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Climate Change finally being taken seriously

The agreement reached by 200 countries is one of the best item of news in recent times. Climate Change is here and now and serious yet there are still so many that deny it.

To get so many to sign up to some challenging targets is immense
Limit temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels
This long-term goal aims to limit temperatures to a level beyond which the worst impacts of climate change are expected.

Additionally, nations would attempt to limit any increase to 1.5C, which the countries most at risk from the effects of climate change say is necessary to ensure their survival.

A five yearly review will be part of this.

Developed countries will help finance the changes needed by poorer countries.

So whilst the UK has signed up the actions the Conservative government are taking are the reverse. It is destroying our renewable energy companies. It is not just solar and land based wind that is struggling with the new government but sea based wind is also struggling.

 

 

 

Bath and NE Somerset Council up for awards

Bizarrely the new leader of the Council thinks these nominations are somehow a reflection on the work he plans to do over the next 4 years. They are in fact a reflection of the work done by the Liberal Democrat administration over the last 4 years.

Many thanks are due to the fantastic commitment and work from staff over what was a difficult time as the budget was reduced year on year.

the new LD leader, Cllr Dine Romero said “These awards are a recognition of the work done over the last 4 years in creating in Bath and North East Somerset a climate of innovation and acceptance of change. Under our leadership the Council made some big strides forward and hence it is no surprise to us that we have these 3 award shortlisting.
It will be interesting to see in a years time whether the new administration has managed to keep this progress up and whether we are submitted for awards. The way the Conservative administration has completely messed up on its Park and Ride strategy leads me to think these may well be the last award nominations we get for some time.”

 

Council shortlisted for three national awards

Bath & North East Somerset Council has been shortlisted in three categories in the Local Government Chronicle Awards.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip), said: “It’s good to see that so much of the innovative work going on within our organisation is being recognised nationally in this way. Our four-year financial plan aims to protect essential frontline services as far as possible by increasing efficiency, growing income and finding new and innovative ways of delivering vital local services.

“This is the 20th anniversary of the awards and this is our best performance yet – we have had finalists before, but never three in one year.”

Bath & North East Somerset Council has been shortlisted in the following categories:

Business Transformation – Workplaces
The Council has been shortlisting for its ambitious four-year Workplaces programme which has transformed the way it works. This has saved over £3 million a year, introduced multi-agency One Stop Shops and reinvented ICT systems, with staff working flexibly from fewer offices whilst putting customer service to the forefront. The savings are already being reinvested to protect essential frontline service. One small example of the success is the annual energy bill for the new Civic Centre and One Stop Shop in Keynsham; this is now just £7,000 compared with £180,000 for the old Riverside Offices and Library.

Team of the Year- Early Years ‘Dealers in Hope’
A team working in the Children’s Services department has been shortlisted. Faced with budget challenges, they have remained focused on high quality delivery whilst exploring new models of delivery to support activity which will benefit local children and families.

Health and Wellbeing Board of the Year
The strength of the close relationship between the Council and Bath and North East Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and successful collaboration with organisations across the local health and care system, has been recognised through this shortlisting ‘Effective Health and Wellbeing Boards’. The Board has a clear and ambitious vision to deliver outstanding health and care for local people and is committed to tackling the difficult issues faced locally around health inequalities and pressures on urgent care.

Local Government Chronicle editor Nick Golding said: “To be shortlisted for an LGC Award shows that a council’s work in this particular area is something that can inspire the rest of local government. We have had, just about, a record number of organisations entering this year’s awards, making the competition stiffer than ever. The quality of the entries goes to show that councils are striving to innovate to improve services at a time they must cut costs.”

There will be judging days for each award category between January 25 and February 1, with the awards final being hosted on Wednesday March 16, at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London.

James Street West – Pearce House student block

The new student accommodation going up at James Street west by the car park is proceeding fast since planning permission was granted in April this year. The scheme will provide 160 student units and whilst also providing for students will ease some of the pressure on family homes in the South of Bath being converted into HMOs for students. The construction techniques are amazing to watch. The bathroom units are delivered as sealed pods which are simply unwrapped and plugged and wired in.JSW 1

watching the concrete being pored

watching the concrete being pored

 

B&NES to set up property company

I am really pleased to see that the new administration of the Council is proceeding with an idea commissioned and started by my Cabinet team a year ago. As the Council transferred its housing stock to an RSL in the first Council of B&NES it needed to find another solution. This creates that vehicle and as the press release says will bring in a good revenue stream.

