Editor : David Kernek (kernekdavid@gmail.com)

Monthly Archive: April 2021

Peak performances …

Little-known and rarely-seen pictures of the world’s greatest white blues and rock band – The Rolling Stones – could be one of the highlights of an exhibition this year at the American Museum, Claverton, at a date to be announced.

Shooting StarsBritain and America in the 1970s features Carinthia West’s pictures of music and movie stars present a buoyant view of a decade that’s been much-maligned but which saw an explosion of colour, art, and fashion.

An antidote to the Covid nightmare, the exhibition might be a reminder of what life was like in a much simpler age – before mobile phones and social – when music had rhythm, melody, harmony, keys, and metre.

Pictures  – © Carinthea West. Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood, Malibu, 1976;

Mick Jagger, 1976.

https://americanmuseum.org

Westminster ways we could do without ,,,

Who, we ask, is speaking here: ‘I look forward to laying out more detail of my vision for my first 100 days …’? Was it President Bidon on taking office as the 46th president of the United States? Or Boris Johnson on becoming Prime Minister and the tenant of that apartment with the horrible John Lewis furnishings? Or was it President Franklin D. Roosevelt when in 1933 he signalled his intention to get Congress to move with unprecedented speed to fix the nation’s dire social and economic distress … and in so doing set what’s now seen as a benchmark by which the early successes – and failures – of new regimes can be measured?

It was none of these. It was Councillor Kevin Guy (pictured) who after this month’s Liberal Democrats’ Guildhall coup is the leader-in-waiting of Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES).

He’s got a job on his hands, but the White House or 10 Downing Street it isn’t.

His use of the First 100 Days Thing highlights worryingly the ways in which the pretensions and posturings of Westminster have been and are being aped in local government, most commonly by councils in which party politics hold sway. The switch away from Committee to Cabinet governance, encouraged by Tony Blair, was another. It can and patently does leave ‘backbench’, opposition, and independent councillors excluded from the decision-making process. Yet another was the salary escalator on which applicants for senior bureaucratic posts – Chief Executives, Directors of this and that – were enticed to clamber. The salary of Somerset County Council’s Chief Executive is £166,851. The going rate for B&NES Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service at 2019/20 was on a fixed range from £150,000 to £160,000. These salaries compare most agreeably with that the UK’s Prime Minister, which in 2020 was £161,866 (including his/her salary as an MP).

It’s easy to see how one can be carried away by self-aggrandizement or ego, especially during one’s First 100 Days.

My goals for Avon & Somerset policing

MENDIP councillor Heather Shearer (pictured) is the Liberal Democrat candidate in the Avon & Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner election on May 6. She tells the Bath Telegraph about the importance of supporting victims of crime and working to prevent people from offending and re-offending.

‘I would ensure there was a police station in the heart of Bath, as there should always have been …’

Why do you want to be Avon & Somerset’s Police & Crime Commissioner?

I want to improve people’s lives and reduce crime; the role of PCC is a great opportunity to ensure the views and concerns of all of our residents are heard.

What do you point to as your qualifications and related experience for the post?

I have experience in scrutinising the PCC as vice chair of the Police and Crime Panel that is set up for that purpose. I have supported partnership working to prevent crime and improve community safety through the Safer Somerset Partnership. I became involved in these bodies as part of my role as councillor and so understand the need to listen to people in your area and represent their interests. Of course, I am also a resident in the area and so as qualified as anyone else to know what people want from their Police.

 
 What specific changes do you have in mind for policing in the constabulary? 

I want to re-direct the resources available to increase the number and support given to our community policing teams, to bring more focus on enforcing the high volume crimes that blight people’s lives. I want to review the police stations across the force area and ensure they are delivering what is needed. I want to ensure the services that are commissioned through the PCC’s office are effectively supporting victims of crime and working to prevent people from offending and re-offending. I believe we can so much more to protect the victims of domestic abuse and to stop the abuse before it gets dangerous.

Do you think that policing in this constabulary has become too ‘touchy-feely’?

I don’t think that, and no-one I have spoken to or heard from has said that to me. Frontline officers themselves have told me that they are having to deal with more complex situations, often responding to people who have not been supported because of the underfunding in health and social services. The police are often the backstop for people with mental health problems and so they need to be able to respond to incidents in different ways. They also realise the benefits of working with communities; we rightly police by consent and so will always work with people.

