My idea of Christmas.

My idea of Christmas.

My thanks to Terry Basson – a Bath Newseum regular for the following:

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Terry Basson

‘Not sure what Christmas is all about?

Then walk down Walcot Street in Bath and see the twinkle of burning lights and the flickering glow of over a hundred wall-hung Christmas trees –  with strings of white bulbs strung along all the facias of every building.

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The recent Lantern Procession in Walcot Street

 

Walcot Street is where you discover the poorer little artisan shops who seem to survive whilst the wealthy chain stores in the city seem often to close.

Charles Dickens shopped here, Jane Austin walked here and Admiral Nelson climbed the Penny Steps.

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Terry’s photograph of choristers in Walcot Street

Then we have the nearby churches that give shelter and hot food to lost souls who are struggling with their lives on the cold streets.

Tell me dear servant, take a peek at Christmas and warm your heart down Walcot Street.’

Thanks Terry, and a Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Should this be City Hall?

Should this be City Hall?

Should Bath get back its city council status and the North East Somerset part of B&NES merge with North Somerset?

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Should this be City Hall?

That’s a suggestion being put forward in an article from guest contributor and journalist Simon Hancock – which l am happy to print in full. Do have your say.

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Journalist, Simon Hancock.

“Making councils smaller is nothing new. Aside from the fact that local authorities, including Bath and North East Somerset, have, and are still, seeing their budgets slashed year after year, in the past, council wards have not altogether been very equal when it comes to the number of constituents.

It’s no-one’s fault, but a councilor in one ward may have hundreds, even thousands more constituents, than others in the council chamber. So every now and then, there is the need for a boundary review, to try to make the wards more evenly distributed. And now it’s the turn of Bath and North East Somerset.

“Slimmed Down Council” was how http://www.Bathnewseum.com headlined the latest story about the Boundary Commission which is asking for the views of those who live in the district, before they make any recommendations.

Let’s be clear, this is something that the council has no control over. A boundary review is separate to the running of the council, but a “slimmed down council” got me thinking.

We all know what happened in the autumn of 2010, but for those who need reminding, it was the much talked about Comprehensive Spending Review. Remember, when the government announced that all councils were to have their budgets slashed to the tune of millions. The then Chancellor, George Osborne, was going to reduce the country’s deficit, so that by 2015, the country was not over-spending.

I don’t really need to remind you of what has happened since then, apart from the fact; the country is still spending more than it receives in taxes.

Since the financial crash of 2008, more and more people have had to access council services, for a whole host of reasons, but since April 2011, the very same councils have had to cut back on services, lay-off staff, ask the voluntary sector to pick up some of the slack, and do “more with less”.

A “slimmed down council” I hear you say. Well yes, less money, more people needing help, and running along in the background, boundary commission reviews into the number of councillors.

Bristol went through a review a couple of years ago. It managed to retain the number of councillors. North Somerset was not so fortunate in its last boundary review, when it lost 11 councillors.

We know that councillors are usually the first port of call for many people who find themselves in financial or welfare difficulties, and as we know, councillors give of their time without much financial reward. Yes, they receive some expenses, but on the whole, they do it because they want to make a difference, campaign for change, and make the lives of their constituents, better.

Some would argue that a council that has to do “more with less” needs more councillors, not fewer of them.

Of course, a boundary review is not to save money.  Professor Colin Mellors, Chair of the Boundary Commission, said the review aimed to “deliver electoral equality for local voters” and that the Commission wants to ensure that their “proposals reflect the interests and identities of local communities” in B&NES.

That said, a reduction in the number of councillors at the Guildhall would save some money, obviously. The proposal is for six members to leave the chamber.

And if you are going to redraw the council map of Bath and North East Somerset, then why not redraw an even larger map. The, dare I say it, old Avon area. After more than two decades, perhaps it’s time to have another look at the region.

Local authorities could be slimmed down, top-down, rather than bottom-up. There could be the return of Bath City Council, and the North East Somerset part of the district, the old Wansdyke, merged with neighbouring North Somerset.

Back in 1996, when Avon was carved up into four unitary authorities, the proposal was for a North West Somerset council (Woodspring) and Wansdyke joining Bath. North (West) Somerset never saw the light of day, with the new authority deciding to rename itself “North”.

So, let east meet west, and become a super-council. A truly geographical “North” Somerset unitary authority. Why have two chief executives, when you can have one. Or two chief financial officers, when there is only the need for one. It’s a numbers game. And they understand numbers.