Bath & North East Somerset Council has agreed to proceed with plans to set up a new property company.

The new company will allow the Council to operate as a commercial landlord and rent flats above Council-owned shops. In future, it will also be able to look at potential housing developments on land it owns across the area.

This is one of a number of innovative initiatives the Council is working on as a way of generating income, as set out in its four-year financial plan. The plan aims to protect frontline services as far as possible by increasing efficiency, growing income and finding new and innovative ways of delivering vital local services.

At its meeting on Wednesday December 2, the Council’s Cabinet heard that the new company has the potential to generate £600,000 per annum by 2019, and over £1.5 million within 10 years, which will be used for Council services. It will also improve supply, quality and quantity of private rented housing and support the Council’s ambition to help create an ongoing supply of modern, energy-efficient and sustainable homes,

The Council owns around 68 residential properties, mainly flats above existing commercial estate properties. Many of these properties were leased to Curo and will be transferred back to the Council only when they become vacant and leases have ended. Approximately 20 properties have already been returned to the Council and these will be modernised and the first to go out to the rental market.

The proposals have been drawn up with support experts including other local authorities who have, or are in the process of, establishing similar companies. A Board of directors will be put in place to oversee and manage the Company in accordance with the objectives set by the Council, and projects will be developed locally in partnership with the private sector.

More reasons to stay IN the EU

A British exit for Europe is not just bad news for our Country it is potentially devastating for all those Brits who have taken advantage of the One Europe approach to life.

The position of British citizens living in Spain would undoubtedly be adversely affected by a Brexit. Reciprocal healthcare is the most obvious immediate issue (and a source of real concern for large numbers of elderly British citizens who are, or will be, reliant on Spanish health and social care). Of course every visitor to the EU using the EHIC card to obtain emergency treatment will be similarly vulnerable – unless or until the post-Brexit government negotiated a replacement system. From my own personal experience travelling on business or on holiday in Europe I know the EHIC system works very well.

Because of the uncertainty caused by the Conservatives there are many Brits currently holding Spanish residency status who are considering their position, since many OAPs would struggle to fund their own healthcare in the Spanish insurance-based system. And have the Conservative government given any thought to what would happen here if 1 million plus OAPS currently resident in Spain all landed back in the UK and on the NHS.

Working age people have other potential problems. As EU citizens, Brits working in Spain know their children are entitled to free education in the State system.

Further potential problems for the Brits in Spain include (a) any UK government pensions won’t be uprated annually after a Brexit – as already happens with e.g. Canadian pension holders (b) non-EU citizens have less beneficial regulations over a range of matters, including buying and selling property, remitting the proceeds etc.

As far as I’ve seen the LEAVE campaign has not made any attempt to address the above matters, never mind Europe-wide opportunities such as the highly advantageous ERASMUS scheme which over the years has been such a success for thousands of British students.

Lord Foster of Bath makes his maiden speech

Congratulations to Lord Foster of Bath making his maiden speech in the House of Lords

Full text (about the 8th speaker in the debate) at this LINK

speaker:Lord Foster of Bath : 1 Lords debate
============================================Health – Motion to Take Note (26 Nov 2015)

Lord Foster of Bath: (Maiden Speech) My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Crisp. I am grateful for this opportunity to make my
maiden speech and, of course, for the privilege of joining your
Lordships’ House. I hope I will be able to make a useful contribution. I
am also grateful for the generous welcome I have received from all sides
of the House, and for the patient support and help from…

====================

 

Supporting housing for people with dependency problems

Tonight at the Guildhall inspiring celebration of the work of DHI over the last year. A charity that challenges social exclusion by supporting people with dependency problems. Apart from hearing about the work by the charity and its social enterprise letting agency Home Turf we had an inspiring speech from Stepeh Robertson the Chief Exec of The Big Issue Foundation .

We also heard about the challenges ahead as the Conservative Government reduces Council budgets and the social consequences of not providing this support to vulnerable adults. Wiltshire and Somerset – both Tory controlled have cut back. It will be interesting to see if the new Tory administration in B&NES cuts this service when it sets its first budget next year. I will be working hard to ensure they don’t.

