Tories running South Gloucestershire are hiding the West of England Devolution Deal away from the public, say leading Liberal Democrats.
Cllr Sue Hope (Cotswold Edge) said: “It’s outrageous. There are public events happening around Bristol, and Bath & North East Somerset. Only South Gloucestershire is shutting the residents out.
“Lots of our residents don’t have fast, reliable internet services – but the only consultation we have is online. The information about it is online. The audio version is online. How to get a braille copy – is online. It’s completely unacceptable that South Glos alone are not organising public events. The leader of the Council, Matthew Riddle, promised me he would look into this – so we know they’ve deliberately decided not to do any. This is a big change in local government, and residents know nothing about it.”
Cllr Claire Young (Westerleigh) added: “It doesn’t make any sense. Bristol residents have six public events around the city where they can learn about the deal. There’s another six in Bath & North East Somerset, in Bath, Keynsham, Chew Magna. But if you live in Yate, or Thornbury, or Frampton Cotterell, our council has decided you don’t deserve a chance to meet people and discuss the deal. You’re limited to an online survey. It’s absolutely not good enough.”
South Gloucestershire Council today began its consultation on the Policies, Sites, and Places document (http://www.southglos.gov.uk/PSPpublication).
Cllr Claire Young, Liberal Democrat lead member on Environment & Communities said:
"It’s disappointing that there are open spaces that have not been protected in this document because of objections by South Gloucestershire Council itself as the landowner. If these spaces have been needed before, they're even more needed now when more houses have brought more people needing open spaces. I welcome the fact that we've banked the progress we could, and the policies that are so important when making development control decisions. Local residents need to use the consultation to make it clear to the council that their valued green spaces deserve protection, now and into the future."
Liberal Democrat campaigners for better broadband have welcomed the news that more money is available for broadband in our rural areas – but warn that it should be used for the right technology.
South Glos Council has announced that a number of villages are likely to benefit from an extra £1.49m for better broadband. Campaigners are concerned that the money will be wasted on solutions that don’t deliver the speed and reliability people and businesses need. At a recent council meeting, Liberal Democrats challenged the Conservatives running the council to get the technology right.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Claire Young said: “Upgrading the local cabinet to fibre won’t help much if your home is connected to that cabinet by a long length of copper wire. Your broadband will still be slow and unreliable. I have called on the Tories running South Glos council to talk to councils that have already delivered future-proof pure-fibre solutions in conjunction with BT Open Reach. If the Superfast Cornwall project can deploy a pure-fibre solution to over 85,000 premises, why can’t that happen in our rural areas?”
She added, “Local campaigners are frustrated that they can’t get more information about how the money is being used. They want to know that tax payers’ money is being spent on technology that will deliver speed, reliability and value-for-money in the long term, not just stop gap measures.”
Cllr Sue Hope, representing Cotswold Edge added: “Good access to broadband is vital for our rural residents and businesses. It’s not just for buying things online, or watching streaming TV – everything like booking a doctor’s appointment, finding out about community events, and tracking what your Councillors and MPs are up to can be done online. Our businesses need to be able to place their own orders, and be available to consumers, to be competitive. Physical presence used to be everything, but now it’s all about being online. Our modern businesses have to be part of the modern economy, and that means being available online, with a high speed connection. We need a long-term solution, and we need it now. A good internet connection isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s essential.”
The Liberal Democrats in Thornbury and Yate have announced that their new Parliamentary Candidate is Councillor Claire Young. A well known local campaigner, she will lead the party's activity across the constituency, replacing Steve Webb who recently announced he would not be continuing in the role. Claire Young was elected following a ballot of members, in a strong field.
Steve Webb said: "I have known and worked closely with Claire for many years and she has been at the centre of all we have been doing with local people. I am delighted to be passing on the baton, to someone who is as energetic and committed to the community as Claire Young. I will be giving her my full support in the urgent work to be done to help our country and community."
Claire Young said: "Steve has been a rock for our community and brought improvements in the lives of so many people locally and nationally. I am humbled by the confidence people have placed in me. Over the years I have met so many lovely people working together for our community I am really looking forward to my changed role in that work. There is a lot to be done, giving people control over their lives, helping those who are struggling to keep their heads above water, finding new ways to avoid the effects of the terrible cuts Tories have been imposing on our community. "
She has already launched her first major campaign, asking people to 'Tell Claire' what they most want done to help them - "it may be a local problem, it may be a service that needs improving, or it may be getting some aspect of the state off people's backs. People want control over their own lives, but with access to support when they need it. The new prime minister has promised to give people control, but many people will remember Mrs Thatcher's nice words when she was elected, and she did nothing to provide the support people want in times of trouble. Only Liberal Democrats are fully committed to that balance of giving people control over their own lives, but making sure there is support available when you need it."
Claire added: "The party locally has been going from strength to strength recently, with a massive influx of members, particularly young people determined to use their energy to help build the future for them and their families. The party now has more members than at any time in over a decade."
Claire Young has been Liberal Democrat Councillor for Westerleigh Ward since 2007, and is Deputy Leader for the Liberal Democrats on South Gloucestershire Council. She lives locally in Coalpit Heath with her family.
Liberal Democrats across South Gloucestershire are calling for more local housing to be affordable for people living here.
John Davis is the only South Glos Councillor for the Yate area under 30. He says: “A 3 bedroom house in Yate is around the £200,000 mark; meaning to get a house you need a household income of around £47,500 and a £10,00 deposit not including the £3,000-£4,000 in legal fees and stamp duty.”
Most people in South Gloucestershire earn slightly over £21k a year.
Eva Lily Fielding in Thornbury has already highlighted the plight of lower-earners in the west of the district, telling the Gazette “I find it ridiculous that they call these homes affordable – affordable to whom?”
The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework has a definition of affordable rented properties – at 80% or below of the average local rents – but houses to buy have no strict definition.
Claire Young, lead member for strategic planning and communities said: “Young people who grew up around here are getting good jobs, but finding they have no prospect of buying a home near their families and work. It just doesn’t add up – you can’t have a housing ladder if people can’t afford to get on the bottom rung. We need more “real affordable” housing, and complete communities, not endless estates of executive houses.”