B&NES Lib Dems are allocating investment in vital public services and key priorities, including housing, cleaning streets, sustainable transport and tackling the Climate Emergency.
Councillors have this week approved spending plans for the 2022-23 financial year at the annual budget council meetings.
Commenting on the budget proposals, Cllr Richard Samuel, Deputy Council Leader and Cabinet member for Economic Development and Resources, said:
“This budget will see the Council invest in services, prepare for the future, improve residents’ lives and tackle the big issues. We are preparing the Council to be an ever better, more effective organisation to serve the public. Residents want us to concentrate on rebuilding after the pandemic and that is what are doing.
“We had an unpromising starting point, with millions lost in income due to the pandemic, rising costs across the board and minimal support from government. These challenges mean that our funding commitments are only possible because of our highly structured and robust stewardship of the Council’s finances over the past three years.
“Our budget maximises our ambition to make B&NES a better place, maintains the move towards carbon reduction particularly in transport, invests in key services, and provides for significant investment in projects. We are investing in the future, not only for residents but also in the Council itself to enable it to become a better performing Council, able to do more and better for all our residents.”
The Lib Dems have put addressing the Climate and Nature Emergencies at the heart of everything the Council does. Councillor Sarah Warren, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Climate and Sustainable Travel, commented:
“This budget demonstrates our continued commitment and determination to use all tools at our disposal to tackle the deepening environmental crisis with seriousness and speed. We are investing in Council capacity with our Green Transformation and Sustainable Transport Teams. This is accompanied by capital investment in renewable energy and in sustainable transport infrastructure, to provide practical alternatives to car journeys.
“One project of particular interest is the £5m investment we are making in the new linear park and active travel corridor known as the Bath Riverline. This will facilitate walking and cycling, traversing Bathampton Meadows, and is just one part of the big plans we have for a comprehensive sustainable travel network.”
Hailing unprecedented investment in frontline services, Cabinet member for Neighbourhood Services, Councillor David Wood, added:
“We’re investing in recycling and recycling centres, following our best ever recycling year last year, when B&NES bucked the national trend and shot up the league table to become the fourth best recycling unitary authority in the country. We’re investing an extra £2m for fixing our roads and an extra £1m for cleaning our streets.
“In the coming year, we’ll start providing free graffiti cleaning for private homes for the first time in Bath and North East Somerset, we’re stopping the use of chemicals for weeding on our streets and we’re increasing the number of drains that we will clean by 50%. We’ve already doubled the A and B road litter picking in North East Somerset and we’re set to increase this further over the coming year. We’re tripling the budget for repainting road markings.
“To make every part of Bath and North East Somerset cleaner and greener, we’re also putting a new team in place to lead clean-up days, going to every area, bringing extra council cleaning staff and residents together to make our area even cleaner.”
A key priority for the Lib Dem administration is building new Council homes for the first time in a generation. Councillor Tom Davies commented:
“The Council is committing almost £12m in capital investment to deliver the first, new, general needs council houses in a generation and a further £5m for affordable housing projects.
“Never has the need for new council and affordable housing been so great. We are an area with some of the least affordable housing in the country, with thousands of our local residents currently on our social housing waiting list and hundreds of them in the categories of highest need.”
Councillors from across Bath and North East Somerset spoke in the debate to highlight key projects which will improve residents’ lives, including:
- Delivering on high street regeneration, including in Keynsham, Midsomer Norton and Bath.
- Investing in green spaces and infrastructure, including open spaces, river corridors (including the Bath Riverline) and parks.
- Supporting the tennis clubhouse in Saltford and stone works at Saltford Brass Mill.
- Taking forward the plans for the Fashion Museum collection centre and new permanent base.
- Building a state-of-the-art new recycling and reuse centre at Pixash Lane in Keynsham.
- Fixing the roof at Carrswood day centre in Twerton.
- Building a new SEND residential unit at Bath College in Westfield.
- Completing the Radstock Healthy Living Centre.
- Taking forward the Somer Valley Enterprise Zone.
- Repairing Keynsham Memorial Bridge and building the new cycling and walking bridge for the Chocolate Quarter.
- Progressing the next stage of the Milsom Quarter regeneration and the works at Bath Quays North with the demolition of Avon St car park and the opening of the new bridge.
- Reopening the public toilet in Ashton Way, Keynsham.
- Highways works across the district, including repairs and resurfacing, safety reviews to protect children, Liveable Neighbourhoods and LTNs, crossings and lighting, parking and active travel schemes, and 20mph speed limits.
The budget was approved by 34 Councillors voting in favour, to only 5 against, with 18 abstentions. A council tax plus social care precept increase of 2.99% total was agreed, which equates to an additional £45.73 per year, or 88p per week, for a band D property. This increase is well below the current rate of inflation and B&NES council tax remains amongst the lowest in the South West.