GCCC public meeting

Last Wednesday (20/04/16) saw a substantial crowd descend upon the GCCC for the public meeting. Tim Malnick, the outgoing Green Party Councillor for Bishopston and Ashley Down, facilitated the meeting and reminded us that the meeting was a regular twice yearly event and not called in response to local concerns about the new floodlights. Tim asked the attendee’s to be realistic about possibilities, stating that it would be an opportunity to clarify concerns and questions, but not to reach a consensus. Lots of great questions were asked and concerns raised, as well as statements both in support and against the lights.

 

A resident from Lancashire Rd highlighted the lack of attendance of anyone from the planning department & that of the city director. A representative of HowZat? responded that the planners had been invited but that they had replied by email to say they wouldn’t be coming. This was incredibly disappointing, as quite a few questions just couldn’t be answered by those present. Residents wanted to know how and why did planning approval happen? How was planning permitted for lights that have spillage so far above the guidelines? And how can those that allowed it to happen be held responsible? That residents had wanted to comment, but that they don’t know who to complain to. To express concern that what they expected from the planning description is totally different to what has been constructed. To know about enforcing conditions and what sanctions there are if rules broken.

 

The question of how often and for long could the lights be used led to a rather tense exchange about practice matches. Will Brown, GCCC CEO stated that practice matches had always been part of the discussion and the planning document, to which a local resident responded that actually she had a copy of the planning with her and that there was no mention of practice matches. HowZat? reinforced this position by stating that practice matches had not been discussed and were not part of the planning approval. Will Brown was not happy with being made to defend his position on practice matches saying “We’re being judged before we’ve done anything”.

The impact of the lights – and the GCCC generally – upon the community, raised many other questions too.

A resident of Lancashire Road asked if the lights shining directly into her bedroom could be refocused and others asked about the glare from the masts. No clear answer was given about refocusing, and the response to glare was less than satisfactory. There is, apparently, the possibility of vinyl wrap-rounds or paint, but the Club is “waiting and seeing”. For what we are not sure…

Frustration was expressed about the fact that retractable lights were dismissed as too expensive, that Lux Guillotines (such as those produced by Thorn Lighting who provided the lighting for Wembley Stadium) were not being investigated and that the consultation had been so small. Will Brown responded that the consultation had been city-wide, publicised by Radio Bristol, HowZat? and our local Councillors. Tim Malnick stated that there had been no possibility of the council having the funds to help to pay for retractable lights although this response met with some derision from some of the attendees. Despite the assertions regarding a ‘city-wide’ consultation, it is apparent that most people had no idea they were being installed or that they would be so visible from most of Bristol and all the way to Bath. The system and its representatives failed.

 

The last thing to be covered were the other impacts that the Club has on its neighbourhood. One resident had received an email from Will Brown stating that they had “no authority over spectators leaving the matches”. Whilst this may be true it doesn’t mean that the club has no responsibility to its neighbours. Likewise, when asked about the Parking and Traffic Management Plan, Will Brown responded that the club needed more parking! All local residents are well aware of the issues with parking, we would all like to have ‘more parking’ available, however, this is a densely populated area and if parking is such an issue for the club they should not have been given permission to become an International Club.

Will Brown was keen to reassure people that they had acquired 30-40 additional spaces at the college after 18:30 and would be promoting the Ashley Down entrance. This is farcical; the matches are supposed to be starting by 18:30, 30-40 spaces is nothing in comparison to 8-15,000 spectators and promoting the other entrance merely shifts the problem to another part of the ward.

 

Residents also stated that the general tone of the Club was less welcoming than it had been 5 years ago, which was exemplified by Will Brown’s response to a question about road safety at the Nevil Road entrance. Residents complained that cars shoot out of the club without regard for the fact that they are crossing a pavement, endangering residents especially young children. Will Brown stated that they had done what they could (signs and a speedbump) but they were investigating ways of blocking the pavement to stop the pedestrians from walking out. He also stated that it was important for children to be parented effectively. I think that this demonstrates how out of touch Will Brown is with local residents. The pavement should not be blocked for the Clubs ease and children should be safe to scoot or run along a pavement. The Club should be promoting responsible behaviour from its guests. A resident of Theresa Ave ended the session highlighting that the balance between the Club being a benefit to the city and a nuisance to the area was now tipping out of the Clubs favour. It is essential that we ensure the Club pays heed to that message.

