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?


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.


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 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”

When is bridge to be repaired?

When is bridge to be repaired?

A plea from a Bath mum for contractors to get on with repairing the stone ‘lodge’ at the London Road end of Cleveland Bridge – damaged in a hit and run a few months ago.IMG_4963

Simona Thompson writes:

“Do you know why it is taking so long to repair Cleveland bridge? The bridge was damaged following an accident in August 2017 and has been in this state for weeks.


The bridge is used by many people and in particular mums with their children (like me!) walking their children to school or to nursery.”

The damaged structure on the approach to this River Avon crossing – built in 1827 – is covered in scaffolding and the pedestrian route on that side is blocked.

A spokesperson for B&NES told Bath Newseum:

‘I gather that a listed building application – in hand – has to be submitted first. I’ve asked to be updated.’

Cycle race guaranteed bumpy finish!

Cycle race guaranteed bumpy finish!

There’s a certain irony in the fact that Bath is hosting the first ever Saturday night stage of The Tour Series and the Matrix Fitness Women’s Grand Prix with a brand new city centre route which starts and finishes on Great Pulteney Street.


The street is lined with parking restriction notices warning of the no parking decree affecting the grand avenue on May 20th. Not often cars make way for bikes!

I am just a humble local cyclist who uses this grand Georgian terrace-lined route into town as l emerge from Sydney Gardens and the canal towpath.

As a regular man-on-two-wheels l can tell you the road surface is in a real mess and bike riders in particular feel every bump.

Whilst the professionals will speed over this lunar crater-like surface at a much greater speed than l ever could, l wonder whether B&NES is feeling just a tad embarrassed about its condition.


Cracks and craters line Great Pulteney Street.

I mean bone-shakers are supposed to be a thing of the past but not in Great Pulteney Street. Just be careful you don’t bite your tongues you lovely ultra-fit racers.

There are other events on Saturday, May 20th which, according to B&NES, will aim ‘ to encourage as many people as possible to choose cycling as either a leisure activity or as a way of commuting to work in Bath and North East Somerset’.

I think that will depend on decent road surfaces and properly designated areas for us cyclists to use all year round – not just on May 20th when many will turn out to cheer that flash of blurred colourful lycra as these cycling supremos wizz past.


Maybe we should start giving our road craters names?

The Tour Series starts in Worcestershire on May 9, and finishes on May 29 in Stevenage.

Highlights of every round will be shown on ITV4, with programmes also available on demand via the ITV Hub.

More information can be found for all cycling events  in and around Bath on May 20th via

You can follow details of the Bath Stage of the Tour Series and the Sportive on Facebook Love 2 Cycle or Twitter @Love2cyclebath #TourBath #love2cyclesportive

The ‘forgotten’ Bath bridge.

The ‘forgotten’ Bath bridge.

Plenty of new tree planting underway down at the newly named ‘Bath Quays’ site where a ‘re-defining’ of the river bank – as part of a scheme to reduce the risk of flooding – has created the opportunity for fashioning a new waterside park-type feature for people to eventually enjoy.


Newly planted trees on the Broad Quays riverbank.

It follows a lot of archaeology in which the people of Bath were able to be reminded – in reports here on Bath Newseum and at a BRSLI lecture – about the ordinary lives of those former citizens who inhabited this flood-prone area.


The new loom riverbank involves concrete shapes too.

Both their tenements and places of work were uncovered – along with several pubs and even a laundry/wash-house which substituted for the lack of facilities at home in the slums.

Properly recorded, it has all disappeared.


In the middle of the picture – to the right of the yellow tripod – you can see the black plastic which covers the remains of that 17th century footbridge.

I say all but, under an anonymous black plastic sheet, lies one reminder of the past. The excavated remains of a stone bridge built to cross a ditch as part of 17th century improvements to an old riverside path.


One end of the new pathway onto this newly sculptured riverbank has already been built. I hope these young saplings – lying across the tarmac – will still grown once planted?

While landscaping work gathers pace around it there is still no decision on how best to proceed with its preservation and incorporation into this new scheme.

At this rate they will have built the new pedestrian bridge across the river nearby before we discover the long-term fate of this rather smaller old one!


Looking across the river towards the new concrete flood defence barrier being erected.

Across the river flood defence barriers are also being erected. I look forward to the new trees taking root and to some good news about this little relic of Bath’s humbler past.



Park & Ride East to go ahead.

Park & Ride East to go ahead.

