Editor : David Kernek (kernekdavid@gmail.com)

Monthly Archive: October 2020

2021 Camden Calendar & donation to hospital charity

Camden resident, editor, and photographer David Kernek has produced a 2021 wall calendar highlighting the charms and quirks of the neighborhood. They can be bought for £15, with £2 from each sale being donated to the Forever Friends charity at Bath’s hospital.

If you live in Camden, show friends who don’t live here how, er, charming and quirky it is.

Payment can be made by BACS or old-school cash or cheques. Orders can be made with David – 07842 503520 or e-mail kernekdavid@gmail.com.

Pictures featured in the (11″ x 8.5″ on strong, glossy paper) calendar can be seen, if the tech works, at one or all of these:

https://kernekpictures.pixieset.com/bathsomerset…https://www.flickr.com/…/30481…/albums/72157715628275137https://www.flickr.com/photos/30481808@N08/albums

Last Bus and its Covid ‘cuts’

Bath Telegraph editor David Kernek writes:

First Bus – also known in bus stop banter as Last Bus – is axing temporarily one of its four Bath University services because, it says, the ‘on-going impact of Covid-19 in dramatically reducing demand has meant service levels are now far too high’. Corporations have been given a free pass at blaming every service cut on the Plague. But anyone who in the past five pre-Covid years has actually taken 20 minutes to stand still in the town centre and watch the almost empty Uni double-deckers and bendy buses passing through, as their decals boast ‘every few mins’ will suspect that Last Bus is having a laugh, especially when it’s seen that when the hype is torn away students will be left with frequencies markedly still more generous than those endured by regular users of suburban and rural routes.

It was obvious way back in 2013 that the term-time Uni bus frequencies between 10am and 5pm exceeded demand. It was normal to see convoys of them gliding – and polluting and congesting – through the town centre and rarely carrying more than half a dozen passengers. I tormented Last Bus, the University, Bath Council, and the then Conservative MP for Bath on this matter but got precisely nowhere, perhaps because any attempt at factual analysis of the problem was seen as a) unfashionable and unenlightened anti-student prejudice and b) a distraction for councillors and officials who were busy setting up panels, reviews, and consultations on, er, reducing pollution and congestion. All they needed to do was open the Guildhall windows and stick their heads out to see the problem passing by.

An interesting point in my lengthy correspondence was reached when I was told by First Group’ then Chief Executive Tim O’Toole that its Bath Uni service was the company’s ‘busiest … carrying larger numbers of passengers than any other’. He provided no numbers to substantiate this statement. This did not square with what I was told some days later by Bath Uni’s Director of Estates. He said the university and the bus companies were ‘aware of the situation regarding bus loadings (number of passengers), particularly bendy buses travelling in the off peak periods with only a few passengers’.The university, he said, ‘works and liaises with the bus companies … and will continue to engage with them on your points which are very valid’.

That ‘work, liaison, and continued engagement’ came to naught, as some years later, did Mr O’Toole’s career with First Group. He resigned in 2018 after reporting a full-year loss of £327 million, in part the consequence of the bus and train group’s purchase of the American Greyhound bus business when airlines began offering low-cost tickets across the continent.

Last Bus’s U1 evening and weekend service is unchanged, allowing students to continue making their valued contribution to the town’s must-have ‘night time economy’.

Beware the Nanny Council

The Stay Safe appeals published frequently by Bath & NE Somerset Council are necessary reminders of the need to observe the basic Covid-19 restraints currently de rigueur in a corner of England where the infection rate is low but rising.

In his latest appeal, the council’s Public Health Director, Dr Bruce Laurence, says – questionably – that Halloween is an ‘exciting time’ for many families but quite rightly warns that this is no time for complacency.

The Bath Telegraph suggests, however, that in asking people to adapt the normal Halloween nonsense so as to meet the Rule of Six decree and to ‘avoid trick or treating if possible’ – as if avoiding it might be absolutely impossible – Dr Laurence and the council might refrain from offering condescending and patronizing suggestions for alternative Halloween excitement.