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GCCC public meeting

March Letter

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Dear Friends and Neighbours,

Bishopston and Ashley Down has a long and illustrious Liberal Democrat history. For sixteen years, until the resignation of Bev Knott in 2012 and the resignation of David Willingham in 2014, the ward had LibDem representation. In this time many great advancements were made, here are just a very few:

  • After the Labour-led primary school disaster in 2009, the LibDems created a 6-year educational plan to ensure every child had a good school place available to them. This included the building of Brunel Field Primary School, Redland Green School, the new Fairfield High School and the transfer of Colston’s Girls School and Bristol Cathedral Choir School from the independent sector to the state sector.
  • The LibDems developed the Greater Bristol Bus Network that led to the new infrastructure including the Real Time Information boards, better routing and lower fares.
  • The LibDems installed wind turbines in Avonmouth, started the process of creating the Bristol Energy company and led a waste reduction policy that gave us top place in the country for recycling and reducing landfill.
  • In fact the LibDems oversaw a green economy that was so impressive it meant that when our technical presentation was judged in the summer of 2012 (before George Ferguson was elected) it became clear our success in gaining the title of Green capital was a foregone conclusion.
  • We secured £110,000 of play equipment for Horfield Common
  • And £25,000 for educational recreation at Brunel Field and Ashley Down Primary schools
  • AND £64,000 funding for the scout hut on Williamson Road!
  • In 2012 we opposed the Green Party’s proposal to cut the adult learning service.
  • And in 2014 we opposed proposals to cut funding for women fleeing domestic violence, the noise nuisance abatement team, community libraries and street trees.
  • In 2015 we fought against the privatisation of our local NHS Children’s Community Health Partnership.
  • And in 2016 LibDem Councillors supported funding for Low Emission Zones when Labour wouldn’t and supported the Green amendment for the Social Care Precept even though the Green Party then voted against their amendment by voting against the budget!!

Unlike the other candidates we have a proven track record of working for you – if these are the sort of policies you want your local councillors to be fighting for you need to vote for Becky Lockyer and Kate Bowman on May 5th.

Working for you all year round – not just at election time!

Becky Lockyer & Kate Bowman

March Letter

Poison on our streets?

Bristol City Council is currently using a controversial toxic chemical to spray weeds in our streets and parks. In tests, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, glyphosate, has been shown to have very harmful effects on people and on insects such as bees.

The World Health Organisation published a damning study some months ago. A number of other countries have acted already – France has banned it in parks and schools, the Netherlands have stopped the use of glyphosates entirely. Unfortunately for us, our Mayor, George Ferguson, instead of taking similar action apparently cited “concerns about the affordability of alternatives” and is “awaiting information on options”.

The issue has been a concern for several years, and we had understood in January that our councillors were on the verge of debating it. We were delighted thinking that the matter had reached Full Council, thanks largely to Zaheer Mamon’s 38 degrees petition, signed by thousands of Bristol residents. However, we are still to see any action upon this matter.

Councillor Anthony Negus (LibDem Councillor for Cotham) as Scrutiny Chair picked up the story for us in January. He contacted the interim service director of the Clean and Green Neighbourhoods Directorate asking to have our policy on Glyphosates clarified, stating that the LibDems would like to see a:

“firm statement of an outright ban or if that is not immediately obtainable then a clear timetable to phase out such concerning chemicals”

We have been assured by the officer that the council are looking into alternatives but the progress seems to be interminably slow.

It is disappointing, when we have been asking our local Green Councillors to act upon these concerns since January, that it has taken until now for one of them to take notice.

Gus Hoyt – who is not one of Bishopston and Ashley Down’s Councillors – will be asking, as we have for months, why is Bristol County Council using Glyphosate near where children play, people forage food and on open surfaces where it can be washed into our waterways. Sadly the motion is tenth on a long list and it is only expected that Council will hear the first two motions. It would appear that we will have to wait longer for any conclusion to this matter.

Poison on our streets?

Are secondary school places for all ‘undeliverable’?

The BBC are reporting that secondary school places for all may soon become ‘undeliverable’. This is certainly not a surprise to the Bristol LibDems who have been dismayed by the lack of any clear plan within the Mayor’s strategy to meet additional demand we will be experiencing from 2017. This is an issue that LibDem Councillor Tim Kent and local LibDem campaigners have been raising awareness of since last year.

