Police and Crime Commissioner Elections

After 6 weeks roaming around the force area of Avon and Somerset Police area the votes have been cast and congratualtions to Sue Mountstevens who won.

I learnt a lot during these elections –
First – I was reminded what a fantastic area we live in
Second – there is very little public support for the role – outside Bristol which had local elections the turnout was about 20% – if the Government wants these positions to be important to the public it must support them more than this time when there was no freepost for the candidates.
Third – It is really clear to me that transferring the FireAuthority to them is an absolute NO.

On Police issues
– people do not want their local police stations closed and the office transferred to out of the way , remote and invisible locations. This is bad for the community and bad for police morale. For some inexplicable reason people seemed to think this was a Council fault rather than a Police Commissioner failing. I will work to make sure that people know exactly who is closing their local stations.
– people want fair and responsive police – there is a real issue in certain communities that this is not the case at present. Getting this corrected must be a priority for the Commissioner and the Chief Constable.
– people want more focus on traffic offences
– people want a more visible police presence and do not want them behind office desks

Overall I was proud to witness the hard work and dedication of our police men and women and was pleased to meet so many members of the public and talk abot police and crime issues.
In conclusion I would recommend to Governement that the position is scrapped and we revert to the Board system we had before and certainly responsibility for Fire should not be transferred to them.

Place making plan for Bath and NE Somerset

Further to Council approval on 23rd March the Placemaking Plan and supporting documentation has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for Examination. Further information is available on the Council’s website at www.bathnes.gov.uk/placemakingplan

The Planning Inspectorate have confirmed that Inspector Claire Sherratt has been appointed to conduct the Examination. The Inspector will be responsible for setting the programme for the Examination, including the hearings. For your information please see below the email/letter that will be sent to all those individuals and organisations that submitted representations on the Draft Placemaking Plan.

If you have not yet had your say or expressed your view please feel free to contact me.


Devolution Deal?

The Leaders of the 4 local authorities that used to comprise Avon have signed with Government a devolution deal.
The agrement can be read here :- www.gov.uk/government/publications/west-of-england-devolution-deal
At present it comes with a new Metro Mayor. Devolution YES PLEASE – return to Avon with a single politician in charge NO THANKYOU.
The agreement needs lots or revising before it will be accpetable. Just on Sunday when out talking with residents on Police issues two people came up to me and were pretty angry that having just rejected an elected Mayor for the Council by 8 to 2 the Government was now forcing another on us with no say from the public. Avon was massively unpopular. It was created by the Conservatives then abandoned by the Conservatives after a quarter of a century and now lo and behold another quarter of a century on and the Conservatives are recreating Avon by the back door.

Well Done Ralph – World Autism Awareness Week

A powerful statement from Ralph on Autism. Ralph works for Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Celebrating World Autism Awareness Week

In support of World Autism Awareness Week (2nd to 8th April), a member of Bath & North East Somerset Council’s staff has written an open letter to celebrate the week and explain what his autism means to him.

Ralph Hemus, who works as a Postroom Assistant in the Council and is also a Young Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, composed a sincere insight which he asked the Council to share in order to increase people’s understanding and appreciation of autism.

In his open letter, Ralph says: “I was diagnosed at the age of 4 and have grown up to become a responsible, delightful adult..…and meddler sometimes!

“I have had some tough times over the years with bullying at school and being unable to understand new surroundings and understanding social interactions.

“Autism is a condition which has not been very well known until today and it affects 1 in 100 people in the UK alone. Autism can affect the way we speak, socialise and understand the way of life and its purpose. But there are some good things about autism; we are bright and cheerful.

“Every person with autism is different and adults and children can develop different qualities at any time. Autism can be diagnosed at an early stage of childhood or sometimes cannot be diagnosed until adulthood, which is very sad as if found early individuals can be helped to grow up in an understanding world.”

As part of his role as a Young Ambassador for the National Autistic Society, Ralph helps to raise awareness of autism and is supporting the charity’s new campaign ‘Too Much Information’. You can read Ralph’s open letter in full at www.bathnes.gov.uk/CelebrateWithRalph, and watch a powerful video that the National Autistic Society has made to launch the campaign at www.autism.org.uk/TMI.

More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. This means that someone sees, hears and feels the world in a different, often more intense, way to other people. Autistic people often find social situations difficult and struggle to filter out the sounds, smells, sights and information they experience, which means they feel overwhelmed by ‘too much information’ when out in public.

Awareness of autism is at an all-time high, with over 99% of the public saying they’ve heard of autism. But only 16% of parents and carers of autistic people told the National Autistic Society that the public understand how autism affects the way they may behave in public.

