It’s council budget setting time and, whereas North Somerset is announcing an increase in council tax, B&NES has managed to freeze the ratepayer’s contribution, protect services to the public and continue to invest in jobs and homes. A trip to their website will give you the full details of how they seem to have done the impossible!
Of interest to us here at the Virtual Museum is the news that funding remains in place for all eight library branches within the Authority’s area, and that entry to the Roman Baths, Fashion Museum and most exhibitions at the Victoria Art Gallery will remain free for all residents.
Cllr David Bellotti – as the Cabinet Member of Bath and North East Somerset Council for Community Resources – is responsible for the budget.
He told me that ‘our plan for the Victoria Art Gallery is to increase income and reduce the cost to the Council. That is a £50,000 reduction in the difference between income and costs this coming year. We will be working with the Friends (of the Gallery) and others to achieve this. It will become a work in progress with a target set.’
As far as the Larkhall loos are concerned he told the Virtual Museum that the Council has made it clear ‘ we will recognise the heritage of the current building and we will also look for alternative toilet provision in Larkhall. There is no reduction in the toilets budget in the coming year so that also will be a work in progress with a longer time-scale to meet the budget target.’
B&NES currently operate 29 public toilets and plan during 2014/15 to reduce this to 14 – keeping the ones in parks and play areas. ‘We will also be looking over the next year to identify alternative local provision where we are closing any. This could be in libraries, shops, council buildings, sports centres, etc,’ he said.
In Larkhall’s case could we see B&NES offering an incentive to local cafes and pubs for people to use their loos? Or should the existing conveniences be converted into a privately run cafe with loos attached? If the heritage of the current building is ‘recognised’ that must mean B&NES do not intend to demolish it. Any other bright ideas?