 
The constabulary has run programmes for officers such as Cultural Intelligence and Inclusive Leadership. What is your opinion of them?  

I think the way to change behaviours and culture in an organisation is to ensure that all officers are trained in those values and that the leadership embody and demonstrate those values consistently. The diversity and inclusion work that the constabulary has done so far seems to be very well set up. Success will come when the culture fully reflects those values and all officers and staff feel they are safe to call out and challenge any problems they see.

 
The appointment of a new Chief Constable will be at the top of the PCC’s to-do list. What qualities will you be looking for in him/her? 

I would want them to be able to instil the force values in all of the officers and staff, to lead by example and to have enormous empathy and communication skills. I would also want them to want to focus on prevention and early intervention in people’s lives to ensure they don’t get into crime in the first place. I would also want them to value working in partnership with local authorities, community groups, health and social care providers.

 Are you able to promise the restoration in Bath of what people would recognize as ‘proper’ 24/7 police station, as distinct from the part-time inquiry desk the city has now?

I would ensure there was a police station in the heart of Bath as there should always have been, and that it was resourced properly. Last year there were 1.8m unsolved crimes nationally, and that figure does not include crimes that were never reported. People think there is no point in reporting a crime. I want people to be assured that if they call the police something will happen. Part of that reassurance is a properly resourced Police station and more officers on the streets.

One of the criticisms of the PCC reform was – and remains – that it risks politicizing policing, even though PCCs are required to swear an oath of impartiality when they are elected. As a Liberal Democrat PCC, how will you ensure that this does not happen in Avon & Somerset? 

The PCC is there to represent the interests of all people on the force area, regardless of their political preferences, whether they vote or not. As PCC I would be focussing on ensuring we deliver the quality of policing that we need here in Avon and Somerset. I would not be blindly following a national manifesto.

The PCC system was introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government because, it said, the old local government police committees lacked accountability and profile. Since then, Mrs May has said she feared that as Home Secretary she had created a ‘monster’ in the switch to directly-elected crime commissioners, adding that the reform had met with only ‘mixed success’ and, of course, historically low turnouts in PCC elections. In 2014, the Liberal Democrats said the change had failed and that the PCC posts should be abolished, although they are fielding candidates this year. What could be done to strengthen the public’s confidence in policing and the PCC system and lift voter turnout?  

The best way to increase confidence is to increase transparency and communication with the public. I would make that a priority. Most people have no idea about the PCC role and what can be achieved when it works well and I would want to change that perception. With regard to policing, we need to ensure that people are properly consulted about major changes planned in their area. We need to explain what informs the operational decisions that are made. And we need to ensure people know what enforcement work is being done and to follow through when people make reports. The bottom line is that if people see better results – more successful prosecutions, less anti-social behaviour on our streets, safer roads – they will be more engaged.

Pub’s plea: Save our bar!

THE HARE & HOUNDS on Bath’s northern edge is one of the town’s finest inns and, unlike many of the equally fine pubs in the centre, it has a large garden, the valley view from which is flawless. The pub, however, is facing a serious problem with the planning department at Bath & North-East Somerset Council (B&NES).

Joe Cussens, Managing Director at The Bath Pub Company, explains that at the end of the first LockDown last year, he built in two weeks an outdoor bar (pictured). ‘It was a huge team effort in response to an unprecedented situation. Thank God we did – it made a massive difference to our all-too-brief summer trading period. And right now, when we can trade only outside, it’s proving a vital lifeline, too.’

That’s not, strangely, a view held by Bath Council which, while saying it’s doing all it can to help businesses recover from pandemic closures, wants the bar taken down voluntarily. Failure to comply could see B&NES starting proceedings to have it removed.

Mr Cussens says he’s been told that a retrospective planning application can be made, which would be encouraging but in this case isn’t because he’s also been told approval is ‘extremely unlikely’.

‘Bearing in mind that we’ve been shut for seven of the last 12 months and restricted to outside trading for much of the remainder, we think that’s pretty harsh.’

A retrospective planning application has been submitted, and the Bath Pub Company is asking for public support.