The charity’s research showed that this lack of understanding means autistic people and families often face ‘tuts’, judgemental stares and disapproving noises when they’re out in public. This means that, over time, they avoid going to places they might feel overwhelmed or judged, and become more and more isolated. By the time autistic people reach adulthood their world can look very small, with over 70% of autistic people and their families saying they feel socially isolated.

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society, said: “It’s wonderful that Ralph and Bath & North East Somerset Council, are getting involved with World Autism Awareness Week. Through their efforts, they are helping to increase understanding about autism.

“We know that the public wants to be understanding but they often just don’t see the autism, they just see the “tantrum” or the “difficult person”. That’s why, during World Autism Awareness Week, we’re launching a major new campaign, Too Much Information to help people recognise behaviour associated with autism so they can respond with empathy and understanding.

“We’re grateful to Ralph and the Council and everyone else who’s getting involved. A basic understanding of autism could transform the lives of the more than 1 in 100 autistic people in the UK, and their families, allowing them to go to shops, the cinema, and work in the way other people take for granted.”

To find out more about autism or the National Autistic Society, visit www.autism.org.uk.

Sport and Leisure in B&NES

In May 2011 when the Liberal Democrats took control of the Council from the Conservatives we inherited a run down leisure provision with no real money in the budget.
Over the next 4 years we invested across the area in upgrading the leisure and sporting provision – most notably at Odd Down. But also the new skate park at the RVP.
We also retendered the contract and appointed GLL and put into the budget real money to refurbish the sports centre at Bath and to look at either a refurb or a brand new facility in Keynsham.
We are please that the new Conservative administration that took over from us in May last year has kept to our renewal commitment and has also kept in the budget the money set aside for a new skate facility at Alice Park.

However the devil is in the detail and as plans come forward there is clearly going to be debate about new facilities and reduced or deleted facilities.

At present the controversy seems to be entered on squash and bowls. Please feel free to get back to me with any thoughts as to priorities as we watch and see how the new administration and the new operator spend the money set aside in the budget by us.

Please see below a link to the Cabinet report from last September which sets out the full approval for Bath and para 3.2 details that the costs of the borrowing will be covered by the income from GLL over the life of the contract

along with the February budget report from 2016
which sets out the provisional approvals for Keynsham on page 119.

Leader v Mayor – budgets

So last night both BathNES and Bristol set their Council tax increases and showed very clearly why a Leader model is better for residents over an elected Mayor.

comparing tax rises in the two authorities since Bristol went Mayoral – and both authorities faced the same economic situations and government rulings:-

for every £1000 of Council tax in Jan 2013 following their budget meetings:-

Feb 2013 Bath NES rise – 0% Bristol 2%   making the original £1000 – BathNES £1000 Bristol £1020

Feb 2014 Bath NES rise – 0% Bristol 2%  making the original £1000 – BathNES £1000 Bristol £1040.4

Feb 2015 Bath NES rise – 0% Bristol 2% making the original £1000 – BathNES £1000 Bristol £1061.21

Feb 2016 Bath NES rise – 3.25% Bristol 4% making the original £1000 – BathNES £1032.5 Bristol £1103.66


Bath and NES budget setting 2016

Budget vote will mean residents pay more and get less
B&NES Councillors met this evening to discuss the Council budget for the 2016-17 financial year. The budget includes £12M of spending reductions as well as a 3.25% hike in the level of Council Tax residents will be expected to pay. This comes on top of already announced hikes in the precepts charged by the Fire Service, the Police and Crime Commissioner and Parish Councils.
Finance spokesperson for the Lib Dems, Councillor Andy Furse (Kingsmead) commented:
“We are unable to support this budget, which asks residents to pay more and get less. After a five year freeze, residents are being asked to pay 3.25% more Council Tax as well as increases to other precepts. In return, they can expect to see services cut in many departments, with more and more cuts to come.”
“The Conservatives have said they will deliver a balanced budget, but they cannot yet tell us exactly how this will be accomplished. Very little detail has been provided about some of the biggest savings the Conservatives are hoping to achieve. A large proportion of these rely on departmental reviews, which have not yet taken place, and business plans to boost income, which have not yet been developed. Others rely on accounting manipulations.”
“Without these details, Councillors have little chance to assess whether the targets are realistic or whether they will result in further, unacceptable cuts to public services. Some cuts which have already been announced do give cause for concern.”
“Large sums are being taken out of health budgets for example. These seem to be mainly in preventative services, such as helping smokers quit, and programmes such as support for sexual health and substance misusers. Sirona and Curo are expected to deliver yet more savings.”
“In 2015, the Lib Dems allocated an extra £2.2M for highways maintenance, over and above the government grant, to help address the backlog in repairs. The Conservatives have reduced this pothole fund by £1.7M and have not revealed how the £500,000 which remains will be allocated. Inevitably, fewer potholes will be filled, fewer footpaths resurfaced and fewer roads rebuilt.”
“This is also a disappointing budget for the arts and heritage, with cuts lined up for Arts Development and Events grants, the music service, and destination management. These will come on top of planned, significant increases to entry fees for Council-run museums such as the Roman Baths, leading to the inevitable question – are we at risk of over exploitation of the visitor economy?”




