12 January 2024
In a compelling address to the Climate Emergency and Sustainability Policy Development Panel this morning, Green Group Councillor Saskia Heijltjes underscored concerns regarding the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme, emphasising the imperative for heightened proactivity, transparency, and accountability in decision-making processes.
Councillor Heijltjes articulated valid concerns about individual Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders being designated as single-member decisions, whereby decisions are already finalised without comprehensive details being shared. The Green Group asserts that such decisions compromise the purpose of scrutiny panels, intended for thorough examinations of policy proposals, ensuring a fair and democratic process. Single-member decisions not only inefficiently utilise members' time but also circumvent the scrutiny process.
"The decisions are already set as single-member decisions. Why discuss Liveable Neighbourhoods in this scrutiny panel if the decisions are predetermined and will be made by a single member?" questioned Councillor Heijltjes.
The Green Group calls on the scrutiny panel to insist that decisions related to Liveable Neighbourhoods undergo proper examination before reaching the Cabinet, stressing the critical nature of preparing a Full Business Case to access nearly £5 million of funding from WECA. Indeed, the group notes the Full Business Case’s vitality for upholding the integrity of the council's decision-making process and ensuring accountability. The current absence of this Full Business Plan is unacceptable within a democratic system - we highlight the significance of presenting scrutiny panels with the Full Business Case for the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme.
This becomes particularly pertinent considering the Council’s failure in June 2023 to secure funding for the Active Travel scheme, led by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Councillor Kevin Guy. Despite suggestions for active travel routes and public consultations offered through scrutiny panels, the Liberal Democrats dismissed members' proposals and pursued single-member decisions. The later rejection of their Active Travel proposal and loss of funding by Active Travel and the Levelling-Up Fund raised questions regarding the legitimacy of the Liberal Democrats' commitment to active travel in Bath and Northeast Somerset.
"BANES has missed out on active travel funding, urgently needed for more travel choices. Discussing a report with an update while decisions are already slated as single-member decisions is a waste of panel members' time," stated Councillor Heijltjes.
Additionally, the group expresses concerns about proposed Liveable Neighbourhoods, specifically pointing out potential counterproductivity in the Lyme Rd/Charmouth Rd scheme. Here, the Liveable Neighbourhood plan, Councillor Heijltjes argues that proposal do not align with the funding criteria for the Government’s City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements – again - putting BANES at risk of not securing the £5 million funding needed to achieve sustainable travel choices and meet Journey to Net Zero targets.
Councillor Heijltjes also notes the absence of an updated circulation plan, crucial for managing traffic in Liveable Neighbourhoods. The Green Group urgently calls for an update on the promised circulation plan, highlighting the potential risks associated with implementing Liveable Neighbourhoods without a comprehensive traffic management strategy.
"The circulation plan has been promised for some time now. Chair, please insist that this is brought in some form to the next panel meeting," urged Councillor Heijltjes.
"[Lib Dem councillor] Manda Rigby states that The Liveable Neighbourhoods programme has engaged with resident and been ‘co-designed’ to enhance their communities and environment. Given the importance of collaboration with residents, why is that the Climate Emergency and Sustainability Policy Development Panel not being provided with such information?"