‘Our outdoor bar isn’t visible from the road, from any neighbouring property, or from the other side of the valley. It’s not a permanent structure and could be removed by a future pub tenant. It provides enjoyment to customers and employment to staff and is a vital means of financial recovery for the pub. What possible harm is it doing to anyone?’

Readers who would like to support the application can do so by going to … https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/webforms/planning/details.html?refval=21%2F01844%2FFUL#comments_Section

Writing to the two Lansdown councillors might also be helpful, since they might have a say in the matter. They are:

Coun. Mark Elliott – Mark_Elliott@BATHNES.GOV.UK

Coun Lucy Hodge –  Lucy_Hodge@BATHNES.GOV.UK

West Wokes up to rainbow crossings

There are some in London, Gloucester has one, and now North Somerset Council looks ready to splash out on a rainbow pedestrian crossing.

The council says it wants to support the LGBTQ+ community and national health initiatives by promoting the installation of the ‘bright new pedestrian crossings’.

The news comes wrapped in the now customary waffle …

The council is developing a policy to ensure their ‘safe and appropriate use’; they would be ‘carefully designed to ensure they’re safe and not confusing for road users and will be implemented at locations where traffic speeds are low’; it’s an exciting scheme that forms part of a ‘broader placemaking and wayfinding initiative’; What does an unsafe, inappropriate, and confusing rainbow crossing look like? What difference would traffic speeds make? What on earth is a ‘placemaking and wayfinding initiative’? In what way does turning black & white zebra crossings into coloured stripes support the LGBTQ+ community and national health initiatives? What national health initiatives?

Bath Abbey, uncovered at last

Picture by Geoffrey Breeze

On-street parking in Bath: Have your say

Free Residents’ Permit for Blue Badge holders

RESIDENTS and businesses across Bath & NE Somerset are being asked by the council for their views on changes it wants to make on charges and terms for on-street parking. The changes would affect everyone who has a parking permit or who might need a visitor’s permit.

The permit proposals include changes to the following:

  • Introducing emissions-based charging for residents’ parking permits (according to how much pollution individual vehicles cause)
  • Trade permits
  • Visitor permits 
  • Medical and social care permits 
  • Hotel, guest house and holiday let permits 

The council says that while are a separate standalone scheme, they are complimentary to other projects designed to improve air quality and the safety of cyclists and pedestrians through active travel schemes.

Residents’ Parking Permits – The proposition is to link the cost of these permits to the emissions of the vehicle, with corresponding rises in cost for diesel and high engine capacity cars, and reductions for cars which have zero emissions. To make the emissions-based prices fair, it is proposed to charge them consistently for all zones where parking is controlled. The council’s analysis shows that around 30% of vehicles are unlikely to have to pay more, compared with our current prices. Under the proposal, the base price of a residents’ parking permit would remain at £100 a year.  The council is working on an equalities assessment process, to ensure that the new arrangements won’t affect any group unfairly.

Emissions-based pricing means that the car’s registration number must be given when applying for a residents’ permit. Up to four vehicles can be included on permits, but the price will be based on the vehicle with the highest emissions. This might reduce flexibility for some users, but has the advantage of reducing misuse, or re-sale of permits to people who are not eligible to use them.

Blue Badge holders would be offered a free Residents’ Permit for their own vehicle, giving them more flexibility to use their badge to travel in other vehicles when required.

The cost of residents’ permits has not been reviewed since 2013,

Visitor Permits – The council currently offers both digital hourly permits and paper full-day permits. Where paper permits are available, it is proposing to introduce paper half-day permits, to give greater flexibility to those who cannot use digital permits. These proposals should make it easier to use permits, and to avoid paying for parking time that isn’t needed. 

What is proposed is an increase in daily charges – currently £1 a day – for visitor parking, which would be phased in over three years, with a 50p per day rise in year one, followed by 25p per day rises in years two and three. 

Trade permits – Go to https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/street-parking-permits-terms-and-conditions/trade-permits for information on costs and conditions.

Business permits – https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/street-parking-permits-terms-and-conditions/business-permits

Hotels, guest houses, and holiday lets – Theproposed changes will take guest parking off residential streets, and bring the cost in line with visitor parking in city centre areas, currently £15 per 24-hour stay. This proposal also reduces the opportunity to misuse the offer of parking for guests or to sell parking on a profit.