I have always had some sympathy for the residents of North East Somerset. They used to have their own district council. Their very own identity; Wansdyke. Then in 1996, all that changed when it was effectively tagged-on to Bath. And of course, Bath lost its right to call itself a City Council. While just down the A4, Bristol not only kept its right to call itself a City Council, but it was also handed back its county status.

Slimmed down. More with less. Cut your cloth accordingly. Whatever you call it. However you see it. Is this the time for a radical re-think and shake-up of the political map of the Georgian City of Bath and the surrounding towns and villages?”

Photo on 06-12-2017 at 11.19

Local journalist, Simon Hancock.

Simon sent his own CV:

“Simon Hancock has been a journalist for 14 years, and worked as a freelance newsreader and reporter at Bath FM

Brought up between Bath and Bristol, he had a keen interest in politics and local government from an early age. His mother would take him to district council meetings when he was younger.

Born a year before the ill-fated Avon County Council was created, Simon can remember the disdain that people accorded to that local government structure, and their relief when, in 1996, it was abolished.

You can find Simon tweeting as @newsmansimon”

Slimmed down Council?

Slimmed down Council?

Proposed boundary changes to council wards could mean six fewer councillors on Bath and North East Somerset Council.

The independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England is asking people across the district to comment on its draft proposals for new council ward boundaries.

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The Commission’s plans would mean six fewer councillors elected to the council in future as well as changes to the boundaries of 29 local wards.

An eleven-week public consultation on the recommendations begins today and will end on 19 February 2018. The consultation is open to anyone who wants to have their say on new council wards, ward boundaries and ward names across Bath and North East Somerset.

The Commission’s draft recommendations propose that the Bath and North East Somerset Council should have 59 councillors in the future, six fewer than the current arrangements. The recommendations also outline how those councillors should represent one three-councillor ward, 21 two-councillor wards and 14 one-councillor wards across Bath and North East Somerset.

The full recommendations and detailed interactive maps are available on the Commission’s website at consultation.lgbce.org.uk andwww.lgbce.org.uk. Hard copies of the Commission’s report and maps will also be available to view at council buildings.

Professor Colin Mellors, Chair of the Commission, said: “We are publishing proposals for a new pattern of wards across Bath and North East Somerset and we are keen to hear what local people think of the recommendations.

“Over the next eleven weeks, we are asking local people to tell us if they agree with the proposals or if not, how they can be improved.

“Our review aims to deliver electoral equality for local voters. This means that each councillor represents a similar number of people so that everyone’s vote in council elections is worth roughly the same regardless of where you live.

“We also want to ensure that our proposals reflect the interests and identities of local communities across Bath and North East Somerset and that the pattern of wards can help the council deliver effective local government to local people.

“We will consider all the submissions we receive whoever they are from and whether your evidence applies to the whole council area or just part of it.”

The Commission wants to hear as much evidence as possible to develop final recommendations for Bath and North East Somerset. If you would like to make a submission to the Commission, please write or email us by 19 February 2018:

The Review Officer (Bath and North East Somerset)

Local Government Boundary Commission for England

14th floor, Millbank Tower

London

SW1P 4QP

Email: reviews@lgbce.org.uk

Follow us on Twitter @LGBCE

Have your say directly through the Commission’s consultation portal: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/9913

Link to the dedicated web page for the Bath and North East Somerset electoral review: www.lgbce.org.uk/current-reviews/south-west/somerset/bath-and-north-east-somerset

 

For your information:

  1. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England is responsible for reviewing local authority electoral arrangements, defining boundaries for local elections and the number of councillors to be elected, as well as conducting reviews of local government external boundaries and structures.
  2. The Commission is carrying out an electoral review of Bath and North East Somerset to deliver electoral equality for voters in local elections. The council area currently has relatively high levels of electoral inequality where some councillors represent significantly more, or fewer, voters than other members of the council.
  3. The types of questions the Commission is asking residents at this stage are:
  • Do the proposed wards reflect local communities?
  • How do you think the proposals can be improved whilst maintaining electoral equality?
  • Are the names of the proposed wards right?
  1. The electoral review of Bath and North East Somerset Council is a separate undertaking from the review of parliamentary constituency boundaries which is being carried out by a separate body (Boundary Commission for England) under different rules and legislation.
  2. Residents have from 5 December 2017 until 19 February 2018 to have their say on the draft recommendations. The Commission will consider all submissions and aims to publish its final recommendations in May 2018. Once the Commission agrees its final recommendations it will lay a draft order in both Houses of Parliament.  Parliament will then have 40 days in which to consider the recommendations. If both Houses are satisfied with the recommendations, the draft order will be ‘made’ and the new wards will come into effect at the council elections in May 2019.
Rubbish.

