to speak before elected officials should be removed, not added. A free and open democratic process is vital. Do the right thing please.”

• Theatre Bath’s Luke John Emmett: “Access to the council is a right not a privilege.” 

• Author Mary English: “I have had to submit written speeches more than once to Bath NES council. Each time I do it, it takes DAYS, even though I’m a professional author. What happens to those that don’t have those skills? 

• Former Liberal Democrat councillor David Dixon – “It’s important that people can turn up and speak from the heart rather than script their speech completely. […] I don’t believe that having a speech scrutinised before being given in public is democratic at all.

A working group continues to look at the issue, and meets again this week (1 July), before reporting to July’s full Council meeting for a final vote.[https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=690 ]

Mayor Making at Bath Abbey

Every year the Charter Trustees of Bath select a new Mayor and Deputy Mayor for Bath. There is a yearly ceremony held at Bath Abbey for the change over of mayor roles. This year Cllr Rob Appleyard of Lambridge Ward was selected to be Mayor of Bath along with Cllr Michelle O’Doherty as Deputy Mayor. The outgoing roles held by Cllr June Player and Cllr Dr Yukteshwar Kumar were thanked appropriately. I was delighted to give the thank you speech for the outgoing Deputy Mayor Cllr Dr Yukteshwar Kumar which can be seen below.

“Mr Mayor, Honoured Guests”, 

It is with great pleasure to say thank you to Cllr Dr Yukteshwar Kumar the first person from an Asian heritage to be the Deputy Mayor of Bath. Dr Kumar and his family, Deputy Mayoress Mrs Tania Deb and their son Yuvraj Kumar have given much considered service and care in their work and duties over the past year.

Dr Kumar believes clearly in the positive effect of service within the local community and how this results in better outcomes and futures for everyone. And he values acts of kindness and dedication in which communities can be united. Dr Kumar has shown that not only does he believe in these values, but that he is prepared to act on them daily in many ways that will benefit the communities that he lives and works with. His dedication in the last year to be of service can be seen in the many events Dr Kumar has taken part in, from walking with the Mayors guides, attending the Remembrance Service events and welcoming international students at the Roman Baths.

But what I think Dr Kumar is probably most proud of and humbled by was his first engagement as Deputy Mayor,  when he was blessed to attend the opening of the Lord Jagannatha temple, the first temple of its kind in Europe. This important temple which celebrates loving service for all classes of people, is a place for many to worship in. It is also a place to support people in the community and give them a sanctuary, where they can be valued and feel less isolated. 

I am delighted to move that:​”That the very cordial thanks of The Charter Trustees of The City of Bath be given to ​Councillor Dr Yukteshwar Kumar, the retiring Deputy Mayor, for the ability, courtesy and efficiency with which he has discharged the duties of Deputy Mayor during the Mayoralty of Councillor June Player, and also to the retiring Deputy Mayoress (Mrs Taniya Deb), for the assistance she has rendered to the retiring Deputy Mayor on all occasions in connection with his civic duties.  And that a copy of the preceding Resolution be engrossed on paper vellum and sealed with the Common Seal and signed by the Mayor and Chairman of the Standing Committee,  for presentation to the retiring Deputy Mayor”.

Social Care Contract at B&NES to be signed off by Lib Dem Cabinet

In the last 6 months Virgin Care have sold the social care contract that they had with B&NES and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to a company called 20TwentyCapital a hugely profitable business in staff procurement based in Soho Square, London, with little experience of social care. 20TwentyCapital have now re-branded this contract under the name of HCRG Care Group and this profit based private company will now be running various social care contracts at B&NES. The Children, Adults, Health and Well Being Development, Policy and Scrutiny panel were given an ”in camera” review of the decision process at the May 17th 2022 meeting by Officers.

The Lib Dem Cabinet will be signing off this contract at Cabinet on the 26th May 2022. Sole Green Councillor at B&NES, Cllr Joanna Wright has asked Cllr Born, Cabinet Member for Adult Care questions on this sale.

1. It is not clear in the report how the costs for Option 3 are necessarily additional, as the ongoing costs have not been included in Option 1.Please can a detailed explanation of the costs in Option 1 and costs in Option 3 be given?

To permit comparison with the other options, the options have been calculated for a 10-year period to 31st March 2027, 10 years being the longest contract term that would apply in the options. The costs in the options are the costs that could be incurred in that 10-year period.The costs in Option 1 are procurement fees which would be incurred during the 10-year period as re-procurement would commence prior to the end of the contract. The costs in Option 3 are the cumulative costs of insourcing adult social care services for the remaining 3 years, these would be incurred during the 10-year period over which the options are compared and include additional revenue budget costs for the council in applying salary inflation. The same costs are not included in Option 1 as, if they applied, they would be incurred after the 10-year time period being compared.

2. HCRG has no track record in providing care and has been essentially a staff procurement company.  Can you give a full breakdown of what research has been undertaken to carry out a due diligence report to understand the trustworthiness of Twenty20 Capital, who are presently using the title HCRG in this contract?

