Editor : David Kernek (kernekdavid@gmail.com)

Prince Harry’s memoir threat

DISMAYING but unsurprising news from California: Prince Harry is writing a memoir that he says will tell the ‘wholly truthful’ story of his life. He promises or threatens a ‘first-hand account’ of his life so far, including ‘mistakes’ he has made and the ‘lessons’ he has learned.

‘I’m writing this not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become. I’ve worn many hats over the years, both literally and figuratively, and my hope that in telling my story – the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned – I can help show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think.’

It’s reported that the as yet untitled masterpiece – expected to be unleashed late next year – will be ghost-written by the American journalist and novelist J R Moehringer, and that the duke is to pocket a $20 million advance from the publisher Penguin Random House.

Yet more Royal rubbish …

THE CAMBRIDGES are said to be considering not publishing an official photograph of Prince George to mark his 8th birthday this year.

The Duchess of Cambridge has reportedly been ‘upset’ after trolls mocked his suit and laughed at his demeanour following the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

Royal biographer Angela Levin has suggested they might break with tradition this year due to previous attacks from online trolls.

Red & white barriers to go

MOST of the red and white barriers that have been put on Bath streets to enforce physical distancing will be removed this week in line with government guidance on the lifting of restrictions. Parking spaces that were removed will be restored.

The roads which will see the barriers removed this week are: Westgate Buildings, Dorchester Street, Ambury, Somerset St., Moorland Road, Chapel Row, Monmouth Place, North Parade, Orange Grove, Terrace Walk, Broad Street, Walcot Street, Northampton Street, Camden Road, Weston High Street, Lansdown Lane and St Saviour’s Road, Larkhall. 

Temporary access restrictions in the centre will remain in place for the time being.

The roads affected are: Cheap Street, Westgate Street, Saw Close, Upper Borough Walls, York Street, Milsom Street and Kingsmead Square.

In Kingsmead Square and Milsom Street, current restrictions will continue as experimental traffic regulation orders and a consultation will be launched to enable people to have their say over whether or not these should be made permanent.

Full consideration, the council says, is being made on the impact of access restrictions on disabled people and those with walking difficulties.

Success for Save Our Bar protest

THERE’S good news this weekend for the Bath Pub Company and the Hare & Hounds, one of the town’s finest inns.

At the end of the first LockDown last year, and in an attempt to keep the pub open, the company built an outdoor bar in its large garden. But Bath Council, while saying it was doing all it could to help businesses recover from pandemic closures, said the bar breached planning regulations and ordered its demolition … even though it presented no problems for neighbours and was not a blot on the landscape.

A retrospective planning application, supported by hundreds of residents and customers, has now been considered and permission has been granted … better late than never!

https://www.bathtelegraph.co.uk/2021/04/29/pubs-plea-save-our-bar

On-street parking plans revised

PLANS to change the on-street parking permit system in Bath have been amended to achieve a ‘rebalance’ of scarce parking space’ towards residents.

Bath and North East Somerset Council had proposed to base residents’ parking permit charges on vehicle emissions and to move long stay visitor parking to off-street car parks. It also planned to increase the cost of on-street parking, along with changes to hotel, guest house and holiday let permits to accommodate long-stay visitors in the city centre in off-street car parks, and changes to medical permits and trade permits.

After a consultation that attracted more than 1,000 responses with more than 3,000 comments, a report has been made which recommends the council changes its plans. It says that emissions-based residents permits should be made more affordable and flexible by introducing a monthly and three-month permit alongside six-month and 12-month permits.

Inner and outer zones for new hotel permits to allow guests staying outside the city centre to continue to park on-street is also recommended. But the new hotel permits would be available only to existing permit holders and not to new premises.

The report also proposes that guests who have Blue Badges staying in the new inner area would continue to be able to use on-street parking with a hotel permit and the display of their Blue Badge.

Councillor Manda Rigby, cabinet member for transport, said: ‘The changes to on-street parking charges fit into the jigsaw of our other transport schemes to achieve better air quality for Bath and North East Somerset, make charging fairer and nudging residents to consider air quality when they purchase a car. They affect everyone who lives, works, or travels in the permit areas.