So now we know. B&NE’s inner Cabinet have selected their chosen location for an east of Bath Park & Ride on site B  – that’s if they are able to actually buy the land west of Mill Lane. They say they’re going for a smaller scheme than originally intended.


The Cabinet plump for Site B.

If there is no deal on land purchase, they will revert to a plot on the other side of the road.

It’s a decision they took at a Guildhall meeting which brought hundreds of very vocal demonstrators to the street outside.

People who did not want to see any encroachment onto Bathampton meadows.


Demonstrators outside Bath’s Guildhall.

It remains to be seen if those who oppose the siting of the scheme will continue to find ways to delay or change this decision – but they have made it very clear that the battle to stop the park and ride is not over yet.

A press statement from the Council reads as follows:

‘A new Park & Ride to the east of Bath is a key part of the Council’s wider plan to improve local transport, tackle congestion and support the continued growth of the city and local economy. This includes a package of transport measures such as improvements to the road network, cycle-ways and public transport.

The Council took the decision in November 2015 to move forward with plans for a Park and Ride to the east of the city following more than ten years of studies, reports and consultations on the issue.

Every day more than 73,000 people travel into Bath by car* – a figure which is predicted to rise to 96,000 people a day by 2029. This is alongside growth of around 7,000 new homes and 11,000 new jobs in the city by 2035 which, with the new Bath Enterprise Zone, is expected to grow the local economy by £1.2bn by 2030.

Councillor Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip), Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “Over the past year, the Council has undertaken an exhaustive process looking at all the potential locations for the long-discussed eastern Park & Ride. The conclusions of this analysis were that both sites B and F are suitable to meet the established needs for an east of Bath Park & Ride.

However, after careful consideration, the Cabinet has decided to select site B as our preferred location because it offers the greatest potential for a future link to the local railway line and is less visible to those living closest. It is near to the city and well-located for cars coming from the A4, A46 and A363.


Possible lay out for Site B


The view from Bathampton Down – after one year – if Site B is chosen. Council illustration.

“However, whilst site B is our preferred location, its use is subject to the purchase of the land and securing agreement from Highways England over access from the bypass. As site F would also offer a suitable alternative, if these outstanding matters cannot be agreed the Cabinet has agreed to revert to site F, which is within the Council’s ownership.”

Explaining the decision to move forward with plans for the Park and Ride, Councillor Warren added: “Bath will continue to see significant growth over the coming years, with thousands of new homes and jobs being created at major regeneration sites in the city. We therefore need to plan now for how to manage the additional demand this will put on our road network, and a new Park & Ride forms an important part of our wider plan to improve transport, tackle congestion and support the growth of our economy.  All our studies show that without a new Park & Ride, traffic will be worse in the years ahead.


The view from Bathampton Down – after fifteen years – if Site B is chosen. Council illustration.

“However, whilst we must plan for the future, we also understand the concerns raised by residents in the local area and have taken these on board in reaching our decision. We are proposing to build a smaller site than originally planned, with extensive screening. This will be coupled with improved signage to encourage greater use of Lansdown Park & Ride by those arriving from the north.”

Why site B:

Site B with 800 spaces is located within close proximity to the city

Site B would attract users from the A4, A46 and A363

Site B is outside the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and not within the floodplain

Site B has the potential for a rail link in the future

Those living closest to site B have the least view of it

Improving transport and planning for the future

Councillor Anthony Clarke (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “The east of Bath is the most congested part of our road network, and is the only side of the city which does not currently benefit from a Park & Ride. Without intervention, including a Park & Ride, this will only get worse as the city continues to grow with more jobs and housing.

“Our current three Park & Rides are used by more than two million passengers a year, a figure which has grown by sixteen per cent since 2009, and their usage will continue to grow as more and more people travel into Bath to work and visit.

“The need for an eastern Park & Ride is therefore well-established, and has the support of local business organisations, residents associations and transport lobby groups.

“Building the long-discussed eastern Park & Ride is therefore an important part of our wider plan to keep Bath moving, which also includes greater provision for cycling and walking, better rail services through the MetroWest project, and bringing forward plans for an A36-A46 link road to reduce through-traffic in Bath.”

Next steps

Members of the public will have the opportunity to continue to put forward their views as part of the formal planning process.

Councillor Clarke said: “The next steps for the Council will now be to progress discussions over the land and highway access, with further work on the design, screening and mitigations as part of preparations for a full planning application.”

More information is available via the Council’s website at:

For details of the Cabinet papers, please visit:

*Traffic count in accordance with Department for Transport guidelines. Figure includes people who have destinations within Bath and excludes those travelling through Bath.