The council’s Top Tips ideas to celebrate at home are:

CARVE a pumpkin

MAKE spooky snacks 

WATCH a scary movie

DECORATE your home and doorstep

HOLD a Halloween costume contest

FACE painting

MIX a spooky cocktail or mocktail

Here’s another Top Tip for making Halloween 100% Covid compliant:

Ignore the whole thing, and instead write to Bath & NE Somerset Council urging it to keeps its Top Tips for a Virtual Christmas to itself. When this mess is over, we’ll have had quite enough of the Nanny State. Can a line be drawn at the Nanny Council?

Meghan buys expensive watch

Evening Standard – Ahead of their appearance in a special episode of Time100 Talks, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have released a timeless black and white portrait of themselves. Taken in their new Californian home, the portrait shows Markle looking spectacular in an Alexander McQueen two-piece tuxedo which she first debuted in 2018.

In keeping with the ensemble’s classic vibe, the mother-of-one paired her Cartier Tank Francaise watch with the look, which it is believed previously belonged to the late Princess Diana.

Even before she met Prince Harry, the former actress had expressed her desire for the classic watch. Speaking to Hello! magazine in 2015, she said: ‘I’ve always coveted the Cartier French Tank Watch. When I found out Suits had been picked up for our third season – which, at the time, felt like such a milestone – I totally splurged and bought the two-tone version.’

She explained that she had the watch engraved with the message To M.M. From M.M, adding that she planned on one day giving the timepiece to her daughter.

All in this together …

While the virtue-signalling of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern is not everyone’s cup of tea, she hit the right note at the start of the Covid-19 plague by taking a salary cut as it became clear that millions of people were to be thrown out of work and left penniless.

By contrast, politicians elsewhere in the Western world – local, regional, national, and those employed by organizations such as the European Union – talk about ‘supporting’ those hit economically by the plague have yet to announce that they’ve followed her admirable example … not by a £, a $, or a euro. Their salaries and pension rights are paid for by the public sector’s money tree, which remains immune.

Local councillors in Scotland can claim £17,000 a year. A basic allowance of £14,330 is paid to all 70 councillors of Bristol City Council. Here’s a longish list of the claims Bath councillors can make: https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/your-council-and-democracy/councillors-and-how-council-works/councillors-allowances

British MPs in the House of Commons are paid £81,932, as of April 2020, and can claim allowances to cover the costs of running an office and employing staff, and maintaining a constituency residence or a residence in London. Britain’s prime minister can claim £142,500, while Scotland’s First Minister can claim £144,680 but generously takes only £135,605.

France’s president Macron takes, at current exchange rates, £164,522.00, while in Brussels the President of the European Commission is paid a salary of €334,836 (£304,300).

All in this together? Not quite.

Bus pass problem for the disabled

It is reasonable to assume that disabled people whose concessionary bus passes have reached their renewal date would have little if any problem when applying for a new one. It would indeed be reasonable, but it would be wrong. The local councils which issue the passes are required by law to grind applicants through a bureaucratic mill that ought not to exist in a society that talks a great deal about compassion and claims to care about the disabled.

I have spent some time this year assisting a Bath & NE Somerset resident who is registered disabled and who encountered a problem when she applied in December last year to have her expiring concessionary bus pass renewed. She was told that in order for her application to be successful, she would be required to undergo an Independent Medical Assessment (IMA). Such assessments are done in Keynsham by Virgin Care on behalf of Bath & NE Somerset Council (B&NES) which, in turn assesses applications on behalf of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). It’s an out-sourced world!

