Bath and North East Somerset Residents Lose Millions In Funding Due To Council Leadership

9 June 2023

On the 1st of June 2023 Bath and NE Somerset Council’s Press Office announced that the local authority has again failed to secure any funding for the Active Travel schemes submitted to Active Travel England. In contrast, Bristol received £3.6 million and South Gloucestershire £5.8 million in May 2022 under the same scheme.

In the last two years Bath and North East Somerset Council, under the leadership of Cllr Kevin Guy and supported by Cllr Sarah Warren, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Sustainable Travel and the Climate Emergency, have failed to deliver any Active Travel funding for our residents. They have thrown out the hard work and leadership that put B&NES ahead of our West of England (WECA) neighbours with the highest quality and ambitious bids.

Instead they have chosen to deliver walking and cycling projects at a snail’s pace and lost the area millions of pounds in funding. The question has to be asked: why have the bids for Active Travel funding submitted by this Council under their direction failed?

As a previous Cabinet Member I successfully won and delivered Active Travel funding that would have completely transformed our city by making many journeys fairer for all residents, including tens of thousands of children and young people. Instead of delivering this for all residents, Cllrs Guy and Warren:

  • blocked the vital active travel route to the University of Bath and Claverton Down
  • dismissed the positive public consultation in favour of the bus gate on North Road
  • squandered thousands of taxpayer pounds on a badly run Citizen’s Jury

Guy and Warren played politics with all our lives and health so that they could delay and ditch the scheme because it upset a minority of golfers and drivers.

The Liberal Democrat’s continued failures to win even a single Active Travel bid for Bath and North East Somerset needs to be recognised and questioned. For a council to successfully deliver large government grants its cabinet requires skills in planning, the bid process, and delivery. This cabinet appears to be lacking them.

The Council also needs to be held to account for failing to secure available funding from the Levelling Up Fund. The Council’s bid involved a scheme to reimagine the Fashion Museum rather than anything that would actually make a difference for the majority of people in Bath.

Under the Levelling up scheme they were able to apply for improved accessibility for the whole centre of Bath, and this is what the Bath and NE Somerset Green Party proposed. This Liberal Democrat administration has repeatedly failed to get any funding due to weak and ill-considered projects.

In contrast to these Liberal Democrat failures, over the last few years, I have:

  • repeatedly called on both Cllr Guy and Cllr Warren to put in place an agreed strategic circulation plan for vehicle movement for Bath so that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can be appropriately delivered through public consultation.
  • repeatedly demanded that the Local Cycling Walking and Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) must add the agreed regional cycle map to its strategy since 2020 when it was first signed off.
  • tabled an amendment for School Streets funding in February this year at Full Council’s budget, which was unanimously rejected by all Liberal Democrats in the chamber.

This demonstrates that even when given clear ideas for a way forward, this council has chosen to ignore them despite failing to create their own strategic plan or submitting competent bids. The result is nothing being delivered for the people.

The Council has declared a climate emergency and committed to a 25% reduction in car miles. This requires political will and system change that enables residents to take active travel decisions.

Over several years I have seen political posturing and rhetoric from council leadership showing they are not as serious about active travel as their press statements like to suggest. As a result Bath and NE Somerset has repeatedly been deprived of millions of pounds in funding that would help to ease congestion, reduce pollution and lower our carbon emissions, which in turn would make everyone's lives better and healthier.

Bath and North East Somerset residents deserve better leadership.

Cllr Joanna Wright, Council Group Leader, Bath and NE Somerset Green Party

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