Tonight’s meeting of the B&NES cabinet discussed adopting Active Travel Schemes, looked at Liveable Neighbourhoods and took a decision on this year’s Bath Christmas Market – but the biggest drama of the evening came near the end of the Guildhall get-together.
It’s when Joanna Wright – the former joint cabinet member for transport – who lost her portfolio in a recent reshuffle – announced she was leaving the Liberal Democrat ruling group to spend the last two years of her term of office in the Lambridge ward as a Green.
She said she had to return to her core values and that the pace of environmental change being followed by the ruling group was not fast enough.
In an exclusive interview she gave to me, earlier in the day, Cllr Wright alleged she had been “sidelined”, “bullied” and “silenced”.
Going it alone, as a member of the Green Party, was the only way she would be free to say what needs doing.
She followed her announcement by going out on the streets of Lambridge – leafleting people to let them know why she had taken her decision to change parties.
Just why she had left was a question l put to her.
I have asked for a comment from the Lib-Dem group – which you can see elsewhere.
Cllr Wright has also issued the following statement:
“People voted for the Liberal Democrats in 2019 because they believed that they would take the bold decisions needed to lead B&NES out of years of inaction and predatory delay.
Residents were assured that the Lib Dems were committed to delivering on their manifesto promises.
As Councillor for Lambridge I welcome the positive news that the Liveable Neighbourhood policy will now be taken forward. These transformational schemes require consistent messaging about how streets should be safer, healthier, and greener and that they belong to all of us, not just motorists.
The Active Travel Consultation shows just how much many residents want better cycle infrastructure. This consultation had a response from over 2300 residents. With all schemes receiving a majority thumbs up.
But this new Cabinet has decided not to implement the bus gate on North Road. This will give ammunition to the few who will actively oppose Liveable Neighbourhoods. Those who do not want change, will at every opportunity remind this Cabinet that they gave up on North Road because a few local residents objected. This will make Liveable neighbourhoods so much harder to deliver.
North Road is the one route that would have really met the Government strategic network guidelines, and provided the most positive, safe and enduring outcome for many, from 12 years olds getting to school, students and staff attending University, locals accessing sports facilities or residents connecting with family and friends. That this is no longer going to happen brings into question the Councils corporate duty of care.
The reason why many do not cycle or let their children cycle is that they are afraid. Afraid of vehicles and how those vehicles could easily injure or kill them.
When proper dedicated cycle infrastructure is built then people of all ages cycle.
Connecting the valley floor to the southern plateau in Bath via North Road would have created a safe route for many and been a game changer.
This cabinet has now purposely decided to over-engineer the Upper Bristol Road scheme so that they can argue that there is no funding for a bus gate on North Road. Cabinet are now using greenwashing and a hand-picked citizen’s assembly as a way of avoiding the delivery of the strategic network. I cannot support this action.
The core values of this new Cabinet seem to be based upon votes not lives. Listening to a select handful of voices to gain tactile votes rather than delivering positive change for all. I can no longer be a member of a group whose moral compass is so compromised and I am tendering my resignation of the Liberal Democrat Party. I will now be representing the ward of Lambridge as a Green Party member.
Bold actions are needed at a time of emergencies. The pandemic gave us the choice to make positive changes like North Road, but this cabinet choose to sabotage a scheme which would have provided safer, healthier travel for residents. We are in a Climate emergency and every action to mitigate change is needed today. This Cabinet has failed to grasp the “fierce urgency of now”.