South Gloucestershire’s ruling Conservative group have rejected a motion by the opposition Liberal Democrats, calling for an end to planned severe cuts to the local NHS.
Lib Dem Deputy Leader, Cllr Claire Young (Westerleigh), said: “We asked the Council to call on the Government to halt the so-called “Capped Expenditure Process,” which will see our local NHS singled out for extra NHS cuts along with 13 other areas of the country from next year. Instead, the Conservatives introduced a watered-down motion, which stops short of calling for an end to these planned cuts.
“The Conservatives say that the NHS should tighten its belt and live within its means – but the Health Service has reached a point where it can’t tighten its belt much further without vital services being lost, and it’s patients who will suffer as a result.”
Lib Dem Councillor Linda Boon (Chipping Sodbury) described to the Council her recent experience of cutbacks in the NHS. After waiting months for a cataract operation, she was told that she was no longer eligible, because NHS policy had changed – meaning she will now have to wait until she is almost blind in the affected eye before she will be able to have the surgery.
Claire concluded: “We are hearing of more and more cases like Linda’s. It is not fair of the Conservatives to pass the buck to local NHS managers to make these sorts of cuts. The decision not to invest more in the local NHS is, ultimately, a political choice and it’s Conservative MPs who must be held responsible for that. The Lib Dems believe that income tax should be raised by a penny on the pound to ensure that the NHS has the extra funding it so desperately needs.”
South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet meeting on 4th December decided unanimously to move Thornbury Library into Turnberries.
They reached their decision with hardly any debate despite a lengthy consultation exercise which saw the public reject the move by a large majority of more than two to one. Most of the 50 letters opposed the move too, and so did Thornbury Town Council, who set out their concerns at length.
Speaking to the Cabinet, Thornbury’s Lib Dem Councillors, Maggie Tyrrell and Clare Fardell, as well as David Chubb (Conservative) all strongly opposed the move. They pointed out that Turnberries is not seen as part of the Town Centre, and is inconvenient for many people to reach. The move is likely to have a bad impact on the shops, cafes and other nearby businesses.
“Why ask local people for their views and then ignore them?” asked Clare Fardell. “Unfortunately that has lately become a habit of those who control South Glos Council.”
An audible gasp greeted Cllr Heather Goddard’s announcement that “Thornbury is a dying town,” as she claimed that if Turnberries contained the Library, it would attract more people into the town.
Maggie Tyrrell immediately pointed out that the thriving café, pubs, restaurants and other attractions already make Thornbury a very popular destination.
After the meeting Cllr Shirley Holloway (Lib Dem) said, “I can’t believe Heather said what she did. We all know very few other towns provide so much voluntary community activity, from our amazing Thornbury in Bloom and the Christmas Lights to a huge and growing variety of clubs and societies.”
Local councillors will do their best to overturn this decision but the Cabinet decision will not be easy to reverse.
Local health managers have rowed back on proposals to cut the upper age limit for which women are eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS, after protests by local campaigners, including Lib Dem councillors Sue Hope and Claire Young.
Cllr Sue Hope said: “I welcome the fact that the local CCG have listened to the hundreds of people who replied to the consultation and are keeping the age limit for IVF treatment at 40 for women, rather than being reduced to 35, as initially proposed. However, I’m concerned that the CCG still propose that any woman whose partner has a child from a previous relationship will not be eligible for IVF treatment. On top of this, we have been warned that there will be many more cuts announced after the New Year.”
Cllr Claire Young said: “The CCG have listened this time, but under current Tory spending plans, they will still be forced to make millions in cuts to local NHS services in the coming years. Blame for these cuts lies not with the CCG, but with Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt. Together with Bristol and North Somerset, South Gloucestershire is one of only 14 areas in the country targeted for extra cuts under the Conservative Government’s Capped Expenditure Process.
“The Conservatives will say that the local NHS needs ‘to live within its means’ but the reality is that many NHS services are already being stretched close to breaking point. We are calling for greater investment in the NHS so that health managers can concentrate on how to improve services, not how to cut them. I would like to thank everyone who has already signed our petition to protect local NHS funding. If you haven’t already signed, you can do so here: http://www.southgloslibdems.org.uk/ivf.”
South Gloucestershire Council’s ruling Conservative group voted through a Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) on Wednesday night that will see nearly 33,000 built across the area over 19 years. The Liberal Democrats voted against, with most Labour councillors abstaining.
Lib Dem councillor for Westerleigh, Claire Young, warned that the plan could prove a gift to big housing developers, saying: “much of the housing in this plan is concentrated in just five locations: Buckover, Charfield, Coalpit Heath, Thornbury, and Yate. Coalpit Heath alone is expected to double in size with an extra 1,800 houses.
