‘Stubs Corner’

‘Stubs Corner’

Noticed this little ‘stubs corner’ outside Waitrose in Bath the other day. I don’t know whether it’s staff coming out for a cigarette or shoppers going in pausing – to get one last drag on their disgusting fag.

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Stubs Corner – outside Waitrose in Bath

It amazes me how many businesses let staff pop out to the shop front for a ciggie break. Not what l would call a good advertisement for the store around whose entrance they are hanging.

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Not quite as bad as chewing gum l suppose – at least it’s easier to clear up.

Wetherspoons – on James Street West – made me laugh too. A little gaggle of blokes puffing away in a special sheltered enclosure outside. They looked like sheep in a pen.

I did wonder  at first –  if this was some contemporary art tableaux representing the smoking stacks skyline of industrial Manchester during the heyday of King Coal.

The biggest irony has to be a trip to Weston super Mare General Hospital to see my poorly sister and noting the number of people ignoring the No Smoking signs right outside the front entrance.

It’s fair to say this hospital is not alone. I have seen the same thing happening at Southmead and the RUH.

Hospitals often have bairly enough staff inside to care for the sick without having to go outside and remind people that these are a places of healing – and caring – not public spaces for indulging in nicotine suicide.

Left to me l would ban the weed in any public space. Yes – l am an ex-smoker of 27 years. There was as much smoke as stress in our newsroom. Both – l am sure – have been killers in our industry.

Oh how l wish l had known then what we know about smoking now.

 

 

 

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!

What the Dickens!

What the Dickens!

One of the prettiest – and often overlooked – parts of Bath gets down to celebrating the festive season later today by celebrating another famous historical city visitor. And a man who certainly left his mark on Christmas!

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The Corridor

Look out for the first of three Dickensian Evenings in The Corridor and Northumberland Place – over the next two Thursdays.

The event – organised with the help of Bath BID – will see Victorian-styled, costumed characters, musical entertainment and traditional festive treats – maybe even snowfall!

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Northumberland Place

It’s all happening between 5 and 7.30 – on the 14th and 2ls -t in two of Bath’s famous narrow streets that make up part of the city’s Lanes Quarter. An echo of its medieval past.

Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor to Bath. He came first as a young reporter and later in life to give readings from his amazing novels. No doubt – at this time of the year – everyopne wanted to hear about Scrooge and A Christmas Carol!

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?”

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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”

More sleeping rough

More sleeping rough

They’re not so easy to spot – in amongst all the festive hustle and bustle – but there are at least  34 homeless people  in Bath who have more to worry about than buying Christmas presents.

That’s the estimated number of those sleeping rough in the annual count – carried  out on a night in November – where outreach workers looked for and spoke to those found sleeping  on the streets.

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Of the 34 individuals identified, says a B&NES report, 33 had previously been offered help and assistance to get them off the street; 29 of the 34 were male, five were female, one was under 25 years old.

The number of rough sleepers counted in 2016 was 25, whilst in previous years the number found in 2013 was 33, in 2014 it was 27 and in 2015 it was 22.

Bath & North East Somerset Council commissions a specialist outreach service from Julian House and the Developing Health and Independence (DHI) charity, who work in partnership to support people sleeping rough with the aim of encouraging them into services such as Manvers Street Hostel as a first step towards a more settled and safe life.

On the night the count took place the Manvers Street Hostel, which has 30 beds, was fully occupied. The count has been verified by Homeless Link and is a reliable estimate of the level of rough sleepers in Bath and North East Somerset.

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative, Midsomer Norton North) Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic & Community Regeneration, said: “The Council takes the issue of rough sleeping very seriously, and even one person sleeping outdoors is one too many. I am therefore saddened to see that the most recent count found a rise in rough sleeping, despite the range of dedicated support the Council and its partners provide for homeless people in Bath and North East Somerset.

“We will be working closely with service users and providers to develop further opportunities to help these individuals off the streets and will be continuing to offer more individually targeted support and help for those identified as sleeping rough in the area.”

Additional beds and extra street outreach work was offered by Julian House this week in response to the very cold weather conditions.

The estimate of rough sleepers was as thorough as possible, with hostels, hospitals and police being asked about people in their care or custody who would otherwise be sleeping outside.