Key statistics

73,000 people travel into Bath daily. This is expected to grow to 96,000 by 2029.

The economy is expected to grow by £1.2bn by 2030.

11,000 new homes and 7,000 new jobs by 2035.

Existing Park & Ride sites carry more than two million passengers a year and have grown by 16% since 2009.

They are expected to continue to grow to capacity over the coming years.

A new Park & Ride to the east of the city will reduce traffic movements by around 2,000 cars in each direction daily.


‘After the ball is over’. The demonstrators have gone – but left their placards behind them.


Council faces biggest financial squeeze in years.

Council faces biggest financial squeeze in years.

Bath and North East Somerset Council is looking to have to take some tough decisions if it is to balance its budget for the years ahead – as it faces the biggest squeeze in years  on its financial resources

The authority has published a series of proposals to achieve the £49 million of savings needed to balance income and expenditure over the four years from 2016/17. This is in addition to the £33 million saved since 2012.


The Bath Guildhall

The proposed savings come as the Council faces continued reductions in Government funding and complex challenges such as the rapid growth in the number of vulnerable and older people needing social care support.

The Cabinet’s proposals result from a stringent and comprehensive review of all spending carried out over the past year, aimed at finding new ways to increase efficiency and grow income in order to protect priority front-line services as far as possible.

The Cabinet has identified £41 million worth of potential savings so far; including £12 million already being delivered in the current financial year despite pressures in the priority area of Children’s Services.

However even after driving out all these savings, more is still required and the Council will have to take some tough decisions to balance its budget.

tim warren

Cllr Tim Warren Leader of B&NES.

Councillor Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip), Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “This is an unprecedented challenge for the Council, with £49 million of savings needed by 2019/20 – by which time the Council will need to be almost self-sufficient.

“Funding to local government has been falling since 2010, while the cost of delivering services continues to rise. Demand for a range of services is also rising quickly as our population grows and changes and this puts pressure on resources.

“Our savings proposals will ensure that the Council continues to live within its means, whilst protecting frontline services as far as possible and continuing to invest in important local priorities such as affordable housing, transport improvements and economic growth to create good local jobs.”

The scale of the financial challenge means that it will not be possible to deliver all the savings required through efficiency and income alone – meaning some fundamental changes will be required to the way in which a range of services are delivered.

guildhall light

Bath’s Guildhall.

For example, the Council is:
· Moving towards commissioning the right services – in a more cost effective way – to protect where possible frontline services – examples are “Your Care Your Way” and looking for independent partners to operate two early years nurseries currently run by the Council

· Generating additional income by investing in new commercial property and other innovative projects such as the Council’s new housing company which will deliver additional local homes and a new local energy tariff that will also reduce energy bills for local people.

· Responding to Government policy changes such as receiving a further £2.5 million as a result of the Government’s pilot Business Rate retention scheme and £500,000 from the Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme which rewards councils for increased house-building.

· Proposing to continue a 2% council tax precept for Adult Social Care, which will raise an additional £1.5 million a year to help fund unavoidable demographic and inflationary cost pressures such as more elderly people needing care and an increase in the National Living Wage. This will protect services to elderly and vulnerable residents.

· Working in partnership with local people and businesses to help them continue to play an important role in their local communities and deliver services in new ways.


Cllr Charles Gerrish. Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency, Conservative Deputy Group Leader North East Somerset.

Councillor Charles Gerrish (Conservative, Keynsham North), Cabinet Member for Finance & Efficiency, said: “Over the past year, we have undertaken a thorough root-and-branch review of all spending in order to meet the biggest financial challenge in the Council’s history.

We have left no stone unturned in our efforts to increase efficiency, find new income streams and ensure the organisation is as lean as it can be.

“As a result of this work, and the Council’s robust financial management, we are in a better position than many other councils to protect the important frontline services that are valued by residents and which vulnerable people most rely upon.
However, we won’t be able to avoid some very difficult decisions over the level of funding for some services, and there will need to be a fundamental re-shaping of the way some services are delivered to ensure the Council balances its books and lives within its means.

Wherever possible we will be seeking to work with local communities, parish councils, public sector partners and other local organisations to deliver services in new and cost-effective ways.”

Over the coming weeks, the individual Directorate Plans, including the savings proposals, will be presented to the Council’s Policy Development and Scrutiny Panels.

The proposed budget will be considered Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 1st February. The Council’s final budget will then be considered by Councillors at a Full Council meeting on Tuesday 14th February.

