South Gloucestershire’s Cabinet – a farce that cannot continue

Cabinet meeting

The Liberal Democrats have described yesterday’s Cabinet meeting as a farce. Over the past two months, South Gloucestershire Council’s committee meetings have been taking place online, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although some meetings, such as that of the Scrutiny Commission, have gone smoothly, others such as yesterday’s Cabinet have been beset with problems.

At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, many members of all parties were unable to participate in the meeting owing to a range of technical failures – leaving party leaders and other colleagues to fill in as members were called to speak who could not be heard.

Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Claire Young said:

“Councillors of all parties have adapted well to having to take part in meetings online rather than in person, but the farce of today’s meeting has shown that we have a long way to go before we can be confident that our meetings can take place online effectively.

“In a little over three weeks we are expecting the delayed Annual Council Meeting to take place – this will be the largest meeting the Council has attempted since it began online meetings, with 61 members in attendance as well as council officers. The disaster of today’s Cabinet meeting shows how ill-prepared the Council is for that to happen.

“The administration must urgently commit to discovering why South Gloucestershire is struggling so badly to adapt to online meetings, when other Councils appear to have managed it.”

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Council wrong to reject fines for idling engines outside schools

Car polution

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have condemned the decision of the Council’s Cabinet yesterday not to adopt rules to allow the Council to fine people leaving their car engines running unnecessarily outside schools.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Member for the Environment, Cllr Louise Harris said:

“It is deeply disappointing that the administration is unwilling to take this necessary action to clean up the air quality around our schools. In many other areas these powers have been used to bring about significant changes in behaviour.

 “Whilst South Gloucestershire’s Cabinet believes that a small number of fines being issued in some of those areas of the country which have adopted these powers represents failure, we see it as a sign of success – because it means that people are switching off their engines when they are waiting outside schools.

 “If the council was prepared to adopt these regulations, enforce them and run a serious publicity campaign to help drive a change in people’s behaviour, I have no doubt that this would help bring about the change we need – I am disappointed that the Cabinet as decided to ignore this opportunity.

 “South Gloucestershire’s Tories seem to think that you measure how clean the air is by how much money you can make from it, we think you measure how clean the air is by how clean the air is.”

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Luke Hall out of touch on rough sleeping

Rough Sleeping

Thornbury and Yate MP Luke Hall, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, has come under fire for suggesting to local authorities that rough sleepers should be encouraged to “return to friends and family”, amidst rumours that the Government intends to wind down the “Everyone In” scheme – which has temporarily housed thousands of homeless people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a National Audit Office report on homelessness, many people are made homeless as they do not have the option to stay with friends or family; any effort to rehouse vulnerable people with friends, relatives, or partners must ensure that those affected do not become homeless once again, risking mental and physical health.

Cllr Claire Young, Leader of South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats and Parliamentary Spokesperson for Thornbury and Yate said:

“These comments demonstrate how out-of-touch Luke Hall and this Government are with issues around homelessness. Given that Luke is the Minister responsible for homelessness this is truly alarming.

“Luke’s suggestion that local authorities should encourage vulnerable people to return to friends and family is naïve and irresponsible. Of course where people have safe places to stay with friends and family, that will be where people will turn – but in many cases a breakdown of these relationships has led to people becoming homeless in the first place.

“Any effort to move vulnerable people out of emergency accommodation should be carefully planned, with accommodation and continued welfare support provided to individuals.”

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats have pledged if elected to end rough sleeping within five years and to introduce a ‘somewhere safe to stay’ legal duty to ensure that everyone who is at risk of sleeping rough is provided with emergency accommodation and an assessment of their needs.

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Statement on the Death of George Floyd and Events in the USA

George Floyd Memorial

Cllr Claire Young, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on South Gloucestershire Council, has issued a statement on the death of George Floyd and the events in the USA:

"Like so many people, I have been horrified by the scenes we have seen from America in recent days. The senseless murder of George Floyd by the very people whose job it was to protect him has, rightly, sent shockwaves around the world.

Racism is a disease which is not limited to America alone - it infects every part of the world, including the United Kingdom. We may think that South Gloucestershire is immune, but it is not, nowhere is.

Black lives matter. This is an issue where every single one of us needs to make a stand – it is beyond time that everyone turned words into action.

It is vital we do everything we can to combat racial injustice and the hidden racism that too often permeates institutions and society. I am working with my fellow Liberal Democrats locally to identify the steps we can take to combat racial injustice and we would welcome any suggestions from across the community of how we can work together to do that."

Claire Young

Councillor – Frampton Cotterell Ward and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group

07596 338080

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Liberal Democrats slam A4174 cycle-lane debacle

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have hit out at the Council’s Tory administration over its disastrous attempt at an A4174 cycling and walking lane. This was intended to be the first of a series of measures taken to encourage walking and cycling, and to enable social distancing as South Gloucestershire adapts to meet the challenges of Covid-19.

The administration's first attempt at a scheme to create a more sustainable transport network, enabling social distancing, was to create a temporary cycling and walking lane along part of the A4174 at Filton, between Abbey Wood Roundabout and Emma Chris Way, to enable pedestrians and cyclists to maintain social distancing whilst crossing under the nearby railway bridge. But the execution of this idea was so poorly handled, with inadequate communications, signage or other necessary traffic changes, that the Council removed the temporary lane within just five days of putting it in.

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