Lib Dem delight as Louise Harris wins big in Dodington by-election

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats were celebrating last night as Louise Harris became the newest member of South Gloucestershire Council after victory in the Dodington by-election, which was called after the sad death of Lib Dem councillor Gloria Stephen. The Lib Dems increased their share of the vote from 41% to 49% with the Conservatives trailing in second place on 39%.

Commenting after her win, Louise Harris, said:

“I am delighted to have been elected to serve the people of Dodington alongside my fellow Lib Dem councillor Tony Davis. I’d like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor Gloria Stephen, who was a dedicated local councillor and community champion for Dodington. I hope to follow in her footsteps in standing up for local residents and the issues that really matter to them. I would also like to thank everyone in Dodington who came out to vote in this election. Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my utmost to stand up for you and fight your corner on the Council.

“I will now be getting straight down to work, sorting out the various issues that residents have raised with me over the course of the election and keeping my election pledges to fight for more funding for Abbotswood, and get the Tory-run Council to sort out the terrible state of our roads.”

Lib Dem Group Leader, Claire Young, said:

“I’m very pleased to welcome Louise as the latest member of the Lib Dem Group on the Council. She has the energy and determination to make a real difference on the Council. Despite throwing the kitchen sink at this campaign, and using all sorts of desperate and underhand tactics, the Conservatives got nowhere. Clearly the people of Dodington have chosen to reward Louise’s positive campaign rather than the Tories dirty tricks. This victory clearly bodes well for the Lib Dems in May’s local elections, where we will be looking to take back control of South Gloucestershire Council after years of Conservative mismanagement.”      

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Local Lib Dems oppose Conservative plan to give fracking companies “licence to drill” without a planning application

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats are joining thousands of people across the country in opposing the Conservative Government’s proposals to allow fracking companies “permitted development rights” to carry out “non-hydraulic fracturing shale gas exploration” – meaning that they could start drilling without so much as a planning application.

Local Liberal Democrat Planning Spokesperson, Cllr Pat Hockey, said:

“Permitted development rights were originally designed to allow minor developments such as fences and sheds to be put up without a planning application. It beggars belief that the Conservative Government would attempt to abuse this system to allow 100ft drilling equipment to be erected without any say from elected councillors and local people.

“This is yet another shabby attempt by the Conservatives to tear up local democracy and put big business before local people. We have written to the Government to express our strong opposition to these plans and over 300,000 people so far have signed the petition to say the same.”

Local Lib Dem campaigner for Dodington, Louise Harris, said:

“It’s obvious why the Conservatives want to give fracking companies this license to drill without a planning application. They know that people up and down the country oppose fracking and the environmental damage it brings with it, so they’re simply taking away the public’s right to have their say.

“These new rules may only be for “exploratory drilling” but there can be no doubt that this is with the aim of identifying new sites for full-scale commercial fracking down the road. As a country, we should be moving away from dirty fossil fuels, not drilling for new sources on our doorstep. If I am elected in Thursday’s by-election I will be introducing a motion to Council calling on South Gloucestershire Council to oppose the Government’s ludicrous plans.”    

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Lib Dems – Thornbury & Yate residents being taken for a ride over bus fares

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have hit out at pending FirstBus fare changes, which will leave local residents short-changed compared to passengers in Bristol. Under new fares that will take effect on 11 November, Thornbury and Yate residents will have to pay £2.50 for journeys of under three miles, while Bristol residents will be able to travel much further for just £2.07.

Lib Dem campaigner for Dodington, Louise Harris, said: “If you live on the outskirts of Yate and want to nip into the town centre for your shopping by bus, it's going to set you back a fiver for the return journey. That's a 25% price hike. And Yate residents are still unable to buy mTickets on their phones for single journeys under 6 miles, unlike Bristol residents who get a discount for doing this."

