Local Liberal Democrats Councillors are celebrating after South Gloucestershire Council passed a motion declaring a Climate Emergency and committing the authority to cutting the area’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 at Wednesday’s meeting of full Council. The motion was original tabled by the Lib Dems, but following successful discussions with Labour and the Conservatives, a revised version was agreed with unanimous cross-party support.
Proposer of the motion, Cllr Claire Young, said: “I’m extremely pleased that the Council has taken this important step and I am grateful to the other parties for seconding the motion and agreeing to tackle this problem together. The Conservative administration previously expressed some hesitation in going for the 2030 target but, to their credit, they listened to the evidence presented to them and to the passionate views of campaigners and the opposition parties and have now joined us in committing to the 2030 target. We are in a much better position to combat the climate emergency because we have agreed to work together as one united Council on this issue. It just goes to show what politicians can achieve when we sit down and work together constructively.”
Lib Dem Climate Spokesperson, Cllr Louise Harris, said: “We should be under no illusions that achieving net zero carbon by 2030 is a huge task, but it is one which we must be equal to. We can no longer afford to treat climate change as a future threat – it is a real and present danger and we must act accordingly. I was hugely encouraged by the numbers of residents who came to Wednesday night’s meeting to support the 2030 target and to offer their help in making it happen. South Gloucestershire Council must provide leadership, but it must also find away to engage the whole community to achieve this goal with a sense of shared purpose. We have agreed to scope out an action plan by the end of the year. We will then need to make it happen over each of the next 10 years. Kicking the can down the road is not an option.”
South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats are hopeful that talks between the three parties on the Council will lead to a political consensus on the need to declare a Climate Emergency and for South Gloucestershire Council to take urgent and radical action to tackle climate change. The Lib Dem group have already tabled a motion to declare a Climate Crisis to the next meeting of full Council on July 17th. Representatives of all three groups will meet on Friday in the hopes of agreeing a revised motion with cross-party support.
Lib Dem Group Leader, Claire Young, said: “So far the signs of political agreement have been encouraging. All sides have agreed to a cross-party meeting on Friday where we will hear from climate experts and other interested parties, before talking with the other parties about finding a way forward. We submitted a motion to Council on this issue back in May, because we felt so strongly about the need to take urgent action on the Climate Emergency. We welcome the fact that Labour and the Conservatives are also taking this issue seriously, and I’m hopeful that we can reach an agreement on making this an all-party motion, to show that the whole Council is behind it.”
Lib Dem Climate spokesperson, Louise Harris, said: “Currently, South Gloucestershire is the only Council in the West of England not to have declared a Climate Emergency. We urgently need to correct that. There is now overwhelming scientist evidence that man-made climate change is accelerating far faster than previously thought, and that urgent action is needed by national and local government, as well as from civil society and the private sector. South Gloucestershire needs to play its full part in that if we are going prevent the worst effects of climate change. This is not an issue we can afford to put off any longer.”
Residents react with anger as local Conservatives waste thousands in taxpayers’ money on self-promotion
Local Liberal Democrat councillors have been inundated with angry messages from residents after South Gloucestershire’s Conservative administration spent £32,000 of council money on a 16-page magazine to be sent to households across South Gloucestershire promoting Toby Savage and other local Tory politicians.
Lib Dem Council Group Leader Claire Young said: “I couldn’t believe it when the magazine came through my letterbox. Local residents have told me that they thought it was a Conservative Party leaflet, because it featured so many photographs of Toby Savage. They were angry to realise that they were paying for it out of their council tax! After investigating the matter, we discovered that the cost of the magazine was £32,000 – the equivalent of the annual council tax bill of 18 households. The magazine features no fewer than five publicity photographs of Cllr Savage, costing the taxpayer over £6,000 per photo. He clearly thinks he’s worth it!
“How on Earth can Cllr Savage possibly justify spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to feed his own ego at a time when he is cutting funding for things like Social Services? The Conservatives can’t find enough money to fix our roads or to deliver their long-broken promise to cut green bin charges, but apparently, they can find money for this. Conservative councillors can now look forward to answering some very difficult questions from their residents, thanks to their leader’s thirst for self-promotion at public expense.”
