Feb 2017 - Cabot eNews
February's edition of Cabot eNews.
In this edition: _________________ 1. Bristol Council heavily criticised by independent report 2. Metrobus update 3. Harbour power-boat racing update 4. RPZ consultation update 5. Bristol Schools facing severe cuts 6. Parks petition 7. New Parks bye-laws Notice 8. "Spectrum of activity" on Bristol homeless 9. Stephen Williams Selected as Lib Dem Metro Mayor candidate 10. Jacobs Wells Baths public event 11. Friend of the Avon New Cut activity days 12. Clean Streets Campaign Great Bristol Spring Clean 3-5 March 13. Friends of Brandon Hill AGM, Monday 13th Feb 14. Clean Up Bristol Harbour 15. Local exhibitions 16. Neighbourhood Partnership and Forum dates _________________ 1. Bristol Council heavily criticised by independent report A major independent report, commissioned last year by the new Mayor, Marvin Rees, has been published. The report was commissioned when it was discovered that the Council's finances were in a terrible mess. The Council's budget "spending freeze" was triggered by the same realisation. The report is available here: https://tinyurl.com/j3w8nx2 There has been extensive local coverage of the crisis e.g: https://tinyurl.com/jlr4bt8 Naturally, people ask "Who was to blame?" The Bristol Post does a reasonable job of covering the key people of the time: https://tinyurl.com/z53oza9 I want to say is that it is unfair to simply point at the previous Mayor, George Ferguson. While it is a political reality that "The buck stops at the top", from a learning perspective that tells us nothing helpful about why things went wrong - it isn't actually the Mayor's job to be digging deep into the finance figures of various Council departments, nor to be second-guessing what his Council officers are telling him. In my opinion the bulk of the blame lies with the previous Chief Executive (now gone and replaced by Anna Klonowski) and her strategic directors, who from the moment they were hired were contemptuous of the elected Councillors, and implemented a culture of secrecy and unhelpfulness towards politicians who were going about their natural job of scrutinising the Council's behaviour and picking at holes in finances and policies. Instead of viewing the investigative behaviour of politicians as the necessary annoyance of a functioning democracy, they viewed it as an irritation to be limited and ignored, and sought to cut the Council Chamber and even the Cabinet out of the loop. If I have one criticism of the former mayor, it is that he didn't realise how dangerous this kind of culture would be. Finally, I would point out that the Mayoral system itself inevitably makes structural failures like this more common. The Mayoral system by design concentrates all the power in less hands; and this inevitably means there are also less eyes on the workings of the Council. I and the Lib Dems have always opposed the Mayoral system precisely because of this inherent problem. This year's budget looks to be a lively event and is Feb 21st. More info here: https://tinyurl.com/hao3f8a _________________ 2. Metrobus update * City Centre The new bridge deck has been completed to form the new road over the centre linking Baldwin Street with St Augustine's Parade outside the Hippodrome. The new road is expected to be open in early April. * Ashton Avenue Swing Bridge Ashton Avenue Bridge restoration is reaching completion and scaffolding is being removed. For the time being it is closed to pedestrians and cyclists. It will reopen in the spring once construction on both sides of the bridge has been completed. * Avon Crescent/Cumberland Road/Paxton Drive A new guided bus-way is being installed to link the new skew bridge at the bottom of Winterstoke Road to Cumberland Road via Paxton Drive, Ashton Avenue Bridge, the Create Centre and Avon Crescent. * Smeaton Road Smeaton Road will reopen near the end of March. * Chocolate Path In February, contractors start work on the new pedestrian crossing by Vauxhall Bridge and a new access to the Chocolate Path. * Bathurst Basin Bridge Work has begun to build a new bridge alongside the existing bridge which takes Commercial Road over the Bathurst Basin opposite the Louisiana pub. MetroBus will also be linking two existing cycling and walking paths and improving pedestrian crossings in this area. Expect the work to be finished in May. * Prince St The Mayor has re-confirmed that Prince St Bridge will re-open to cars when fixed. The re-opening date has moved back again - it is now