Bath Guildhall

Bath Guildhall

The Directorate Plans, including the full list of savings proposals, can be found at:

Some of the proposals put forward by the Cabinet include:

· £2.2 million from new acquisitions to supplement commercial estate income and new income from the local housing and development company
· £2 million by raising additional income from heritage and wider economic growth as well as greater efficiencies in housing services
· £2.5 million earned from the Business Rates retention pilot
· £2.7 million saved from changing the way we make provision to repay borrowings on capital items
· £550,000 saved from departmental underspends and back office efficiencies
· £500,000 secured from lower interest rates and capital savings
· £600,000 by a review of the organisational management and support arrangements
· £500,000 saving by encouraging and enabling local community groups to offer supplementary services for young people
· £100,000 earned in income by introducing a local energy tariff that also reduces residents’ and businesses’ energy bills
· £800,000 saved through modernising the library service
· £2.8 million saving through Customer services/digital transformation improving efficiency
· £5.6 million of cost increases avoided as part of increased efficiency and redesigning services to maximise people’s independence as part of implementing new tailored community health and care arrangements developed through the Your Care Your Way project
· £1.5 million by redesigning transport options for how people get from A to B. This includes moving to more personalised budgets in relation to SEN transport options.
· £500,000 through more efficient services for children and young people – such as ensuring we adapt as legislation transfers some of our traditional responsibilities to academies and others.
· £400,000 saving by consolidation of destination management services.
· £120,000 through increase in bereavement services charges
· £100,000 by the transfer of some Children’s Centre buildings to community organisations who can make better use of them.
· £100,000 through a Parks review and how we deliver services.

These savings will be implemented over the next 3 years to ensure the Council can become more self-sufficient and less reliant on core Government grants which are reducing to almost nothing by 2020.
To put the required savings into context, the Council’s gross revenue spend for 2016/17 is £246.6 million (excluding schools expenditure).

Have your say on Devolution deal.

Have your say on Devolution deal.

Public consultation on the creation of a new West of England Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) – including how this combined authority would work and what it means – is now open. This follows the decision of Bath & North East Somerset Council, along with Bristol and South Gloucestershire councils, to move forward with a £1 billion devolution deal from Government.


The MCA would manage new powers, funding and responsibilities that would be handed from central Government to the region as part of the deal. As a result, more decisions could be made locally, rather than nationally, about spending on regional transport, housing, adult education and skills, for example.

The consultation will run from Monday 4 July 2016 until 15 August 2016 and is being run jointly by Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, and South Gloucestershire councils – meaning residents from all three geographic areas will be invited to take part.

The results will be considered by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who will take account of the views of the public when deciding whether the West of England devolution deal should go ahead. The deal will then be subject to final endorsement at a local level.

If it is agreed that the MCA should go ahead, it would be established in the first part of 2017, with elections for the position of West of England Mayor to take place across all three local government areas – Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire – in May 2017. 

Residents across the three areas are being asked to provide feedback on four key areas of the proposed devolution deal: Decision making, Place (transport and housing), People (adult education and skills), and Business.


The Bath Guildhall

How to have your say:


Paper copies of the survey will be available from local libraries, Customer Service Points and One Stop Shops from 14 July – or by calling 0117 922 2848.

Other formats such as braille are also available by calling 0117 922 2848.

An audio version is available now on the website above.

Cllr Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip) Leader of Council, said: “This deal – worth more than £1,000 per head of population – far outweighs any other devolution deal done elsewhere in the country.

“This represents the best possible deal both in terms of the funding secured and safeguards in place to protect the absolute autonomy of Bath & North East Somerset Council. 

“By unlocking £1 billion of additional funding over the next 30 years, this deal will give us greater freedom to plan for the future, invest in much-needed new infrastructure, and deliver the new homes and jobs our area will need in the years ahead.

“Your say is very important. This deal is about stability and investment over the next three decades – it will affect you and your children. Therefore I encourage everybody to get involved and have your say on these important plans.” 

There will also be a number of ‘roadshow’ events held throughout the area at which residents can find out more and give their feedback, as well as completing the consultation online.

Roadshow events in Bath and North East Somerset:




Tuesday 19th July


Kaposvar Room, The Guildhall, Bath

Monday 25th July


The Community Space, Keynsham

Monday 8th August


The Library, Chew Valley School, Chew Magna 

Tuesday 9th August


The Somer Centre, Gullock Tyning, Midsomer Norton

Saturday 13th August

Drop in (11-4pm)

Old Bond Street / Milsom Street Junction , Bath City Centre


For more information, including updates on other events, visit or follow @WofEDevo on Twitter.