Partnership working between agencies such as the Council, Julian House, DHI, Specialist Drug and Alcohol Service, The Big Issue, Genesis, Southside, the RUH, AWP mental health services the Police and many others will ensure that support continues for rough sleepers.

Services include:

  • Manvers Street Hostel which has 20 direct access and nine move on units.
  • Assertive Outreach Service which has four full-time officers helping people leave the street, nowoffering new drop-in assistance at Lewis House.
  • Report a Rough Sleeper Website for concerns from the public about rough sleepingwww.streetlink.org.uk
  • Day Centre held every day at Manvers Street Hostel with hot meals and activities.
  • The Homesearch Register to help people leave supported housing and become independent.
  • Access to private rented housing (Homefinders) to help people pay for advanced rent and deposit.
  • Emergency accommodation in severe weather which provides an overflow for when the Manvers Street Hostel is full at times of extreme cold and wet.
  • Case Management through a multi-agency group called Task and Targeting to share information and identify solutions for entrenched rough sleepers.
  • Strategic Homelessness Partnership of local providers, commissioners and other interested parties considering strategic priorities.

 

 

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.
The end of free parking? A bonus for B&NES, congestion and pollution.

The end of free parking? A bonus for B&NES, congestion and pollution.

Are  city-based Day Parking Zones one way in which B&NES could help balance the books and help ease congestion and tackle high levels of pollution.
It’s an idea being put forward by local road traffic campaigner Adam Reynolds – well known as a cyclist champion – and now coming up with a scheme that the cash-strapped council may well be taking seriously.
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Adam Reynold

I asked him to write a piece for Bath Newseum. Here it is:

“Cities around the world are beginning to recognise that free parking simply encourages people to use cars. Free parking creates air pollution and congestion for any city and this cost is born by the residents in health and time, and financially by businesses of that city.

In 2012 Nottingham began an experiment that placed a cost on parking. The Workplace Parking Levy. This levy has provided Nottingham with the funds to expand their public transport network and be the only city in the UK where car road miles travelled have decreased. It has been a phenomenal success and has received international recognition.
But Bath is a different beast. It’s small. In fact so small that it is the most walkable city in England and Wales with 43% of commuters walking to work, and that, in a nutshell creates a problem for out residential roads as attractive free parking facilities.
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With over 29,000 people commuting into the city by car, 9,000 of those commutes by Bath residents themselves, we know that free parking is encouraging people to use the car.
Day Parking Zones enable the council to charge day trippers and commuters while enabling residents free use of their roads. With a council financially on it’s knees, a huge air pollution crisis, and a congestion nightmare, we simply cannot continue to offer free parking to commuters. Day Parking Zones offer an world leading opportunity to deliver a radical shift in improving public transport while getting people out of their cars.
Further more, the city could charge more for diesel permits or even disallow diesels from parking in the city, requiring them to use park and ride. People talk about Clean Air Zones, but if you simply cannot park your diesel car in the city, or it costs you more, you will definitely consider getting a new cleaner car.
However this is not the only problem with the city. By 9 am on a weekday, only around 700 out of 2800 park and ride spaces are used. Yet if you look at where you can go from a Park and Ride site, your only option is the city centre. Our Park and Ride sites do not service the economic centres of the city, that is Locksbrook & the RUH, the City Centre, and the University of Bath campus.
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We cannot simply introduce Day Parking Zones and leave it at that. We must invest the revenue in creating a Key Bus Network that enables Bath residents to get to where they are working using public transport. We need to use the money generated from parking to lower the costs of bus travel. 81% of car commuters live within 20km of the city and we should get to the point where, if you choose to travel by bus or by car to the city within 20km, then it will cost you around £400 per year.
Using Day Parking Zone revenue to deliver a Key Bus Network and affordable public transport throughout the city and into our rural areas is key to delivering an integrated transport strategy that is fair for everyone. It might even stop the council axing 300 jobs and many critical services.
I will be speaking at the Communities, Transport, and Environment Scrutiny Panel today, council officers have been instructed by Cllr Charles Gherrish to investigate Day Parking Zones, and there are moves afoot to get an all-party group to look at this proposal.
Bath has an air quality problem of enormous proportions (http://www.bathchronicle.co.uk/news/bath-news/premature-deaths-air-pollution-bnes-873180) and a huge financial hole in their budget which will radically cut council services. Day Parking Zones are the answer to this.”
Delighted to see the following on Twitter today. Looks like B&NES IS listening.
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