April! _________________ 3. Harbour power-boat racing update I have been trying to find out what the Mayor's and Council's plans are for the return of power-boat racing, which has been touted in the media. This hasn't been easy, as the Council is being very coy about it all! So I submitted formal questions to the Mayor and also spoke to the Harbour Master. The questions and responses can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/zg2ce3m _________________ 4. RPZ consultation update As previously reported in Cabot eNews, the Parking Department collated all the responses from the RPZ review for the Spike Island zone and the Cliftonwood and Hotwells zone, and showed them to me last month. In a move for which he deserves real credit, the Mayor asked the department to seek local councillors' views on what changes should be made and to take them into account in their decisions. I haven't heard yet whether the Parking Department agree with me though! After reading through all the responses and looking at the numbers, I suggested no major changes should be made to the Cliftonwood and Hotwells zone south of Hotwells Road (which is the bit in H&H ward and that I am involved in), and I supported the Council's proposal to expand the zone onto parts of Brandon Hill. For the Spike Island zone, after serious consideration, I recommended that the days and hours of operation be equalised with the Cliftonwood and Hotwells zone, which is to say Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm; but that at the same time the Council must take real measures to ensure that local businesses (particularly the Spike Island Arts Centre) are not hit by such a change and are better treated by the RPZ. For both zones I suggested various minor changes requested by residents should be accommodated if possible. _________________ 5. Bristol Schools facing severe cuts Schools in Bristol facing £34million in Government cuts (the worst in the UK according to the media). This is a very serious issue that was first raised in the Council by the Lib Dems - we brought a motion raising the alarm to the Full Council last year. This cut is due to a change in the Government's schools funding formula, which the Government says is to resolve "unfair" funding in previous years. More: https://tinyurl.com/gumgmrz _________________ 6. Parks petition One of the Mayor's future budget proposals is to cut entirely the budget for maintaining Bristol's Parks from 2019 - that's £4million! The rationale is that the entire parks maintenance budget could be satisfied by volunteer effort and income from hiring out the parks to big events. I think this is totally unrealistic and unlikely to be achieved, and could have a devastating effect on the quality of Bristol's parks. We are running a petition against this set of plans: www.bristollibdems.org/parkcrisis _________________ 7. New Parks bye-laws Notice The Council has now moved to the next stage of adopting a new set of parks bye-laws. I fought a series of battles with the Council on this during the two public consultations in 2013 and 2016, as I opposed proposals for extremely illiberal restrictions and bans on what many people consider to be normal park activities (climbing trees, ball games, BBQs, etc). Fortunately I was able to get the Council to back away from the worst proposals, so I have not opposed the final revision of the new bye-laws. You can make a comment before 22nd Feb using the online form and if you need any further clarification or help you can email firstname.lastname@example.org . The bye-laws proposals and all relevant information can be viewed online at: https://tinyurl.com/zzkqv42 _________________ 8. "Spectrum of activity" on Bristol homeless The Council has launched an initiative to provide 100 bed spaces for homeless people in 100 days, together with 150 volunteers helping 7 churches opening their doors to homeless people. The Mayor has called it a "Spectrum of activity". Hopefully this will relieve the increasingly dire problem of rough-sleepers on Bristol's streets. More info: https://tinyurl.com/grbwtr9 _________________ 9. Stephen Williams Selected as Lib Dem Metro Mayor candidate Lib Dem members across Bristol, S Gloucestershire, and Bath and NE Somerset councils have selected former Bristol West MP and government minster, Stephen Williams as Metro Mayor candidate for the May elections. Stephen competed against former leader of Bristol Council, Simon Cook, for the role: www.bristollibdems.org/metromayorcandidate The