The ‘back benches’ of B&NES

[© YouTube]

I am shortly going to publish the official Lib-Dem administration’s report of the B&NES budget-setting council meeting held at the Guildhall this week.

Seems it was a lively affair plenty of placard-waving protestors outside to greet councillors on the way up those dreadful looking stone steps. Can’t resist throwing in yet another hint that they badly need re-grouting!!

If you get a chance take a spin through the recording of the two hours and 51 minute recording of the lengthy session available on YouTube at and see if you sense any awareness that we have a full council local election coming up on Thursday, May 4th.

Yep – council debate is getting very political. Whether it’s coming from elected councillors or members of the public coming in to make statements on topical issues – sometimes delivered at the speed of an express train.

I couldn’t believe my ears when l heard one councillor and leader of his party, referring to Lib Dem councillors – who were sitting in the back row of this ancient and uncomfortable chamber – as ‘back benchers!’

Things are going to get nasty, and certain indiscretions by persons who should be more aware of the danger of sitting near a microphone, don’t help. There has been a full and very public apology made on that score.

It’s great to criticise but like many others l want to know what alternative policies other parties might have for B&NES.

To what extent do ratepayers really care anyway? Apart from having to dig deeper for council tax. Don’t most people just want a home, a job, an education for their kids, good shops, medical services and care facilities for the elderly.

By all means, prove me wrong.

Anyway here’s the (probably slightly political) view of the budget-setting meeting from the ruling administration.

Four years of sound financial management and ongoing investment in public services were the key themes at the B&NES Council annual budget debate.

Introducing the budget for 2023-24, Cllr Richard Samuel reported on the Lib Dem administration’s solid track record of balancing the books, despite extreme financial challenges, and highlighted funding for vital services such as ‘clean and green’ environmental services and highways improvements.

Cabinet member for Resources, Councillor Richard Samuel

“The Lib Dems have delivered four years of balanced books and have prioritised resources towards the services that residents tell us they value the most.

“Our plans for 2023-24 include continued investment in environmental services, powerfully exemplified by the new, state of the art Keynsham Recycling centre. We’re allocating funding for transport infrastructure and traffic measures, for local high streets and major employment schemes, for new council and affordable housing and more care home beds, and for our strategic actions in response to the climate and nature emergencies.

“We are helping people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. We will continue to support thousands of residents who receive council tax and welfare assistance, and we’re updating the local council tax support scheme to make it more widely available. In addition, we’re providing a wide variety of advice services through our Wellbeing Hub and have a new contract with the Citizen Advice Bureau to ensure residents can access independent advice if they face financial issues.

“This has been one of the most difficult budget rounds in years, due to unexpected economic and financial circumstances including inflation, the impact of the war in Ukraine and government cuts.

“Despite these headwinds we have a financial plan which lays down a sound and ambitious basis for the future, built on the stability we have achieved over the past four years. We will continue to invest in our area and continue to reverse the mismanagement and waste of the previous administration.

“The Lib Dems restored the council to a stable financial position. That has not happened by accident but thanks to a lot of hard work. In contrast, the Conservative opposition offered only vague, uncosted promises. They did not engage in the budget process and presented no alternative plans.

“As we head towards local elections in B&NES, the Lib Dems offer continued investment in the things that really matter to local communities, businesses and families, underpinned by stable and prudent financial management.”

Bath’s MP – Wera Hobhouse

Bath MP Wera Hobhouse added:

“The Conservatives cannot claim to have any credibility on sound fiscal management. As a country, we are going through one of the toughest winters on record with inflation and energy costs still staggeringly high. There is no sign that these difficulties will come to an end soon.

“The Liberal Democrat Council here in Bath and North East Somerset have shown that, in spite of these national problems, they can still support the most vulnerable in our community and maintain fiscal responsibility.”

The 2023-24 B&NES budget was approved by Councillors voting 32 in favour to 19 against. A council tax increase of 2.99% total was agreed, which equates to an additional £47.10 per year, or 91p per week, for a band D property. This increase is well below the current rate of inflation and B&NES council tax remains amongst the lowest in the South West. An additional social care precept rise of 2% (equivalent to £31.50 on a Band D property, 61p per week) was also agreed.