The digitization of permits, says the council, will have a number of administrative advantages for businesses in the hospitality sector. There will no longer be a need for paper permits to be displayed in vehicles, or the danger that guests might lose them. A digital permit system will give guests direct evidence of the cost of city centre parking. While Hotel, Guest House and Holiday Let Parking Permits will no longer allow parking on the street, guests can still make use of the national loading and unloading exemption to manage their arrival and departure.

Permits will allow access to all long-term council car parks, giving guests a location which will frequently have less competition for spaces.

Medical and social care professionals – Staff would no longer need to display a paper permit in vehicles, and permits would be immediately renewed each year with an automatic online payment.

The proposition is to increase the cost of a Medical or Social Care permit from £60 to £100 per year. This will harmonize the price with the cost of GP permits, and the baseline charge for Residents’ Parking permits.

The consultation will be open from April 27 to May 24.

 To take part in the consultation go to … https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/form/parking-permits-consultation

Lib Dems to delay councillors’ cash vote

A peasants’ revolt over a proposal to increase the basic allowances that can be claimed by councillors from £7,993 to £11,555 by 2025/26 might not now be necessary … at least not this year. The Liberal Democrats are to propose delaying for one year the recommended higher payments in recognition of the impact of COVID-19.

(https://www.bathtelegraph.co.uk/2021/04/26/more-money-for-councillors-what-planet-are-they-living-on)

Bath & North East Somerset councillors are to be asked at their meeting next month to approve an independent panel’s recommendations to gradually increase basic allowances over the next five years.

Says Councillor Manda Rigby: ‘The Lib Dems are clear that now is not the right time to increase councillors’ basic allowances, given the severe impact of coronavirus on the B&NES community. We recognize that many local residents and businesses are struggling following the multiple lockdowns. Helping the local economic recovery is one of our top priorities as a council.

‘That’s why the Lib Dems will propose delaying implementing the recommendation to increase basic allowances for a year. We do accept the need for the review and the rationale behind the panel’s recommendations. This work had been pending for some years and was initiated before the pandemic hit. In the long term, we need to ensure allowances are set at a fair level. This is important if we want to attract a diverse group of local people to stand as councillors.

‘If we want to attract councillors who are from different backgrounds, such as younger people, disabled people or those from different economic backgrounds, then we need to pay the going rate. While technically a voluntary role, councillors work hard for the community. They dedicate an average of 22 hours per week to council work and are effectively on duty all year round. Current basic councillor allowances thus represent an hourly rate of as little as £7.

‘The Lib Dems recognize the importance of listening to residents and being responsible with taxpayers’ money. We must also ensure we are planning ahead to attract the brightest and best to serve in the council chamber in years to come.”

According to a National Census of Local Authority Councillors, the average age of councillors in 2018 was 59 years. Bath and North East Somerset Council does not collect age data, but the majority of councillors are believed to be between 50 and 70.

Consultation opens on changes to on-street parking, residents’ permits to be based on vehicle emissions

RESIDENTS and businesses are being asked for their views on a series of proposed changes to on-street parking across Bath and North East Somerset.

The four-week consultation runs from today (April 27) until midnight on May 24. People are being asked what they think about proposals to base residents’ parking permit charges on vehicle emissions and changes to move long-stay visitor parking to off-street car parks.

The proposals have been developed by Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES) and are designed to improve air quality while also meeting the council’s ‘wider transport policy aims’.

A council spokesman said: ‘These proposals are designed to complement the council’s ongoing work to improve air quality, cut congestion and reduce vehicle intrusion into neighbourhoods. We want to hear what people think of them and how they will be impacted by the proposals. Please take part and have your say.’

One of the main changes proposed, the council says, is the introduction of emissions-based parking permits for all residents’ parking zones to improve air quality and encourage people to switch to low emission vehicles ‘where owning a vehicle is essential’. Residents parking permit charges have not been reviewed since 2013.

Vehicles would be placed in a charging band according to their recorded CO2 emissions with the DVLA. Residents can check DVLA records to confirm their emissions, or engine capacity, online at https://www.gov.uk/get-vehicle-information-from-dvla

Under the proposal, the base price of a residents’ parking permit would remain at £100 a year with a second permit costing £160 where the most polluting vehicle on the permit emits less than 131g/km of CO2.