‘We are also proposing a re-balance of the scarce parking space towards priority to residents, whilst visitors will be able to use council car parks as is the case in many tourist cities. The plans that have been revised after listening to residents aim to offer more flexibility for people who will be most affected by the charges, by offering different time period options.’

E-scooter safety campaign launched in Bath

A PROGRAMME to make e-scooter use safer in Bath has been launched … better very late than never.

Voi Technology, the city’s leading e-scooter operator, has started a ‘Ride Safe, Park Smart’ campaign to encourage users wear helmets and parking properly.

Helmet-wearers are to get five loyalty points at the end of their ride, which can go towards discounted trips.

Jessica Hockey, senior manager, partnerships and marketing UK and Ireland at Voi Technology said: ‘Safety is at the heart of all our marketing activity and the goal of this large scale, multi-channel campaign is to ensure our riders have these key safety messages at the top of their mind at all times.’

The campaign runs for four weeks from July 14.

Jack Samler, general manager at Voi UK and Ireland, said: ‘People in the UK have embraced Voi’s e-scooters with more than 3.5 million rides taken so far. Whether it’s riding to work, running errands or visiting friends and family, we’re committed to ensuring all riders know the rules of the road and are safe when they’re on the move.’

Safety features implemented recently include a reaction test to discourage users from riding under the influence of alcohol. A beginner mode lets users limit the e-scooter speed to 10mph until they get used to the scooter. A helmet selfie uses an image-classifier that can immediately detect if a user is wearing a helmet with 95% accuracy. An end-of-ride photo system requires users to take and submit a photo of their parked e-scooter. Riders who fail to park correctly receive a warning in the first instance, and following that there can be a £25 fine.

Voi says it works closely with disability associations, including the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB), to ensure the needs of vulnerable groups are heeded during the UK trials. This has seen the testing of an e-scooter sound to help alert blind and visually impaired people when an e-scooter approaches, and the introduction of RNIB-approved parking racks in cities such as Birmingham and Southampton.

Council’s finances ‘back on track’

REPORTS on Bath & North East Somerset Council’s finances reveal that early action to deal with losses arising from the pandemic has brought the council’s finances back on track, delivering a balanced budget for 2020/21 and enabling it to continue to invest in the priorities it set out in its budget this February.

But the 2021/22 forecast does highlight that losses from heritage income might result in a projected £1.9 million overspend at the end of the financial year without further action.

The reports highlight how – despite the pandemic – the council delivered an on-budget outturn in 2020/21, with a slight improvement to its predicted end-of-year accounts. This was due to the early actions taken by the council to ensure financial recovery from income losses, especially in heritage and parking, as well as further underspends in adult social care services and the receipt of additional Covid Grant. The favourable outturn means the council can press ahead with its capital investment plans.

The reports make it clear that further financial challenges lie ahead unless additional grant funding is forthcoming as Covid restrictions continue to impact income, particularly from the Roman Baths.

Councillor Richard Samuel, deputy council leader and cabinet member for Resources and Economic Development, said: ‘I am delighted that through our early action in the face of the pandemic and our prudent financial management we’ve been able to stabilize the council’s finances without drawing too heavily on our reserves. It is a significant achievement considering the financial pressures caused by the pandemic with substantial loss of income from our heritage, parking and commercial rent income combined with new Covid related expenditure.

“We are in a position where we can press ahead with delivering on our Corporate Strategy commitments, particularly relating to tackling the climate and ecological emergency. However, there are words of caution that I’d like to say. If the third wave is followed by a fourth wave and further restrictions that affect our key income streams are imposed, I have not ruled out the need to take emergency action to control expenditure this year as I did last year. I’m under no illusions that we are out of the woods yet and we will continue to face financial challenges posed by the pandemic for a number of years.”

The budget agreed by council in February this year allocated £9.11 million of investment in schemes which tackle the climate and ecological emergency, including two new Renewable Energy Funds totalling £1.9 million for renewable energy projects and to retrofit the council’s own energy plant and equipment, as well as support for the natural environment through the £5.11 million Bath River Line project.

