South Glos Conservatives vote to silence the Public at planning visits

House building

At Wednesday's South Gloucestershire Council meeting, every Conservative Councillor present (with one abstention) voted not to allow members of the public to speak at planning site visits.

Planning site visits take place to allow members of planning committees to see the locations of planning applications in-person, with the support of council officers. Until 2018 members of the public were allowed to attend planning site visits and make their concerns known to the members of the committee – this was abolished by the Conservative administration.

An attempt, put forward by the Liberal Democrat Group, to restore the right of members of the public to speak at planning site visits was supported by the Labour Group but blocked by the ruling Conservatives.

Speaking during the debate, Councillor Adrian Rush, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment said,

“We serve the public and we should be giving local people the right to speak at these visits. Members of the public should have the opportunity to speak in their local areas, not having to travel all the way to Kingswood for a planning committee, which excludes a lot of people.”

Summing up, Councillor Jayne Stansfield, Liberal Democrat Lead Member for Development Management said,

“The planning process needs to be seen to be transparent and democratic. Site visits give the public an opportunity to raise issues on site, where members of the committee can see what the issues are. If we go back to allowing people to speak at site visits they will have a greater level of confidence in the system.”


Airbus job losses show need for support for South Gloucestershire’s economy

Airbus A400m over Bristol channel

Responding to the news that Airbus is planning to cut 1,730 jobs, including 235 jobs in Filton, Leader of South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats Councillor Claire Young said,

“Aerospace is a vital part of the South Gloucestershire economy – this latest announcement is a major blow for Filton and all the communities which rely on the aerospace industry.

“We need to do everything we can to ensure support for people who face losing their livelihoods.

“Our economy is facing a double blow of the Tories’ unnecessarily damaging Brexit and now Covid-19. At this critical time it is vital that Central Government steps in to protect those at risk of losing high-tech jobs like these, and invests in growing the clean, green, high-tech jobs we need for the future in areas such as renewable energy and low-carbon transport.”

Councillor James Arrowsmith, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Cheswick and Stoke Park, has tabled a question to the Leader of South Gloucestershire Council for next week’s Council meeting asking what discussions he has had with Central Government about a support package for Filton.

Councillor Arrowsmith said,

“The current economic situation is having a serious impact on the aerospace sector – a sector which many people locally rely on for their jobs. We need to do all we can to support those who face losing their jobs and it is essential that Central Government steps in to offer support to local people at this difficult time.”

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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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