Lib Dem Parlimentary Spokesperson for Thornbury & Yate, Claire Young, said: “This latest fare rise means that someone wanting to pop into Yate from Frampton Cotterell or from Alveston into Thornbury will have to pay £5 to get there and back. Meanwhile Bristol residents will now be able to get an adult single anywhere within Bristol for just £2.07. Once again this seems like an example of Thornbury & Yate residents being taken for a ride by First Bus.”

Louise Harris added: "The risk is that this second class service will put people off from using public transport at a time when we are being told we should leave our cars at home for the sake of the environment. I would like to see a dedicated travel zone for our area, as Bristol and Bath already have, with £1 single tickets within Yate and Thornbury and £2 singles into Yate or Thornbury from the villages. The only way to get more people out of their cars and onto public transport is to show that it represents genuine value for money.”

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We welcome action on bus chaos

Lib Dem bus campaigners have welcomed action from First Bus on a driver shortage that has led to chaos for users of the new South Gloucestershire Lynx services to Yate and Thornbury.

Liberal Democrat Focus Team Dodington campaigner Louise Harris explained:
"Many people have been telling us that the new Y buses are often delayed or cancelled altogether, leaving people unable to get to work or college on time. We were promised new faster, more reliable services - what we've got is anything but. If people can't rely on the buses to get them where they need to go, they'll get into cars instead, making congestion and air pollution even worse. "

Claire Young, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Thornbury and Yate, said:
"I compiled a dossier of all the complaints we've received and sent them to First. They've apologised and told me they are drafting in more drivers to help.

"I'm glad they're taking steps to help but we need to see these improvement filter through quickly. When buses do arrive, they are often so full that people can't get on. This only leads to even more delays so we are continuing to monitor the situation and want people to let us know if it is improving or not. Hopefully, our work with First has made a difference."

Louise Harris added:
"I am also campaigning for improved services for the south Yate area. People need to be able to jump on a direct bus to Southmead Hospital close to their homes rather than having to make their way to the bus station in the town centre. This just isn't possible for some people. If you too want to demand better bus services, please sign our petition at https://www.southgloslibdems.org.uk/betterbus."

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Conservatives vote down Lib Dem calls for extra funding for the local NHS

South Gloucestershire Conservatives last night voted down a Lib Dem amendment calling upon the Government to end the ongoing programme of austerity cuts to our local NHS and to allocate extra funding to help our Health Service cope with winter pressures. Instead the Conservatives voted through a self-congratulatory motion, misleadingly claiming that the NHS is receiving record funding from the Conservative Government.

Lib Dem Health spokesperson, Cllr Sue Hope said: “It’s bitterly disappointing to see the Conservatives rejecting our calls to end the harsh austerity cuts to our local NHS. It’s clear that Theresa May’s promise to end austerity at the recent Conservative Party Conference was nothing more than empty words – at least when it comes to our local NHS. The Tories also refused to support our repeated calls for urgent additional funding for the NHS to cope with extra pressures this winter. Without such extra funding we fear we will see a repeat of the thousands of preventable deaths we saw across the country last winter.”   

In place of the Lib Dem amendment, the Conservatives voted through a motion congratulating themselves, stating: “The Conservative-led government is investing record levels of funding into the NHS.” Leader of the South Gloucestershire Lib Dem Group, Cllr Claire Young, said: “This is clearly misleading. NHS budgets nationally are increasing far slower than historical averages, and locally we are seeing spending cuts of £37million to our NHS CCG this year alone. The Conservatives are giving to our NHS with one hand but taking away far more with the other.”   

Both Lib Dem and Conservative versions of the health motion called for additional and expanded services to be provided out of Yate MIU. Lib Dem councillor for Yate Central Sue Walker said: “the local Lib Dems have been pushing for improved and expanded service at the Yate MIU for many years. The Conservatives refused to support a very similar resolution from us last year, but we welcome their change of heart. Their support for our campaign on Yate MIU is better late than never.”

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