Monday, 31 March 2008

National parking laws will be enforced locally

Bath & North East Somerset Council will be implementing new national parking laws which aim to keep roads safe and help beat traffic congestion.

The new regulations, which come into effect today (Monday 31 March) are designed to make parking fairer, simpler and easier for motorists.

The main changes taking place under the Traffic Management Act include:

The introduction of two levels of penalty charge;
Ø £50 lower charge for lesser offences such as overstaying at a parking meter and a
Ø £70 higher penalty for more serious offences such as parking on a double yellow line, bus stopping areas or in loading bays.

Penalty notices can be served by post in some circumstances, for instance when a motorist drives off before the notice can be fully issued, or, when it is safer for the attendant to issue a notice by post using camera evidence.

Wheel clamping can be used for persistent offenders*

Councils to produce annual reports on parking activities

Greater powers for independent parking adjudicators

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Tory Parking charges challenged

The Liberal Democrat group on Bath & North East Somerset Council have launched a petition against the increased parking charges in the centre of Bath that are being pushed through by our conservative administration.

You can also register your opposition by signing our petition at received via the petition website may be used in our presentation on April 7th.

It is interesting to see that Bath is being targeted with the increases to fill the huge financial hole that the Conservative councillors from outside the city are digging for us.

Below are Just two of the areas that we have a concern.

increase residents parking permit charges by about 65%

extend the city centre paying times to 8.00pm

The full details are available to see at

This decision is being 'called-in' by the city LibDem group, and this hearing will take place on Monday April 7th, at 10.00 at the Guildhall. Members of the public can attend. If you wish to speak you can but should first arrange to do so by emailing

Friday, 28 March 2008

Secondary Schools Council Debate: Lib Dem Reaction

Bath and North East Somerset Council met last night to discuss issues relating to the forthcoming review of secondary school provision. The Cabinet will have to make a decision on schools in May, and last night’s meeting was a chance for issues to be aired and discussed in public by parents, school governors and Councillors. However, as was made clear at the start of the meeting, no decision was taken at this Council meeting.

The motion which was voted upon was not the one published in the Council papers on 17 March, and the unanimous adoption of the motion did not represent a specific endorsement of any particular strategy or plan for secondary school provision in Bath and North East Somerset. The vote served to officially thank the O&S panel for the preparatory work which had already been done and to formally request that Cabinet take account of the points of view raised at Council when making its decision.

Speaking after the Council meeting, Liberal Democrat leader on the Council Councillor Paul Crossley said: “I was very pleased that the Cabinet member for children gave a commitment to go over the recording of the meeting and ensure that all the points which had been raised will be dealt with. We will be looking closely at the forthcoming consultation and decision process to ensure this is the case”.

A number of Liberal Democrat Councillors spoke in the debate to raise issues which should be considered by the Cabinet. Several spoke of the importance of ensuring the consultation on changes was honest, open and thorough.

Councillor Marian McNeir called for the consultations to be done “in a sensitive way”. Councillor Nigel Roberts called on the Cabinet to make an effort to contact groups “we don’t traditionally get in touch with” and to consider co-location of community facilities, such as libraries, in new schools.

Councillor David Dixon has been involved in a campaign run by parents for better travel to school provision in the area. He spoke of the need to consider transport and that schools provision should be “underpinned by a sound, effective school transport system”.

Councillor Andy Furse focussed on the issue of co-educational schools in Bath, and welcomed an expression of willingness on the part of Oldfield school to go co-ed given that co-ed schools are preferred by 60% of families. He called on the Cabinet to “reconsider its view on Oldfield school in light of the commitment on co-ed given tonight [by the Chair of Governors]”.

Councillor Caroline Roberts also spoke about Oldfield school and the dozens of communications she, and Councillor Loraine Brinkhurst, had received from parents who were worried and confused about the decision making process. She said “many parents feel the decision has already been made and they have missed their chance to speak out”; she also called on the Cabinet to reach out to parents during the consultations and “don’t just expect them to come to you”.

Co-ed is also an important issue for Culverhay school and this was brought to the Cabinet’s attention by Councillor Gerry Curran, who spoke of the length of time for which this had been an aspiration for the school. He asked the Cabinet to “bring forward a package of support for the school to enable a smooth transition to co-ed status”.

(1) The motion which was adopted by the Council is as follows:

"That the Council:

“1. thanks the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Panel for the three area based secondary reviews which have contributed to the strategy presented today and

“2. asks the Cabinet when it meets to discuss the strategy to consider that work, together with the views expressed at this meeting, in order to decide whether to take forward specific proposals for consultation."

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Lib Dems call-in parking hike decision

The Liberal Democrat Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council has submitted a call-in on the decision to raise and extend parking charges, including the cost of residents' permits. The call-in has been verified and the hearing will be held early in April.
Among the changes to be introduced is an increase in the cost of residents' permit charges in Zones 1-12 of Bath (all except the city centre) from £55 to £88 for a first permit, and from £82 to £130 for a second permit. Councillors in affected wards have been inundated with objections from residents. Apart from the inflation-busting increase of approximately 65%, residents complain that they have seen no justification for this increase and that they have not been consulted about it.

