South Glos has agreed a new devolution deal that will force a metro Mayor on the area, and could deliver the equivalent of less than three miles of motorway per year!
Tories pushed through the deal at full council, which will deliver the Bristol, BANES & South Glos just £30m a year, and will not increase over time.
Cllr Ruth Davis said: “This is a tiny amount of our budget, and an even smaller amount of our economic power. It’s enough to build about three miles of motoway, and that’s going to decrease over the next three decades. That is going to do absolutely nothing to solve our infrastructure crisis.
“In order to give us even this tiny amount, we’re being forced to accept a metro mayor that everyone agrees they don’t want, and a new, centralising combined authority. It’s crackers.”
Thornbury and Yate Liberal Democrats have this week announced that their Parliamentary Candidate will be selected on 15th July. Longstanding and popular MP Steve Webb, who was narrowly defeated at the 2015 General Election, has announced he will not be seeking re-selection, and will instead continue his local work as part of a new candidate’s team.
With speculation mounting about a possible ‘snap’ election, Mr. Webb announced his decision. He said : “It has been a huge privilege to serve the people of this area for eighteen years. In that time, I have met so many committed campaigners and selfless individuals who give so much to their local community. I also owe a huge debt to my team in the constituency office and to our active local campaigners who have taught me so much. Our strong team of local Councillors and campaigners and our new candidate for Parliament will continue to have my wholehearted support.”
In his letter to members, announcing his decision Steve Webb said:
“The country is going through massive trauma, which will have huge effects on our lives here in Thornbury and Yate. With talk of a ‘snap’ General Election in the air, I wanted to contact you personally to let you know that after much reflection, I have decided that we need a new candidate to lead our community through a long period of transition and play their role in helping our country rebuild. I will of course as a local resident continue to do all I can to support our candidate and to work to help our community.”
Council leader, Ruth Davis, said: "It is impossible to put into words our gratitude to Steve on behalf of our community and the countless people he and the team have helped. He has built a really strong team of people committed to the needs of our residents. That team is carrying on the work, with him as part of it. Since the Referendum we have been staggered by the large number of people coming forward to join the party locally. We had a massive growth in membership just after the general election and that has happened again this year. So we are in a stronger than ever position and ready for the challenges the country faces."
Steve Webb was MP for Northavon and then Thornbury & Yate from 1997 to 2015 and Minister for Pensions from 2010-2015. In addition to his highly-regarded work on pensions, Mr. Webb was a passionate local campaigner, working alongside local people to deliver a cinema for Yate, improved bus services to Southmead Hospital, fighting cuts to local services and raising local issues in the House of Commons. He still lives with his family in Olveston, near Thornbury.
At the last General Election the Lib Dems were defeated in this constituency by just 1495 votes, making this seat the closest fought between Lib Dems and Conservatives in the whole South West.
Liberal Democrats in the West of England support devolution, but are extremely worried about the Government deal on offer including a new “metro Mayor”.
North Somerset has already turned it down, but the three remaining councils – Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, and South Gloucestershire – can still go forward.
Lib Dem leaders Ruth Davis (South Gloucestershire), Dine Romero (Bath & North East Somerset), and Gary Hopkins (Bristol) said:
“We are very sceptical about the deal in front of us. There are still too many unanswered questions about what we’re being asked to vote on, and what the long-term options are going to be. They haven’t even explained how the economic performance is going to be measured, now we’re being warned of a recession if we leave the EU.”
“This deal is being pushed through despite Lib Dem concerns, and we will need to find a way to make it work. The Mayor should not be imposed on the West against our will. We call on everyone to answer the consultation to make clear to the Secretary of State that we want devolved powers, we want more money, but we don’t want an unnecessary new layer of government.
“We have asked searching questions of officers, and people answering questions have been unable to answer them because Government hasn’t decided yet!”
South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats send our condolences to the family of Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, who was killed on Thursday whilst attending an advice surgery in her constituency. Jo was a popular Member of Parliament, elected at the 2015 general election, who dedicated herself to serving her community and campaigning for those in need, both in the UK and across the globe. Her death is a great loss to the House of Commons, the Labour Party and the residents of her constituency. Our thoughts are with her family and friends, and with her colleagues in the Labour Party.
Liberal Democrats have ensured that the public’s voice will be heard before any vote on a metro-Mayor in South Gloucestershire. But the Tories have tried to keep it quiet.
The council will decide on June 29th whether or not to support the creation of a new ‘Mayor’ to cover South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath, and North Somerset. But no formal consultation will take place until July, or August. Liberal Democrat leader Ruth Davis raised this at the council’s meeting tonight (May 18th).
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Ruth Davis said: “For many years, this council has prided itself on our consultations. We go out of our way to talk to residents – and it can always be found on our consultation website. There is no link to the devolution document from that site, there was no press release put out until after we had asked, and the paper merely asks for ‘comments’. Normally, we would ask specific questions, and get clear views.
“This is an incredible offer coming out way, and we need the public to be engaged. We could have launched a proper consultation when this was announced in the budget. We don’t have time for that anymore, but at least we can publicise it better, and make sure it’s linked to from the consultation website where people are normally asked for their views.”