Twenty20 Capital are the new owners of HCRG Care Group. HCRG Care Group have delivered the B&NES locality contract for integrated health social care and public health services since April 2017 as HCRG Care Group is the same legal entity as Virgin Care Service Ltd following the issue of the change of control notice on 2nd December 2021. A full due diligence review was undertaken on the Council’s behalf by BDO LLP.  Please refer to section 4.2 of the report which covers the areas reviewed.

3. The fastest way to make economies in business is to cut staff costs, therefore has a Performance Assessment been carried out in the six months since HCRG has operated this contract?

Commissioners have governance structures in place for performance monitoring the contract. Since November 2021 HCRG Care Group have continued to meet their contractual obligations. At the Contract Quality & Performance Meetings (CQPM) HCRG Care Group deliver reports on performance of services, quality, and workforce. The next CQPM meeting is on 15th June 2022. Commissioners take regular reports to the Children, Adults, Health and Wellbeing Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel which covers workforce within the provider.

4. I have been made aware of staff in IT being dismissed by HCRG in the last 6 months. How many staff have been made redundant during the six months and what is the rate of turnover of staff?

HCRG Care Group have confirmed their response: As part of our 3-year business plan (22-25) we committed to a review of our corporate back-office scope and size to ensure that we could deliver things in the most efficient way, allowing us to invest in our strategy and in delivering our purpose.  As an organisation providing services funded with a flat envelope (Council funded services) against a landscape of rising costs, it is important to seek ways to do things smarter, faster and more efficiently to remain sustainable. As part of this process, we delivered a reduction of less than 1% of roles from our national support functions (42 from 4500). No front line operational or clinical role was in scope. Our national turnover remains in line with the wider health sector c14% although our B&NES contract operates at around c12.5%. Recruitment and retention continue to be a high priority for us as an organisation. Of the 42 staff 5 staff linked to the South West region so not B&NES specific and not all posts full time. During the process a variety of options, including redundancy, were all individually discussed with staff and supported in best interests of individual. The Council does not comment on operational decisions taken by suppliers or providers relating to Council contracts.

5. What legal clauses will be placed in any future contracts that the council creates that will ensure that a company is unable to sell on the ownership of a contract to another company without first informing the council?

The contracts are by their nature, commercial and thus each party must agree the terms of the agreement, and as such it usually not possible to fetter the other party’s commercial viability as they simply would not agree to such a term in the contract. While it may be possible to include a clause in contracts that would allow one party to cancel or rescind the contract upon sale of the business, the reality of such a clause being included in a contract is that a consequence of this could be termination of the contract either effective immediately or within a short period.  The result of this approach to contracting with local authorities is that in this event it would impact on the ability for the service to be delivered and the Council would then be left in breach of their statutory duties.    If a contract is unfair or oppressive to one party in a way that suggests abuses during its formation, a court may find it unconscionable and refuse to enforce it. A contract is most likely to be found unconscionable if both unfair bargaining and unfair substantive terms are shown.

6. What actions will the council be taking in the next few months and years that will allow for the creation of a forward looking, service oriented and service user friendly health and social care contract?

The system in which B&NES and BSW CCG operates is rapidly changing due to the Health and Care Act. BSW CCG will close down on 30th June 2022 and the Integrated Care Board will come into operation on 1st July 2022.  The development of the integrated care system provides an opportunity to take a more strategic approach to community services. This would encompass working with providers across the system to bring forward and build upon the innovations that will be needed to create a sustainable health and social care model for the future. B&NES and BCW CCG are committed as joint commissioners to the planning and development of a future community services delivery model that is innovative and delivers the services required by the B&NES population.      

7. Who were the team responsible for the options appraisal?

The options appraisal was led on behalf of B&NES and BSW CCG by the Council’s Head of Strategic Procurement & Commissioning and the Head of Contracting & Performance. From a B&NES perspective project oversight has been provided by the Chief Operating Officer and Director of Adult Social Care. The project was supported by BDO LLP (supply chain risk) and Bevan Brittan LLP (legal).

8. The way that Virgin Care allowed HCRG to take over a publicly paid for service has angered many residents in our community. What actions will the Council be taking so that public money that is paying for this contract can be properly scrutinised and that any and all profits made from these services is easily understood and this information is put in the public domain?

Virgin Group made the commercial decision to sell Virgin Health Care. Virgin Care Services Ltd delivered the B&NES contract. Following the acquisition by Twenty20 Capital the name was changed to HCRG Care Group. HCRG Care Group is the same legal entity as Virgin Care Services Ltd following the issue of the change of control notice on 2nd December 2021 Since November 2021 HCRG Care Group have continued to meet their contractual obligations which have not changed. Commissioners will continue to monitor the financial performance through its existing contract monitoring structure and take regular reports to the Children, Adults,Health and Wellbeing Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel. Previous reports to the Panel have detailed the funding and financial performance of the contract.