Current school admissions show that in 2017 4,363 children will leave Bristol’s Primary schools but that only 3,954 secondary school places are available. The Council is hoping enough will choose to go to schools outside of Bristol to make up the shortfall, but over the last 12 years the number of children doing this has halved. A council officer has told Becky Lockyer that they are looking to the academies and free schools to find the additional spaces, but we have concerns about this because, as the BBC article states, “councils…often struggle to find sponsors for free schools in time to meet demand for places”.

We simply don’t think that this is an adequate response. We have already had one schooling crisis when the Labour-led council failed to stay ahead of a population explosion and failed to plan accordingly. This left the council unable to allocate over 300 families a primary school in the usual way due to a lack of places in 2009, whilst many more families were not offered any of their three preferred schools. Bishopston and Ashley Down was one of the worst affected areas with about 200 families in North Bristol affected. We can’t let this happen again.

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In response to the 2009 crisis, the LibDems were instrumental in creating a plan that prepared for school demand until 2016. By investing £31m of council money they attracted £80m external funding, which paid for the creation of 4,500 additional school places. Amongst other developments, the LibDems oversaw the expansion of Bishop Road Primary School, the creation of Brunel Fields Primary School and the move from independent to state sector of Colston’s Girls School and Bristol Cathedral Choir School.

We are now in 2016 and Bristol will require 18 additional entry classes by 2020 and another 17 by 2023. This is the equivalent to 5 new secondary schools. Bishopston and Ashley Down has continued to see substantial population growth and with more housing proposed it is essential that the mayor – or whoever replaces him in May – takes this responsibility seriously. The LibDems have shown that it is possible to deal with such problems; we must ensure that we provide the appropriate facilities for our children. We will be failing a generation – and potentially many more to come – if we do not create a new plan to take us to 2023 which provides all our children with the education they have a right to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are secondary school places for all ‘undeliverable’?

Bristol to become a “zero waste” city by 2025?

Today’s Bristol Post has an article covering the excellent notion of Bristol becoming a ‘zero waste’ city.

The article states that “Last year Bristol residents recycled, composted and re-used 45 per cent of their waste – up significantly from 12.7per cent between 2004 and 2005. And for a major urban area, Bristol performs well when measured against other UK cities”.

There can be no doubt that this is all wonderful news, but lets look at the facts behind the headline.

The article fails to mention that the amount Bristol recycles has actually gone down under the Ferguson administration (2012-2016) whilst the amount of tonnes sent to landfill and the number of fly-tipping incidents are up according to FOI data.

It also fails to mention that Bristol has, for a year, been shipping its excess landfill off to Sweden for incineration.

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Fly tipping on Horfield Common, January 2016. On the same day we received 3 other complaints about similar incidents.

In the article, Bishopston and Ashley Down Councillor Daniella Radice, also assistant Mayor for neighbourhoods, is quoted as saying: “We need to have a city wide discussion about waste and resources. Our main aim is to reduce waste overall, and not just increase recycling.”

The Bristol LibDems wholeheartedly agree that we need to reduce waste, that is why, for example, we have been actively fighting for the South Bristol Recycling Centre (SBRC). When the motion was raised at Full Council Meeting we were supported by all political parties except the Green Party. They stated they couldn’t support the SBRC as their policy is to support ‘re-use’, apparently missing the fact the SBRC will have re-use facilities as well as recycle.

It is a shame that the green agenda, so laudable in its intention, has become little more than ideological positioning. Local green councillors and Mayor Ferguson took over a city that had an excellent – and improving – waste record under the LibDems, and have squandered the chance to build upon our legacy.

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Cardboard left behind after waste collection on a Bishopston Road, Nov 2015. Recycling and garden waste bags not being collected is a regular issue for people living in Bishopston and Ashely Down.
Bristol to become a “zero waste” city by 2025?

The Council’s budget votes, in more detail

The recent Council budget meeting for 2016 was a better debate than many, but as usual there was some very peculiar voting by the political parties. The initial budget consultation released by Mayor Ferguson wasn’t very controversial, as it was year #3 of a 3-year budget, so there were few major surprises. But the debate itself did produce some surprises.

 

The Chancellor George Osborne shocked local government over the Christmas period (after councils had already drafted their budgets!) by telling every English council that he was cutting their funding more in future but allowing them make up for it by imposing a 2% social services precept on top of Council Tax. Note that this is the exact opposite of what the Coalition had been offering councils – the Coalition government had offered extra “freeze grants” (bribes, basically) to councils that froze Council Tax, while the new Conservative government is taking grants and telling councils to put the tax up instead. In past years the Lib Dem group has proposed amendments accepting the “freeze grants” because those bribes were really too good to refuse and would have brought extra money into the city; but this year with no freeze grant available the Lib Dem group favoured the full tax rise.