What is clear is that the current B&NES/WECA process is in precise accordance with the provisions of the 2000 Transport Act and the Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007, which sets out seven disability categories as eligible for concessionary bus travel. They are*:

  1. Blind or partially-sighted
  2. Profoundly or severely deaf
  3. Without speech
  4. A disability … or an injury which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his [sic] ability to walk
  5. Does not have arms or has long-term loss of the use of both arms
  6. A learning disability … which includes significant impairment of

intelligence and social functioning

  • A disability would render the applicant unable to obtain a driver’s licence (Part III,  Road Traffic Act 1988)

The criteria set down in those seven categories and their descriptors fix an extremely high, if not cruel and unusual, bar for eligibility, e.g.: ‘Unless both legs are missing, then they will need to show that they experience severe discomfort even when using an artificial aid.’

The 2000 Act states that eligibility may be considered automatic (not requiring further assessment) when an applicant is receiving any of the following State benefits:

  • Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment, if the applicant has eight points in the ‘Moving Around’ an/or ‘Communicating Verbally’ boxes
  • War Pensioner’s Mobility Supplement

In my friend’s case, none of those state benefits come into play. But she is in receipt of Employment Support Allowance because of a life-long disability and health condition that affects adversely her capability for employment, and she has endured two stressful and humiliating physical assessments conducted for the Dept. of Work and Pensions. In short, she has physical and neurological conditions that are beyond remedy and which a) limit the extent she can walk and b) being unable to work, afford bus fares, yet when her current pass expires, she’ll be told she must endure yet another assessment.

Her case was settled eventually and satisfactorily by Bath & NE Somerset Council, but it shone a light on a problem faced by disabled people across the district … and England. It rests not with councils but with national legislation that requires local authorities to adhere to criteria that appear designed to make the renewal of concessionary passes to people most in need as difficult as possible. It can’t – can it? – be down to cost-saving.

In Bath & North East Somerset, I’m told by the council approximately 95% of concessionary bus pass holders qualify because they are over the State Pension Age. The remainder (some 2,000 people) qualify because they meet one or more of the seven qualifying medical conditions.

Current legislation ties the hands of local authorities that can do no other, when looking at a concessionary pass application, than add to the anxieties and burdens carried by the disabled. Its criteria for determining eligibility are so onerous as to prevent the automatic issue of passes to a great many registered disabledbus users who although being seriously and permanently disadvantaged do not reach the excessively high bar currently set. 

‘Local authorities,’ I have been told by Bath & NE Somerset Council, ‘have no discretion whatsoever to offer concessionary travel to persons outside the categories of qualifying medical conditions in the 2000 Act – even if those persons have a condition that could be described by themselves or by others as a disability. One of the aims of the guidance is to achieve consistency nationally, thus it fetters the individual local authorities’ ability to apply discretion.

The legislation needs to be amended:

1  All previous physical assessments undertaken for the DWP and tribunal judgements should be taken into account by local authorities when assessing renewal applications

2 Local authorities should be permitted to exercise discretion in the light of local circumstances, such as in Bath (and other tourist destinations) with crowded, narrow pavements, and terrains in which hills – also a consideration in Bath – are in abundance and present a challenge to disabled people

3 IMA’s conducted at health centres or in homes do not provide adequate grounds for assessing challenges faced on streets and in traffic

This is an aspect of concessionary bus travel for disabled people of which Department pf Transport civil servants and MPs might perhaps not be sufficiently aware.

The Bath Telegraph hopes the town’s MP will feel this matter is worthy of her attention, and that of her colleagues in the Commons.

Your country needs … a photographer!

With the Covid-19 crisis far from over, an economy shriveling by the second, and a No Deal Brexit looming, somebody in the higher echelons of Britain’s government – the Cabinet Office – has the right priorities.

What the Cabinet Office needs – no, what the country needs at its time of trial – is a photographer who, says a government job ad, ‘will seek to promote the work of Ministers and the wider government visually’.

Will it be exciting work? Of course it will be; what a silly question if by exciting work you mean taking photographs of Education Secretary Gavin Williamson that give the impression he knows what he’s doing.

Will two days in this job ever be the same?