Conservative and Labour parties have both selected relatively unknown councillors as their candidates, from Winterborne and Radstock respectively. The media agree that this contest will be a battle between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, and Ladbrokes betting listed the Lib Dems as slight favourites over the Conservatives, with the other parties way behind: https://tinyurl.com/jb9skt3 _________________ 10. Jacobs Wells Baths public event The Council is inviting expressions of interest from the dance, music, artistic, cultural and leisure community in taking over the building under Community Asset Transfer. The Council would like to explore how the building can be preserved and its fabric restored, to enable it to remain in public ownership and to meet the needs of Bristol's diverse, artistic and local communities. Speakers will include partner agencies and the local community, and the meeting will be chaired by Simon Birch (Bristol Civic Society). It will also include a Q&A session and an opportunity to network afterwards. The event will take place on Tue 28th February at City Hall (6pm-8pm). For more information and to reserve a place: www.tinyurl.com/jwbathsevent More info: https://tinyurl.com/gwy568j _________________ 11. Friend of the Avon New Cut activity days The next FrANC event of 2017 will be held Saturday 11th March, 10am. They are meeting from 9.50am Gaol Ferry Bridge (Coronation Road side). Wear warm, waterproof clothing and strong shoes, and bring protective gloves if you have them. They will supply spare gloves, litter-pickers and rubbish bags. In the event that they are forced to postpone the Clean-up because of extreme weather conditions then a notice to that effect will be posted in the News & Events/Latest News section of the FrANC website: www.franc.org.uk - early on Saturday morning. _________________ 12. Clean Streets Campaign Great Bristol Spring Clean 3-5 March The Mayor has made a pledge that Bristol will be measurably cleaner by 2020 as a result of his Clean Streets Campaign. He would like clean-ups to happen in every part of the city during 3-5 March weekend, and can assist by providing litter picking kits for you to borrow if you need them and bags to fill with the waste you collect. The Council has a limited supply of these kits (which include litter pickers and hi-vis vests) so they will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. To register your interest please send an email to email@example.com and let them know where and when your litter pick will take place and how many people you expect to be involved. The Council can then arrange a pick up point for the kits and decide how they will collect the bin bags at the end of the session. _________________ 13. Friends of Brandon Hill AGM, Monday 13th Feb The FoBH AGM will be held at the Pavilion, Harbourside, on Monday 13th February, starting at 7pm. Come along to hear about progress on the Conservation Management Plan, volunteering and fundraising. Let them know what the next priorities should be for the hill. _________________ 14. Clean Up Bristol Harbour Clean Up Bristol Harbour is an initiative set up by Chloe Juyon to try to reduce the amount of litter getting into the docks. This is an initiative I'm very happy to support! More info here: http://cleanupbristolharbour.weebly.com _________________ 15. Local exhibitions The Architecture Centre, Narrow Quay: * Life of Clay: Experimental Practice at Grymsdyke Farm - until 12 March 2017. This exhibition brings together the clay works of Grymsdyke Farm, from finely glazed ceramics to intricate 3D printed screens. Spike Island Art Centre: * Lubaina Himid, Navigation Charts - 20 January to 26 March 2017. Lubaina Himid (b. 1954, Zanzibar, lives and works in Preston) works in painting, drawing, installation and printmaking. Spike Island presents the first major UK survey of her work in collaboration with Modern Art Oxford and Nottingham Contemporary. _________________ 16. Neighbourhood Partnership and Forum dates The next Partnership and forum meetings are likely to be dominated by the future of the neighbourhood organisations themselves, as the Mayor is proposing to cut all funding for them in his 2017 budget. This will be a major blow to community activity, so do come along if this concerns you. Central, Clifton and Harbourside Neighbourhood Partnership: Tuesday, 4th April, 7pm, City Hall, College Green. Hotwells and Harbourside forum: Wed 22 March, The Pavilion, Hannover Quay, BS1 5JE, 7pm to 8.30pm