Feb 2017 - Cabot eNews

February's edition of Cabot eNews.

In this edition:
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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
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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
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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!
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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
parksbyelaws@bristol.gov.uk . The bye-laws proposals and all relevant
information can be viewed online at: https://tinyurl.com/zzkqv42
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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
hello@bristolwastecompany.co.uk 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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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

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