‘No two days will ever be the same in this role,’ it says here in the job ad. ‘One day you may accompany a Cabinet Minister on an international visit, working closely with press officers across Whitehall to deliver a series of coordinated announcements, and the next you will be working in the Cabinet Office producing innovative visual content.’

Getting ‘innovative visual content’ from an event at which International Trade Secretary Liz Truss picks up a pen and signs a free trade deal with a country with an economy in an even worse state than ours will be a job for a photographer who knows what ‘innovative visual content’ means when it’s translated into English.

Interested? The salary range is £54,700/£60,635, and the job ad is here:

https://cabinetofficejobs.tal.net/vx/lang-en-GB/mobile-0/appcentre-1/brand-2/xf-6f79f686b812/candidate/so/pm/1/pl/16/opp/5731-5731-Photographer/en-GB

It’s Wokey Wokey time!

Well, here’s happenstance for yer …

As Bath is identified by mortgage advice website Bankrate as Britain’s most Woke town, comes evidence aplenty this week that its assessment is spot on.

The town’s Lib Dem council leader says people who want to help ‘address discrimination and disadvantage in Bath and North East Somerset’ are invited to apply to join a ‘Race Panel’ that will ‘promote equality in the region’. And up there in the House of Commons, Bath’s Lib Dem MP – Wera Hobhouse – has tabled a bill which if made law would give political parties the option to allow all ethnic-minority shortlists for candidates seeking election to public office. Never mind that this would legalize reverse discrimination; is that a terribly good idea?

Bath tops Bankrate’s list of 50 Woke towns and cities based on these metrics:

Internet search trends; voter turn-out; vegan and re-cycling rates; ultra-low emission vehicle registrations; gender pay gap; and the number of women in local government.

Neighbouring Bristol down the road comes in at number two in the Woke League which, too, comes as no surprise.

That Jane Austen Woman

From my book – out now – Bath: Glamour & Grit – Photographs 2000-2019 – David Kernek. A warts ’n all photographic look at Bath life in the round, with caustic commentaries on this and that. £15.

‘Jane Austen has much to answer for. There’s the normally annual Jane Austen Festival – cancelled in 2020, but back I fear in 2021 – that attracts fantasists from across the Anglosphere to the town that Jane Austen grew to dislike. Let’s not let facts spoil a harmless fiction. The lady Janeites – that’s what they’re called – spend 10 days walking about in big bonnets and even bigger frocks pretending they’re Jane, often accompanied by blokes in their Regency kit pretending they’re a chap out for an afternoon promenade with a woman pretending to be Jane … and trying not to notice the sniggers of those living in the 21st century.

But, surely, something close to The Genuine Victorian Experience can be imagined when they’re seen striding by the slouching drunks, beggars, and rough-sleepers in shop doorways … people who are, clearly, not actors in the play.’

For more information, and to buy a copy, contact … kernekdavid@gmail.com

A rubbish tip Bath can call its own?

Will Bath residents have to cart their uncollectable trash to Keynsham after the Midland Road tip is swept away to make room for housing – as suggested yesterday by the Bath Telegraph – or will there still be a more local facility?

The council responds:

‘Bath & North East Somerset Council has a longstanding commitment to re-develop the current waste site at Midland Road for much-needed housing, including affordable homes. Sites in Bath are being investigated for replacement Household Waste Recycling Centres in Bath.

The decision to progress the re-location of the waste, recycling and transfer station operations from Midland Road was made in January 2019, following an announcement by the council that the site was “unfit for purpose” the previous year.

Plans to re-locate the operational services to Pixash Lane [Keynsham] have also been developed over many years.

Submitting an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) scoping report for consideration by the council’s planning department and external consultees is the first stage of the EIA process, prior to a detailed report going before the Planning Committee.

Councillor David Wood, Joint Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services, said: “Bath residents will not be left without at least one, and possibly more, centres for household waste and recycling in the city.” ’