At the budget meeting, all parties proposed some sensible amendments to the Mayor’s budget: Labour and Lib Dem both proposed amendments to reverse the Mayor’s axing (for the third year in a row) of the planned East Bristol swimming pool and South Bristol recycling centre; Conservatives proposed using the £9m from the sale of the Bristol Port freehold as an endowment for a local house-building company; and the Green Party proposed taking up the chancellor’s 2% social services precept.

So far, so sensible, but at this point the strangeness started. The Conservative group said that if their own chancellor’s 2% social services precept was passed, they would vote against the budget because they are against tax rises. This was the opposite of their positioning over the previous three years, when surprisingly they had voted against accepting the Coalition’s freeze grants because they said although they were against tax rises, the Council needed all the money from the full tax rise. But this year, when there was no freeze grant at all, suddenly they were against putting up the tax. If you are against putting up the tax it makes no sense to choose the one year that there’s no freeze grant to decide you’re going to vote against it!

The Green Party group, on the other hand, made it clear that if their own amendment for the 2% social services precept was passed they were actually going to vote against their own amended budget later on. In fact, it didn’t matter to them what amendments were passed, they were still going to vote against the budget no matter what because they are “against austerity”. The problem with that is if the whole budget had been defeated with the help of their own votes, then the mayor’s original budget without the 2% precept (i.e. even more austere) would most likely have been forced through by Mayor Ferguson. So the Green Party were gambling that they would lose when they voted against the final budget – dangerous games indeed for a party that claims to be protecting the poor from austerity.

You might ask whether there’s any political consequences to parties voting in peculiar ways like this; and the fact that not a single local media outlet bothered to dissect and critique the voting afterwards shows that unfortunately, no, there are no consequences at all…

Cllr Mark Wright

You can find his website here

mark wright
Mark Wright is the Liberal Democrat councillor for Cabot
The Council’s budget votes, in more detail

Lib Dems Reveal More Missing Millions… This Time in the Mayor’s Budget

missing millions2Updated 2016-02-16

Local Liberal Democrats have warned Bristol is missing out on nearly £5 million of council services every year because of inaccurate council tax calculations.

 

For the last two years the Liberal Democrats have pointed out a significant underestimate in the expected council tax income of between £3 million and £5 million. In both years the party has been proven right and in the budget proposals this year, Lib Dems have detected the same error. By using figures that have been set far too low, the council is forced to vote on a budget that does not accurately predict what local services it can afford. Despite repeated requests for an explanation the Lib Dems have been told no discussion of the topic will be considered.

The revelation of the missing millions from the budget comes after a campaign by local Lib Dems brought to light how £8.3 million of taxpayer cash used to help pay for Bristol’s year as European Green Capital has not been fully disclosed. 

The Lib Dems are urging the mayor to think again and to give Bristol a better, fairer deal, instead of a poorly calculated budget that will lead to excessive cuts in services.

 

Cllr Gary Hopkins, Lib Dem Group Leader said:

“It is scandalous that every year, Bristol residents suffer because the mayor’s council tax calculations have under-estimated how much money the council would receive. Despite repeated and timely requests for information, councillors from all parties have been refused permission to debate about the likely missing millions from the accounts. By continually refusing to accept that extra council tax income would eventually become available, it means we miss out on millions in the budget that could be spent on protecting the vulnerable, improving our public transport and cleaning up litter from our streets.

“The entire budget process under the mayor’s regime is regrettably an empty exercise. To the dismay of many local residents the mayor has in recent years ignored a multitude of passed budget amendments. Although we have offered sensible amendments to finally complete the funding of both the South Bristol Recycling Centre and East Bristol Swimming Pool it has felt like Groundhog Day in doing so; we suggested these amendments last year but have seen no progress to date.”

Dr Kay Barnard, Lib Dem mayoral candidate added:

“What Bristolians will feel most upset by is that it could all have been avoided. The simplest way to avoid this situation is for the mayor to listen to the concerns my Lib Dem colleagues have legitimately raised year on year. Undeterred by these grossly inaccurate figures, we have done the responsible thing and put in fully funded amendments to help make a real difference to the lives of Bristolians across the city.”

Lib Dems Reveal More Missing Millions… This Time in the Mayor’s Budget