Lib Dem Resources Spokesperson Mike Drew said: “The council’s own figures show that public satisfaction with the council fell this year following Toby Savage becoming leader. It’s not hard to see why when they waste money on things like this! Like most councils, South Gloucestershire Council scrapped its council magazine years ago, due to the increased pressure on local government budgets. Back then the Conservatives were among the fiercest critics of council magazines, with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles calling them a blatant waste of taxpayers’ money. Now the local Conservatives have brought the magazine back without a vote of Council or any consultation. Our inquiries show that they raided the council’s Financial Risk Reserve to pay for it – money that is supposed to be there to help the council through rainy days – not to act as a piggy bank for Conservative Party publicity material! It’s no wonder that social media is alight about this with angry messages from outraged local residents. We will be calling on the Council’s audit committee to look into this blatant waste of public funds.”
Local Lib Dem councillors for Frampton Cotterell ward Claire Young, Jon Lean and Tristan Clark have called upon South Gloucestershire Council to safeguard a potential cycle route that could connect Coalpit Heath to the Yate spur and to the Bristol-Bath Cycle Path.
Cllr Tristan Clark said: “Part of the former Frog Lane Colliery railway track is currently used as a footpath by local residents, but would make an ideal cycle path, as well as a route for pedestrians and horse riders. With developers indicating that they shortly intend to put in a planning application up to the edge of the old railway track, reflecting the council’s JSP plans, we want to make sure this route is protected.”
Cllr Jon Lean said: “The Lib Dems continue to oppose the Conservative administration’s plans for 1,800 new homes in the green belt at Coalpit Heath. But whether these plans go ahead or not, there is great need for a cycle route linking Coalpit Heath with Yate, Bristol and Bath. The council needs to take action to help residents to lead healthier more active lifestyles, reduce congestion and air pollution on our roads, and fight the effects of climate change. A cycle route for Coalpit Heath will help to achieve all of those aims.”
Cllr Claire Young said: “At Monday’s meeting of Cabinet I asked the new Executive Member for Planning Development and Strategic Transport, Steve Reade, to come to Coalpit Heath to examine the proposed route with us. I am grateful that Cllr Reade has accepted this invitation and I am confident that once he has seen the lie of the land he will agree with us that this is a route that needs to be protected with an eye to developing it for the community.”
South Gloucestershire Lib Dems have pledged to keep the pressure up on the Conservatives over their failure to act over the national crisis in Special Educational Needs (SEND) funding. Liberal Democrat councillors Claire Young (Frampton Cotterell), Jayne Stansfied (Thornbury) and James Arrowsmith (Stoke Park & Cheswick) joined thousands of parents and campaigners across the country in taking part in a SEND Crisis Day of Action on Thursday.
Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr Claire Young, said: “Parents shouldn’t have to fight to get support for their child with SEND but they do - to get their child's needs identified, to get early support in school, to secure an education health and care plan and to get that plan implemented. And it's a fight that never ends, because at every stage there is the risk of losing provision. As a councillor I hear from parents who feel like they are losing that battle.”
“In South Gloucestershire, as elsewhere in the country, the government funding for SEND hasn't gone up as demand has gone up. Between 2016 and 2018 the number of pupils with identified Special Educational Needs in South Glos went up from 1,398 to 1,744, nearly a 25% increase in just two years. To make matters worse at a time of underfunding across the board, South Gloucestershire is one of the lowest funded per pupil authorities in the country. Government need to take notice of this crisis now.”
Local Lib Dem Education spokesperson Cllr Jayne Stansfield said: “As a parent and former teacher this is a problem that is very close to my heart. My fear is this crisis is yet another issue that is being ignored by the Conservatives as they tear each other apart over Brexit and vie for the leadership. The children who are being let down as a result of Government inaction won’t have another chance to be children. For them it’s now or never. Their life-chances could be seriously affected by the failure to take this problem seriously. We will be raising this issue with the Conservative administration at July’s meeting of Council, and we will keep the pressure up until we finally get some action.”