Investment plans for the climate and ecological emergency have received a boost through Public Sector Decarbonation Programme projects for Cleveland Pools and Charlton House, bringing the total capital allocation to £10.109 million. Funding has also been earmarked for transport schemes including a £2.2 million investment in Liveable Neighbourhoods. The council’s cabinet will be told next week that the authority is well-placed to sustain its investment programme as its total borrowing of £243.5 million remains well below its provisional Capital Financing Requirement of £326.9 million

Bath Tories call for Covid victims memorial

CONSERVATIVE councillors have called for a memorial to be constructed in honour of those in Bath and North East Somerset who have lost their live to Covid-19. They have tabled a motion for debate when the council meets next week.

The motion seeks to recognize those people who have lost their lives due to Covid and pays tribute to key workers and health staff.

If the motion is agreed, the leader of the council will be required to create a cross-party working group to find a way for a blossom tree memorial, or other suitable memorial, to be created at an appropriate location.

Coun. Vic Pritchard, leader of the B&NES Conservative Group (pictured), said: ‘We are tabling this motion because we wish to honour those people in our local area who have lost their lives as a result of Covid.

“The pandemic has been a challenging time for all of us but for some people, it has been devastating. We wish to extend a hand to those who have lost loved ones and to find a way for our community to heal. A memorial at a suitable location would be a fitting way to honour the victims of Covid and to thank all they key workers and health staff who have looked after us over the past year.”

At the time of writing, 293 people in Bath and North East Somerset have died of Covid.

Flats plan for Bath’s empty shops

BATH’S empty shops could be turned into apartments as the council looks at ways to fill a £5 million black hole caused by Covid-19. Of Bath and North East Somerset Council’s 234 commercial properties, four in five are in retail, a sector that has been smashed by the pandemic.

Councillors will be presented with plans to lend cash to Aequus, its development company, and then lease to it the empty units so the company can turn them into flats to be rented.

A report to councillors says: ‘Coronavirus has accelerated the pace of the change in markets, communities and society. This has been acutely felt in the retail property market, meaning that legacy issues of obsolescence and complicated management have been compounded by failing tenants, falling rents, and a need for a greater breadth of skills and new investment. We need to recognize the challenges to vitality in Bath and reduce reliance on tourism.

‘We need to create a sustainable economy with greater opportunity for betterment, greener, healthier outcomes, affordable homes and a stronger, more resilient city which celebrates its unique heritage yet is fit for the future.’

Wanted: Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner

AVON and Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Shelford is looking for a deputy.

The successful candidate will be an experienced leader with a strong sense of civic duty and a passion about the importance of accountability, fairness and equality in policing and criminal justice services.

The role, which is a fixed term four-year contract from November 2021 until the next  PCC election, will support community engagement and partner working on behalf of the PCC as well as helping the PCC in seek the views and concerns of people across Avon and Somerset. The Deputy PCC will also provide support by attending numerous boards with partners and other organizations.

Says Mr Shelford: ‘As I have learnt over the last few months, not one day is the same in the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner,  I’m looking for a dynamic and confident leader who is not afraid to challenge and who takes an analytical and problem-solving approach to complex issues. The new Deputy PCC will have strong influencing and advocacy skills and will be a person with the highest levels of integrity.

If you think you fit the bill, I would love to hear from you and would encourage you to apply.’

The role is part-time – 3 days per week – at a pro rata salary of £39,015.

The closing date for applications is 12pm on 10 August.

To find out more about the role, go to https://www.avonandsomerset-pcc.gov.uk/get-involved/jobs/deputy-police-and-crime-commissioner

Bath Tories reject anti-terror security zone revisions

THE changes made by Bath Council to its anti-terrorist security zone proposals have been dismissed as insufficient by Conservative councillors.

[https://www.bathtelegraph.co.uk/2021/07/13/bath-centre-traffic-ban-revised-but]

Says Councillor Karen Warrington: ‘Although some improvements have been made to the initial proposals, the Conservative group still considers them not fit for purpose and we again call on the cabinet to ditch them for good. The administration claims that access will be maintained for Blue Badge holders through the use of CCTV at key access points. However, no detail has been provided on how this will work on a practical level, and we fear it will be a highly inefficient method of access control.

‘We also note that, in a gross misuse of power, the administration has given itself the right to completely remove what limited access it has granted to Blue Badge holders whenever it sees fit.

‘In February, the UK’s national terrorism threat level was lowered. The Liberal Democrats are using a reduced threat of terrorism to further their anti-motoring agenda with plans that could seriously hamper the local economy as we begin to recover from the pandemic.’