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Scrutiny Needed on lack of NHS Dentists at B&NES

On the 17th May 2022 meeting of the Children, Adults, Health and Wellbeing Development, Policy and Scrutiny Panel, Cllr Joanna Wright read a letter from a Lambridge resident about the experience oof lack of dentists. The resident has no access to an NHS dentist in Bath. To hear in full watch the Youtube film of the committee. Cllr Wright has compelled this Scrutiny panel to put the lack of NHS dentists in Bath and North East Somerset on this committee’s agenda.

BATH AND NE SOMERSET COUNCIL LOSE A MILLION POUNDS OF POTENTIAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING FOR ACTIVE TRAVEL INFRASTRUCTURE 

Bath & NE Somerset (B&NES) Council has failed to receive funding for a million pound bid submitted to Active Travel England. The Council applied to the government for an active travel scheme to resurface the existing cycle and pedestrian route through Rainbow Woods at the top of Claverton Down in Bath, but this bid has been rejected by Active Travel England. The failure of this bid is a disaster for the residents of B&NES and represents a wasted opportunity.

Active Travel England, under the leadership of Chris Boardman, have made it very clear in the last year that any local authority submitting bids for funding needs to show ambitious cycle schemes that would really transform people’s lives.  The bid that was put forward by B&NES was led by Cllr Kevin Guy, the leader of Council, his deputy Cllr Sarah Warren, and cabinet member for transport Cllr Manda Rigby. It appears that this bid was not ambitious enough.

We have learned today that the Metro Mayor for the West of England, Dan Norris, has secured £5.8 million from central government to boost cycling and walking in the region for other more ambitious schemes. For example, Bristol and South Gloucester have received funding under this award which will deliver cycle infrastructure in Cotham Hill, Old Market Gap and Kingswood Town Centre (https://www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/ news/metro-mayor-secures-extra-5-8m-to-boost-cycling-and-walking/) The West of England Combined Authority press release shares the positive news for sustainable transport in the region “It’s vital that we invest in active travel projects to deliver our ambition to be net zero by 2030”.

Those involved with overseeing the B&NES bid were warned repeatedly through emails and statements from Cllr Joanna Wright, WalkRideBath (a local advocacy group in favour of active travel) and by numerous members of the public that Active Travel England expected local councils to deliver ambitious active travel infrastructure, and that failure to deliver on clear government guidance on the requirements for cycle infrastructure would invalidate their bid. The financial cost to B&NES Council is huge, but the loss to local residents is longer term and affects the health and well being of us all.

It is clear that Active Travel England was prepared to fund cycle infrastructure on the public highway where cyclists interacted with motor vehicles. The choice by B&NES Council to select a path through a wood was seen as unambitious and failed the test of transforming cycling not only for today’s cyclists but for the generations to come.

An earlier more ambitious scheme to deliver active travel infrastructure appears to have been blocked by the current Liberal Democrat administration because it might upset a small but vocal minority of voters, and would prevent some Liberal Democrats from being voted in again at the next local council elections in 2023. The lack of ambitious vision in the failed bid seems to be the result of similar concerns for re-election.

Over a year ago Cllr Joanna Wright was Joint Cabinet Member for Transport at B&NES and put in place a policy framework for Liveable Neighbourhoods, which was considered a major transport achievement and was the envy of many local authorities. The Leader of Council, Cllr Kevin Guy, told her to “dump the Active Travel schemes” in an email in April 2021. She defected from the Lib Dems to the Greens as she was concerned about political decisions being made by the administration that would compromise not only cycle infrastructure but the very basis of one of the council’s key corporate commitments – delivering net zero by 2030.

In a statement to full Council in May 2021 Cllr Wright said “The Active Travel Schemes are a clear case in point, these simple yet transformative schemes enable safe travel routes for many, significantly reducing carbon emissions and tackling car dependency, yet I have been told recently that despite massive public support I ‘need to dump the current plans’”. 

What we have is rhetoric versus action. Window dressing versus real change.

Political power is about doing things, not just for the present, or to be re-elected, but more importantly for those in the future who will benefit from the really tough decisions that are made on their behalf today.”

This Liberal Democrat B&NES administration had a real opportunity to put in place life changing, healthy, beneficial infrastructure that would have enabled a significant shift from the private car to cycling in our city. Over 40% of journeys in Bath are shorter than 3km, yet the leadership at B&NES made a politically calculated decision to stop the earlier Active Travel Scheme for North Road, stop the officers at B&NES from delivering key cycle routes that would have been paid for by Active Travel England, and put in a very unambitious active travel scheme bid that was turned down by the Government, exactly as was warned. The Council have no one to blame but themselves for this appalling failure to win available funding, and the resultant reputational damage. 

Active Travel England are asking local authorities to put in further applications for funding by August 2022. Will this next opportunity for vital money and vital, life-saving infrastructure be wasted yet again by this poorly led authority?

(1) Chris Boardman on Twitter: “🎉 @activetraveleng is in business! 200m to enable over 16 million new cycling, walking and wheeling trips every year. Cheap, clean, sustainable….and enjoyable journeys. I think it’s going to catch on! 👇” / Twitter

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