Bathampton Meadows – gathering storm for the Tories

Dine_Meadows_(Small)
Thank you for your email. We have all received over 200 emails against the proposed Park and Ride options and very few in favour. Some of our Liberal Democrat Councillors have replied individually but we thought it only right in view of the concerns expressed that we contact you with a fuller explanation of our position.

Please be assured that the Liberal Democrat Councillors will NOT support any inappropriate schemes. The proof of this is in the consistency of our action over time.

In March 2011 the Conservative administration had a scheme to tarmac the meadows and create a park and ride in full view of Batheaston village. This not only had Government backing and funding in place, but it had also gone through the planning process and had all the planning permissions required.

It was ready to start being built.

In May 2011 the Liberal Democrats took control of the Council from the Conservatives. Our first act was to cancel the planned closure of Culverhay school by the Conservative administration. This is now a successful co-educational school serving the families of SW Bath.
Our second act was to cancel the ill thought out and destructive plan to create a Park and Ride on Bathampton Meadows.

Over the next four years we developed a bold and imaginative rail based solution. This would have :-
* put parking between the two rail lines
* created a new station for Bathampton
* provided a turn-round station for the new Metro West suburban rail system which is being implemented over the coming decade agreed by our cabinet during this time.
* provided an opportunity to explore creating an A36-A46 link road

By developing a integrated transport solution we would have made a real impact on a number of transport issues affecting our communities. It would have been a more expensive and complex but it would provide infrastructure improvements that would stand the test of time. The new administration has simply dismissed this work as too costly and too difficult.

As you put in your email, this park and ride is being proposed based on incomplete information. Not only will it destroy the Bathampton Meadows, it won’t solve Bath’s traffic issue! It seems to us that the main consideration of the current Conservative cabinet is to find the cheapest possible solution so that they can tick a box and say – Job Done.

I and my group will work to try and get the right result for residents at the meeting on the 12th, but the sad thing is that because the Conservatives have a majority on the Council, they can win any vote. The only way we can persuade the Tories not to concrete over the meadows, is to keep up the pressure. The National Trust, Bath Preservation Trust, and the various Parish Councils are against the scheme and will be at the Council meeting on 12th to make their feelings known. Many of the people who wrote to us have also registered to speak and have their voice heard.

If you cannot attend the meeting you will be able to watch on the web live or at your own leisure at a time of convenience during the next six months.

Thank you for your interest in this consultation.

Dine

Meadows Park and Ride

Big email write in in advance of Council considering this next Thursday. Haven’t counted but with over 100 against, I have had only 2 in support in my inbox to date. The two Conservative MPs are weighing on different sides and they are all in chaos.

the email coming in states:-

Dear Cabinet Member,

Re: Proposal to site a Park and Ride on Bathampton Meadows
I am writing to ask you to vote against the proposal to proceed with a Park and Ride (P&R) on Bathampton Meadows.

My reasons are as follows …
The proposals are being advanced in the absence of critical and basic information. Such an important decision cannot be made responsibly without substantial evidence of the need for a P&R and full analysis of the impact. For example, up to date information about:

The direction of travel of traffic – where does it come from?

Volume of traffic – Department of Transport statistics show that traffic on London Road has diminished in the last 5 years.

Nature of the traffic – for example, is it ‘through traffic’, including to the A36; commuter journeys; school run; from locations that could use public transport if it was cheaper/more frequent; from the A46 (so already choosing not to use the Lansdown P&R)?

Car park usage in the city – who parks where and for how long?

Consideration of the impact on travel/car parking of developments in IT and distance working, and how current work patterns will change.

Pollution levels in Bath and the anticipated impact on this by a P&R.

The costs (construction and operating) of each site, and put in context of costs of other options such as improved public transport.

How the proposal relates to a link between the A46/A36 – if this goes ahead, would a P&R be needed, and, if so, where would it be best sited?

Other options, not yet considered, e.g. extending the Lansdown P&R for traffic coming from the A46, and creating a smaller P&R on brownfield sites on Box Road, for traffic from the A4 and A363.

The consultation process does not provide a sound basis on which to proceed and is flawed in a number of ways. For example:

The survey form on the council website was confusing and ambiguous, meaning that it can be interpreted according to will.