Charges for higher polluting vehicles would increase by 5% for each subsequent emissions band. Diesel vehicles would be subject to an additional 25% surcharge in order to reduce NO2 emissions in the shortest possible time.

Where an emissions rating is not available, including vehicles registered before 2001, charges would be based on engine capacity on a similar sliding scale.

Other changes proposed include:

• Residents’ parking visitor permit charges to be increased by 50p a day in year one with subsequent rises of 25p a day in years two and three

• A review of hotel, guest house, and holiday let permits – to re-allocate the parking to car parks and to include the introduction of digitized permits

• A review of medical permits, to include the introduction of digitized permits to counter misuse and an increase to bring the charge in-line with residents’ permits

• An increase in trade permit charges

• The introduction of half-day paper visitor permits to support vulnerable residents unable to access the financial savings offered by digital permits.

Revenue from the proposals would pay for their implementation and running costs with any surplus used to support the development of sustainable transport schemes.

To view the proposals and take part in the consultation go to: https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/parking-permits-consultation-april-2021

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods: Alerts in Bath, and fines and Blue Badge exemptions in London

JOE SCOFIELD of the Bath City Centre Access Group has been busy in the Snowhill and London Road areas, warning of the risks posed by Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in neighbouring districts. 

‘It isn’t about bashing the Liberal Democrat council,’ he writes. ‘It’s just that this particular situation is too awful to ignore.

‘The council has established a timeline for the delivery of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). There are stages in which residents’ associations bid for their location to become an LTN, then work with the council on specific designs, followed by trialling and a wider public consultation period. It seems to me that the timeline serves to empower residents’ associations hoping to displace their traffic onto other people’s streets.

‘By the time that the wider public consultation is reached, a powerful residents’ association will have rallied a lot of support for their proposed LTN – forging a network of individuals immersed in the subject, knowing the arguments and the soundbites, being more familiar with the system having worked with the council on the design of the LTN, and having held their councillors’ ear on the subject for some time.

‘In contrast, a community such as Snowhill, which would be on the receiving end of the displaced traffic, may face an uphill climb if residents decide to resist the scheme.

‘There would be the challenge of trying to mobilize people around the estate to speak up within the timeframe of the consultation period. This would involve residents becoming aware of the issue: not just to vaguely know about it, but to also grasp its implications for them. People who do tiring manual work would have to find the time and energy to research the subject. Those who rely on their ’phones to browse the internet might find it harder to engage with online resources and surveys, and council spin around the subject has to be unpicked.

‘So I’ve been in favour of pre-empting the council’s timeline a bit by flyering the potentially-affected streets.

‘This at least gives residents a head start by letting them know in good time about the possible consequences of LTNs for their community. If councillors behave in an unethical manner by seemingly supporting unacceptable levels of traffic displacement, or by working with a residents’ association without updating the nearby communities, then that can be exposed early on, too.’

IN London meanwhile, fines from cameras in LTNs run by Southwark Council have generated £2.5 million after the scheme’s launch, according to data revealed in answer to a Freedom of Information request lodged by the RAC.

Fixed penalty charges have been issued to road users by three LTN cameras installed in Dulwich and one in Walworth. In Dulwich Village, drivers  received 22,424 fines between January 11 and February 28. This will have amounted to more than £1.5 million in revenue with each driver having to hand over £65. In Walworth, 29,530 infractions have been captured using just one camera, generating more than £1 million in fines.

The local authority has had to make changes to its LTN schemes after a trial period, including to assist of Blue Badge holders. Those with a badge – which allow motorists to park closer to their destination if they or someone they care for is disabled – in Dulwich Village or Walworth Low Traffic Scheme areas will now be eligible for exemption.

Southwark Council said: ‘In the course of listening to people who live in the Dulwich Village and Walworth LTN trial areas, we have learned that Blue Badge holders might be disproportionately impacted by the schemes. Blue Badge holders often have reduced mobility, which can make walking and cycling much more difficult. In the interest of equality and in response to our residents, we are therefore inviting Blue Badge holders to register for an exemption.’