“Not only will this place undue stress on those few communities, there is a very real risk that developers will argue the market in these areas won’t bear them building as quickly as expected – so they should have permission to build elsewhere too. These sorts of speculative developments are already happening, and are a big problem for local communities. The plan proposed by the Conservatives will just risk making the problem worse.”
Yate North councillor Mike Drew said: “The Conservatives claim that this plan will boost “Affordable Housing” – but they define this as houses costing 80% of the local market rate – far beyond what most people would consider affordable. In the time I have lived here, the number of houses in Yate and Sodbury have increased by 50% but prices have continued to rise. The Conservative plans for further houses on top of the 2,500 already in the pipeline will not improve that situation. The reality is that multiplying the number of houses that need to be built will just magnify the problems of land-banking by big developers, allowing them to flout plans and demand extra sites for development.”
Cllr Pat Hockey (Frampton Cotterell) said: “This JSP could have been a great opportunity to plan for the future of our area and combat the national housing crisis. Instead it has sold South Gloucestershire down the river with an overconcentration of new houses, few of which will be affordable for local people. It would take decades to build the infrastructure needed to meet this plan, even if we get the money for it, which is by no means certain. On top of that, the plan will see the narrowest part of the local Green Belt built upon, and see South Gloucestershire lumbered with the greatest loss of Green Belt in the West of England.”
Cllr Dave Hockey (Frampton Cotterell) said: “In recent years, planning policies have required an average of around 988 houses a year to be built in South Gloucestershire. This JSP, will require a staggering 1,711 houses to be built on average each year. There is no way developers will stick to this rate of building within the permitted locations, meaning that we will be stuck with development by speculative application until 2037, or until the Government changes the law to get tough with the big developers. At the moment it’s all carrots and no sticks for developers and it’s local residents who suffer as a result.”
South Gloucestershire’s ruling Conservative group last night voted through the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) which will see nearly 33,000 new houses built in South Gloucestershire over nineteen years. 3,200 are planned for Charfield, Thornbury and the new ‘Buckover Garden Village’ alone – with a further 1,500 anticipated at Buckover in the longer term.
Voting against the JSP, Lib Dem councillor for Charfield, John O’Neill said: “This plan will more than double the number of houses in Charfield ward to over 5,000. It will create even larger commuter areas in Charfield and Buckover and continue to leave both settlements isolated in terms of medical facilities. I would defy anyone to get from Charfield to Southmead for an appointment and back in the same day using public transport.”
Lib Dem Prospective MP for Thornbury and Yate, Cllr Claire Young said: “No one is asking for our villages to be set in aspic. We fully acknowledge the need for more affordable homes in South Gloucestershire, but this plan concentrates a huge amount of development in just a few areas – threatening to make some communities unrecognisable within a few years. The new developments have simply not been properly thought through. The so-called ‘Buckover Garden Village’ will be cut in two by the busy A38. Vague talk in the JSP about ‘consideration being required to ensure the A38 can continue to act as an effective relief road to the M5 without detriment to the new resident’s health & wellbeing’ is meaningless.”
Cllr Maggie Tyrell (Thornbury South & Alveston) said: “The plan proposed by the Conservatives doesn’t give us any hope that what Thornbury needs, Thornbury will get. Buckover is projected to have 3,000 houses in the long term, but where is the transport infrastructure to serve this huge development? A Metrobus route there in 20 years’ time will be no good if most of the houses are built before then. This plan is a mess. We’re getting houses in all the wrong places.”
Cllr Shirley Holloway (Thornbury South & Alveston) said: “This plan bills ‘Buckover Garden Village’ as a separate community, but the reality is that it will be separated from Thornbury by little more than a field and will be reliant on Thornbury for its shops, schools, and other services and other amenities. Such a large development will place significant strain on existing community infrastructure.”
Thornbury North councillor Clare Fardell said: “We are very conscious of the need for affordable homes in Thornbury, but the definition of “Affordable Housing” used in the JSP is 80% of local market rate – or around £240,000 in the case of Thornbury. That is hardly affordable to most people, certainly not local young people hoping to remain in the area. I fear it will only be big developers who benefit from this plan, not local people.”
Conservative councillor David Chubb (Thornbury North) commended the JSP, saying that Thornbury would need more houses when the new nuclear power station is built.
The JSP was passed by the Conservative majority on the Council. All Liberal Democrat councillors voted against, with most Labour councillors abstaining.