Those most directly involved, e.g. the farmer who owns the land and Avon Rugby Club, have not been contacted by the council for their views (and, surprisingly, were not even informed of the proposals, undermining confidence in the management of the process).

People have been asked to comment on their preferred option of 3 sites, without supporting information (see point 1 above), or given the option of saying ‘none of these’.

Much of the limited information that has been available is historical, from the time of the previous planning application, and may not be true now.

The information given has been confusing and misleading, for example, a reason being put forward in press releases is that the P&R would ease traffic congestion and improve air quality, yet at consultation events, it has been clearly stated that there would be minimal impact on these issues.

How are people to respond in such confusion?

The suggestion in the public survey is that the sites are separate and ‘stand-alone’, yet the detailed plans show that Site F would be needed to access Site B. This has not been made sufficiently clear, including that it would introduce an access road that would not be able to be screened from surrounding villages.

The strength of feeling against the proposal evidenced by local involvement in meetings and ‘opposition activity’. This is growing daily, in tandem with awareness of the proposals. The campaign to ‘Save Bathampton Meadows’ will remain ‘hot’, and is likely to become a national issue, given the depth of local feeling and gathering resources. The ‘gift’ of a flawed consultation process leaves open the possibility of legal challenge. This battle, for that is surely what it will become, will increase costs to the tax payer at a time of financial austerity, and will presumably mean cuts in other, needed, services. It will also have an impact on the reputation of Bath as a place of beauty and of conservation responsibility.

Finally, and most importantly, the ecological, environmental, archaeological, and public health implications of all three proposed locations. The meadows are located within the Green Belt on the eastern edge of the City and crucial to the setting of Bath as a World Heritage Site. Of historical significance, they offer natural beauty and a public amenity, popular with local and visiting walkers, photographers, and cyclists. This plan is the complete antithesis of a responsible attitude towards conservation of natural resources. These ancient water meadows should be considered in the spirit of stewardship for future generations. They should be cherished and preserved, not turned into tarmac for short term gain that has not even been evidenced to be necessary.
This is a decision of great weight, with significance that will live on for future generations, for the rest of time. It is too important to be taken on the basis of political allegiance. Indeed, the local councillors who know the area and have an understanding of the consequences are fully against the proposals.

In the absence of substantial and compelling evidence to justify the destruction of these ancient water meadows, I urge you to act responsibly by voting against the proposal to site a Park and Ride on Bathampton Meadows.

Thank you.

and my standard reply is :-

Dear Name of writer

Many thanks for your email. When I became Leader of the Council in May 2011 I inherited a scheme from the previous Conservative administration for a park and ride scheme in the Meadows. It had funding in place and also planning permission.

I cancelled it because it was the wrong solution then and it remains the wrong solution now.

Over the following 4 years my administration developed a bold rail based solution and also showed how with new techniques we could also provide an a36-a46 link. This would have provided long term solution to our problems. It would have cost more – yes – but we were always open about this.

Whilst I am not surprised that the new Conservative administration of the Council has reverted to form and is proposing its low cost options I am very disappointed they chose to ignore the scheme we had worked up over the 4 years.

Yours sincerely

Paul

Paul Crossley
Liberal Democrat
Southdown Ward

East of Bath Park and Ride and Conservative turmoil

When I moved to Bath in 1985 the argument about a Park and Ride on the East of Bath was already several years old. We are now in 2015 and it will be debated again at Full Council next week. Our two Conservative MPs are at odds over it and the Conservative administration is in turmoil over it. Their recent consultation has been a sham with the party even soliciting favourable comments from its membership as their solutions were so unpopular.

The Conservative solution is to tarmac over the meadows. At least they are consistant in this. In May 2011 when I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues took over the Council one of our first acts was to cancel their previous attempt to tarmac the meadows – which at that time had funding in place and planning permission. Over the next 4 years we developed a rail based solution with a new station at Bathampton which would have solved the problem and also provided a start-end destination for the new Metro West service. Yes it would have cost a lot more but infrastructure pays back its costs over a long time and with growing rail passener numbers our scheme met many objectives.

They should scrap their meadows scheme and commit to a rail based solution and work with Government over getting the capital funding for it.