Rubbish.

Well, that was fun. Happened to be in while one of B&NES new recycling lorries made its slow way down the street.

Not sure the guys have completely got the hang of the new system yet  – or maybe there is a fault with the mechanicals – but when they opened the flap to tip in my plastic and tin – what was already on board started to fall out.

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One of the new lorries. I deliberately didn’t take pictures of the guys picking up the spillage.

They closed the flap and pressed a button which is supposed to conveyor belt the contents up and over the collection bins to some storage place elsewhere on board.

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Flap down here. When the silo for plastic and tin is full they close it and press a button which moves the contents by conveyor belt. I was told!!

By this time l break away to rage against a driver using my drive to turn around in – not  wanting to wait while the recycling men moved slowly down the hill.

By this time the blockage on board seems to have cleared and the receiving bin was ready for more. Judging by what the guys said – l think they prefer the old waggons.

 

Balancing the books.

Balancing the books.

The government’s financial squeeze on local authorities has seen major cost-cutting by B&NES – including now the threat to 300 jobs – but the Council is still needing to find ways of saving an additional 16 million pounds by 2020.

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The Bath Guildhall

Local people are going to be asked for their views and suggestions in a series of meetings across the authority’s area.

The Council is assessing how it can save a further £16 million by 2020 – on top of the £27 million that is in the process of being saved, and the £15 million announced in the previous budget – while continuing to deliver essential services.  This will help to close a growing funding gap, due in part to the increasing demand and rising cost for adult and children social care.

In a presentation, going out to local area forums over the coming weeks, the Council says it will be setting out its priorities to put residents first; protecting and caring for its most vulnerable residents, nurturing people’s health, safety and well-being, and providing ways for everyone in the community to reach their full potential.

Cllr Charles Gerrish (Conservative, Keynsham North) Cabinet Member for Finance & Efficiency, said: “Despite already making significant savings and capitalising on opportunities to earn income, we will need to change the way that we work, identify what we can do differently less of, or stop, and how we can raise additional income. We are already working hard to maximise extra income and will be putting our case to Government to recognise the unprecedented challenges that we face.

Cllr Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip), Leader of Council, said: “Almost three-quarters of all councils in England which deliver social care are struggling to balance their budgets.

“So far we’ve saved £27 million with minimal impact on frontline services, whilst still investing in key projects such as Bath Quays and the Somer Valley Enterprise Zone, and continuing to be regarded as a good authority in key areas by independent inspectors. For example, we have an outstanding fostering and adoption service, silver standard for homelessness services and some of the best schools in the South West.

“However, we have to prioritize what we do in the future while putting residents first and ensuring frontline services are protected as far as possible. Clearly, this will mean some very difficult choices. We see the local area forums as a key element to help us meet these challenges.

“I recognise that this will have an impact on staff, and these changes will be managed with care and attention.”

The Council estimates that in future it will become a smaller organisation as it changes the way it works, which will result in a reduction of around 300 full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs in its 2,000 FTE-strong workforce (15%).

Pressures faced

The detailed presentation going out to local area forums says there are many reasons why the authority is under financial pressure and it forecasts that by the end of this year 80p in every £1 will be spent on social care.

An increasing number of people are living longer with complex conditions that require support which is expensive; more children and young adults are living with complex care and educational needs – some costing up to £250,000 per person – and there are 14 percent more children in Bath & North East Somerset Council’s care than last year.

The Council is paying a fair price for good quality care services; it is meeting the national living wage, it has more responsibility for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and it is helping more families struggling with low income. This all adds greater pressures onto the system in terms of social care and accommodation costs.

Cllr Gerrish added: “Our role as a universal provider is changing, so the way we work has to change. As part of this, we are aiming for better-integrated services with the NHS around adult care. And we have to ensure our statutory functions are maintained – even if they are delivered differently.

“We also need to be more creative in the way we help our local economy grow and we are working hard to find innovative ways to raise income and become more self-sufficient by investing in the local economy, bringing in new jobs and making the most of our commercial estate and heritage services to raise income.”

The Council wants to hear people’s views on how best the authority can meet the pressures on its budget, people are invited to one of the Council’s local area forums on:

  • 15th Nov – Freshford Village Memorial Hall, 6pm
  • 22nd Nov – The Kaposvar Room, Guildhall, Bath, 6pm
  • 27th Nov – Council Chamber, Guildhall, Bath, 6pm
  • 29th Nov – Midsomer Norton Town Hall (TBC), 6pm
  • 30th Nov – Community Space, Keynsham, 6:30pm
  • 4th Dec – Chew Valley School, Chew Magna, 6pm.