Great Spas of Europe

Bath is already a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but could possibly receive a second nomination.

In 2008 UNESCO indicated that spa towns could be inscribed on the World Heritage list, to show the influence of spas on European culture, and asked for the best examples of European spas to be put forward. Bath having already achieved one listing is a key player in helping the nomination which features 16 spa towns from seven countries.

Bath & North East Somerset Council has been supporting the bid by producing evidence of the city’s world-wide significance as a spa town.

We started the work when I was Leader of the Council and I am pleased that the new administration is keeping this project going as it will be a great asset for Bath. Also Cllr Cherry Beath has been allowed to continue the work in recognition of the relationships she had built up with spa towns in the bid over the last 4 years.

To go forward for consideration, each spa town or city must have their respective Government backing. Putting together a bid involves considerable work to justify that a place is of such outstanding international significance to justify this prestigious inscription. Bath’s bid has now been assessed by Minister, who has approved the draft nomination and offered her full support for the project. If all progresses well, this could lead to Bath being inscribed in 2018 as one of only a handful of places in the world recognised twice on the UNESCO list.

There are currently 16 other spa towns in the bid, but only half of these are likely to make the World Heritage List. The other spas are from Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, France, Belgium and Austria. They include famous spa towns such as Spa (Belgium) and Baden Baden (Germany). The bid recognises aspects such as ‘taking the cure’, early diagnostic medicine around spas, development of early mass tourism, the rules of a polite society, the ‘diversions’ (amusements) put in place for visitors and the unique urban forms that resulted from these practices.

Roll on 2018 and a successful nomination and then we can reactivate the bid to get the Great Western Rail from Paddington to Bristol inscribed as an example of engineering of global significance.

This is a great Pan European Unesco bid and is yet another example of the benefits of working together and in partnership. It is about the politics of integration and the benefits that brings us as opposed to the politics of disintegration which brings only strife.


#StrongerIn EU

Met with the Bath Spa University debating society this afternoon and we have agreed on a Uni debate on the European referendum. It is important that we make sure that young people are fully engaged in this momentous referendum as it is they who will be most affected by the result for the longest. They were pleased that I was trying to make sure that young people are fully engaged in the debate and I expect a full house for it when we hold it in April sometime. Next week at BRSLI is also the launch of the #Stronger In campaign in Bath. in my view the Out campaign has been making the most noise so far. Time for those who want IN to start stepping up to the plate and challenging the daily quota of misinformation being put about by those who want us out and have no interest in the future of a United Kingdom. A leave vote would trigger another Scottish Referendum to stay IN Europe and leave the UK and this time it would be won.

The debating society is first going to contact the University of Bath debating society to see if a single joint debate is needed or two separate ones.

Next step start contacting all our 6th forms and the College on the issue. Although the Liberal Democrat push to have the voting age for the referendum lowered to 16 was rejected by the Conservatives their views are still vital.

On the Buses

So far this week two days walking to work and two days on the buses. Wednesday the A4 from Bath City Centre to Hengrove and back. Very reliable service and easy to catch at the city centre. At the Hengrove end I got to the bus stop 10 minutes early but the bus came through on time. I should have looked at my bus checker app from the comfort of @CllrTimKent ‘s house where we had just finished a few hours of leafletting. Today with visits to Southdown and Bath Spa University Newton Park Campus I have caught the 18, 10,12, 15, 15 and 1 and as I knew I would be on a lot of buses today logged my wait times at bus stops. Amazingly a total of 8 minutes. Mind you it helps knowing when the buses are due. The 12 is a 40 minute service so I checked on the time table before going into a resident’s house to help with a planning issue and got out and to the bus stop just in time. Tomorrow another day on the buses and I will also be catching the 5 service which is the only one I am getting complaints about in recent weeks.