Report from Cllr Mike Bell on North Somerset Councillors activities

15 Oct 2015

North Somerset Council meeting

North Somerset Council met on 29th September and as usual, Lib Dem councillors raised a number of issues during the debates.

Lib Dem councillors supported an amended motion on the destructive practice of blacklisting that occurred for decades in UK industry and the importance of council contracts complying with the law to prevent people being unfairly denied work due to their political or campaigning links, particularly as members of a trade union.

Lib Dems supported an amended motion on devolution in the West of England, that reiterated the councils support for greater powers for local councils, but cross-party opposition to this being linked to the imposition of a 'Metro Mayor' for the sub-region.

The Council Leader, Nigel Ashton, reported on work the council was doing to assist with the management of refugees into Britain in response to queries raised initially by Lib Dem councillor Mike Bell. Lib Dem councillors are pressing for the council to do its bit, as part of the Local Government Association, to welcome refugees to North Somerset and provide all possible assistance.

Core Strategy & housing
Nigel Ashton also updated the council on the Government's decision to increase the house building target for North Somerset, this is despite representations from the council and local MPs. Lib Dem councillors support the need for more affordable housing in North Somerset, but it is vital that house building is not at the expense of the green belt or sustainable infrastructure and communities.

Local Council Tax Support Scheme
Lib Dem councillor Mike Bell asked what the council was doing to consult on the Local Council Tax Support Scheme, for low income households, and in particular whether changes would be made to help those on low, fixed incomes. It was confirmed that consultation was underway and the scheme would be reviewed.

Mike also asked what was being done to build upon the success of the Banksy Dismaland exhibition in Weston and deliver a lasting legacy. Councillor Ashton confirmed work was being done but indicated it was too early to say what form that would take.

Civil Parking Enforcement
Mike Bell asked what the council was doing to consult with residents on proposals to take over responsibility for parking enforcement. The Strategic Planning and Economic Development scrutiny panel chair confirmed that he expected his panel to hold consultation style debates on the issue. Lib Dems strongly support the introduction of Civil Parking Enforcement across North Somerset, but it is important the we get the scheme as right as we can in the design phases. CPE will not be implemented before November 2016 at the earliest.

Question Time
At every council meeting there is an opportunity to ask questions of the Executive on any subject. Three Lib Dem councillors asked questions this time.

Councillor Deborah Yamanaka asked Councillor Peter Bryant, Executive Member for Waste, Streets and Open Spaces if he was aware of a problem on the Two Rivers Way as it passes through Wrington parish? This had been first reported in December 2011, nearly 4 years ago, but the path is only walkable in very dry weather. Otherwise it is impassable due to a blocked culvert. A runner got stuck in the mud a few years ago and had to be rescued by the emergency services. More recently two people left wellington boots stuck in the mud. She asked Councillor Bryant if he would arrange for the problem to be sorted so that the Two Rivers Way could be walked again. She provided Councillor Bryant with some photographs. Councillor Bryant responded that he had no knowledge of the issue but would raise it with officers and get back to Councillor Yamanaka.

Councillor Mike Bell asked Councillor Jill Iles, Assistant Executive Member for Public Health, about the likely £572,000 cut in public health funding and asked whether the council had lobbied the government about this decision. Councillor Iles responded that further clarification was awaited as to how the total funding costs were to be allocated but confirmed the Director of Public Heath had made representations on the basis of the £572,000 but had yet to receive a response. In a supplementary question Councillor Bell asked Councillor Iles to look at what she could do to provide further support to the Central Ward Health Project and in response, Councillor Iles agreed to meet with Councillor Bell to discuss this.

Councillor John Crockford-Hawley asked Councillor Nigel Ashton, Leader of the Council about the irony of the recent Banksy exhibition and wondered if the Leader might like to thank Councillor Mead together with inept former developers for keeping the former Tropicana building in its current state and thereby enabling 'Dismaland' to have had such a fitting venue. He added he was in agreement that art and culture might provide the way forward for Weston-super-Mare and North Somerset. Councillor Ashton responded that options for building on the momentum created by the Banksy exhibition were currently being considered.

Fire Authority Report
Councillor Mike Bell asked Councillor Jan Barber, a member of the Fire Authority about the need for the Fire Authority to make strong representations against any proposals to merge the police and fire authorities under the Police and Crime Commissioner. Lib Dems are very concerned about plans to merge police and fire authorities.

Lib Dem spokespeople / lead members:

Lib Dem Group Leader: Mike Bell

Lib Dem Group Deputy Leader: Mark Canniford

Adult Services and Housing Policy and Scrutiny Panel: Deborah Yamanaka

Children and Young People Services Policy and Scrutiny Panel: Deborah Yamanaka

Community and Corporate Organisation Policy and Scrutiny Panel: Mark Canniford

Employment Committee: Mike Bell

Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel: Mike Bell

Licensing Committee: John Crockford-Hawley

Planning and Regulatory Committee: Mark Canniford and John Crockford-Hawley

Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel: John Crockford-Hawley

Vice-Chairman of North Somerset Council: John Crockford-Hawley
Upcoming dates

14th October - Planning and Regulatory Committee

20th October - North Somerset Council Executive

27th October - Licensing Sub-committee

2nd November - Employment Committee

10th November - North Somerset Full Council

11th November - Planning and Regulatory Committee

13th November - Children and Young People Services Policy and Scrutiny Panel

16th November - Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel

17th November - Public Rights of Way Committee

20th November - Adult Services and Housing Policy and Scrutiny Panel

26th November - Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel

27th November - Licensing Committee

You can find details of agendas, papers and minutes for these meetings here.