For your information:

Bath & North East Somerset Council says it has a good track record of managing to live within its means:

  • Reducing its estate and overheads (buildings and offices)
  • Proposing new ways to deliver services, rather than cutting them
  • Improving technology to streamline operations
  • Working with other authorities and CCG to be more efficient  in social care services
  • Supporting the new West of England Combined Authority which is bringing significant investment to the district
  • Finding innovative ways to increase income in our commercial estate, heritage services and property development company
  • Successfully bidding for grants.
  • The Council has secured investment of £10m into Keynsham Leisure Centre.
  • It has also secured investment of £10.8m into Bath Leisure Centre.
  • It is delivering against £70m of West of England investment in the Bath & Somer Valley Enterprise Zone which will deliver up to 9,000 local jobs including :

o    £36m to facilitate the delivery of Bath Quays and up to 20,000sqm of new modern office space

o    £10m on flood mitigation and enabling infrastructure for Bath Western Riverside which will deliver more than 2,000 new homes

o    £18.5m for new and expanded primary school provision

o    95% of families get their preferred primary school places

o    Secured more than £6m worth on investment from the West of England to improve adult skills and local infrastructure

o    Children’s Services rated as Good

o    Adoption Services are rated as Outstanding

o    Rehabilitation services have helped nine out of 10 older people leaving hospital to still be at home three months after discharge.

 

 

 

Designs on Sydney Gardens

Designs on Sydney Gardens

People can have their say on plans to secure a £2.7 million Heritage Lottery Fund to improve one of Britain’s best remaining Georgian Pleasure Gardens.

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Winter sunshine in Sydney Gardens

Bath & North East Somerset Council is bidding for the lottery money to invest in Sydney Gardens, first opened in 1795 and a favourite spot of Jane Austen.

The Sydney Gardens Parks for People Project has already secured £270k from the Heritage Lottery and is now preparing a round-two bid which will provide funds to improve the historic park.

If successful, money will be used to restore historic buildings, invest in landscaping works, renovate the play area and create new gardens, alongside a programme of events and activities.

The project will celebrate the fascinating history of the gardens, with its Cosmorama, Labyrinth, Merlins Swing, concerts, public breakfasts, galas and illuminations.

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield) Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “We are holding a public consultation about proposed improvements. We want people to come along and enjoy this special place then look at the design plans and have a say in the future of Sydney Gardens.”

People can drop into the consultation on Saturday 25 November from 11.30am – 4.30pm in the Gardener’s Lodge. The gardens are a short walk from the town centre behind the Holburne Museum, on Sydney Road.

The consultation is also online from November 25 via the Sydney Gardens website. The links are here:

Facebook: @SydneyGardensBath

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BathnesParks

http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/sport-leisure-and-parks/parks-opening-times-and-locations/sydney-gardens

Into the Labyrinth

Into the Labyrinth

An invitation to come and help recreate the Georgian labyrinth in Bath’s Sydney Gardens has been made by the Parks for People Project who are behind plans to secure Lottery Fund money to restore the historic pleasure grounds.

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There’s also a public consultation coming up soon to view the latest design plans for the gardens.

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The following information has been taken from an update sent to people who have registered an interest in what a working partnership between the Council’s Parks Team, the Friends of Sydney Gardens, local residents’ groups and the Holburne Museum are trying to achieve.

First of all – on Sunday November 19th between 11.30 am and 2.30 pm you are invited to join the project team to help mark out the historic labyrinth pattern ready for mowing into the overgrown Bowls Club Lawn.

The team aim to recreate – as closely as they can – the design of the historical labyrinth that was an attraction of Georgian Sydney Gardens.

‘How can the labyrinth be part of the future of the gardens? We’re inviting people of all ages tom respond to this historic feature through this temporary recreation and to learn more about it.’

On Sunday, November 25th people are invited to come and view the updates design plans for the gardens. They will be on display from 11.30 am to 4.30 pm in the Gardeners Lodge in the park.

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The gent’s toilet is Grade 11 listed.

The historic gents toilet will also be opened up for a few people at a time to take a closer look and discuss conservation options.

Some useful contacts for you:
https://twitter.com/bathnesparks

https://www.facebook.com/SydneyGardensBath/

Website: Sydney Gardens, Bath