"This is yet another example of how this Conservative-led administration is trying to make up for its budget deficiencies in some areas by hiking fees and charges in other areas. They try to claim credit for a headline low Council Tax rise, and then pile on the pain to residents and visitors through these exorbitant and unwarranted charges which will unfairly affect Bath residents and visitors compared to other parts of the Council area. We hope that this call-in will persuade the Cabinet member responsible to change his mind on these charges - and it will give residents, who feel they have not been consulted, a chance to make their views felt."

Monday, 24 March 2008

Latest Road reports for Lambridge ward

There seems to be quite a few road works planned over the next few weeks in our local area that may affect local residents.

To see how they will affect you follow the link Lambridge road reports to see what is going on in our area.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Council Core Strategy on Development released (latest)

Bath & North East Somerset Council have released the latest planning information on its Local Development Framework (LDF)

The latest information on the Councils core strategy for future development including the government inspector’s decision to increase further the amount of new house building that the Government expects this area to take from 15,500 to 18,800 between 2006 & 2026 are included in the report.

Where they expect us to put all these extra houses I do not know, anyhow the report makes useful reading as do the links to other papers so we have attached a link to the report for your information.

News for Diamond Travel-card Holders

New passes are now being issued by Bath & North East Somerset Council extending the entitlement to free off-peak bus travel to cover the whole of England and these will be issued to all Diamond Travelcard holders living in Bath and North East Somerset.

Existing card holders should receive a new bus pass in the post by the end of March. If you have a Diamond Travelcard at the moment and there have been no changes in your personal circumstances, you should receive a new bus pass automatically from Bath & North East Somerset Council.

If you haven’t received it by early April, please call Council Connect on 394041 or if you live outside of Bath & North East Somerset Council then you will need to conatct your local council.
From 1 April, holders of the new passes will be able to travel free on local buses anywhere in England between 9.30am and 11pm Mondays to Fridays and all day Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.

However, in the local area (Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire) the current earlier start time will continue and passes will be valid at all times except before 9am Mondays to Fridays.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Four Bath Post Offices set to close

Four Bath Post Offices are down for closure and Liberal Democrat Councillors with threatened Post Offices in their wards are campaigning with Don Foster MP against the Government plans.

“We urge all residents to support the campaign to save Bath’s Post Offices, and to sign the petition on our website.”
This is a backward step which does nothing to help local people. We call on the govt to reconsider.”

Don Foster MP said:
“I am concerned that the social importance of Post Offices is being ignored by the Government. These closures do not take into account the knock-on effect on other shops in the local community. It will be the elderly and vulnerable who are most affected by these closures as they may struggle to travel the extra distance to important services”.

Bath & North East Somerset Councils Enterprise and Economic Development overview and scrutiny panel looked a Post office closures on Tuesday 18th May where only two conservatives out of the three on the panel Bothered to turn up to the meeting whilst the three liberal Democrats on the Panel made positive contributions. We wonder if the conservatives really care about post offices as the last time that they were in power they closed over 3,000 of them.

Some of the Comments made by Liberal Democrat Councillors on the Panel yesterday were.

“The consultation on Post Office closures is less about democracy, and people’s wishes, and more about accountancy. At the end of the day, what residents want doesn’t really matter. The Post Office is looking at this purely financially and not from the point of view of the community they’ll just railroad their decision through.”

“We are quite concerned that this is not the final programme. When the Government subsidy to Post Office Ltd runs out in 2011, it is clear that another massive round of Post Office closures may occur. The Council needs to consider its social responsibilities to all the communities it serves as the Labour Government is obviously neglecting its duties.”

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Local Housing Allowance

Do you rent a house from a private landlord if the answer is yes then the advice issued by Bath & North East Somerset Council that we have posted below may be of help to you.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a scheme being introduced on 7th April 2008.

LHA only applies to tenants who rent from a private landlord and make a new claim for Housing Benefit from 7th April 2008. Existing claimants renting in the private sector will not be affected unless they change address or have a break in their housing benefit claim.

LHA will not affect those tenants who have one of the following tenancies:

Housing Associations
Accommodation where a substantial part of the rent is attributable to board i.e. Bed and Breakfast/hotel tenancies
Tenancies provided by a charity or voluntary organisation
Tenancies which began before 15 January 1989
Caravans, houseboats or mobile homes

From our current live caseload about 1,200 claimants could potentially be affected by LHA.

How is LHA worked out?

LHA is a flat rate rent allowance determined by The Rent Service based primarily on property location and size criteria.

England is broken up into a number of Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMA). Bath & North East Somerset has 2 BRMAs. The Rent Officer will set a tariff of rents in each BRMA and these will be published every month. These are known as the LHA rates.

LHA is a means of calculating the maximum rent for a Housing Benefit claim. The rate that a person is entitled to, will depend on the size of their household and the area in which they live. The size of a person’s household purely depends on how many bedrooms they require (not the number of bedrooms the property has). One bedroom is allocated for each of the following:
Any adult couple
Any adult over 16
Any two children aged 10+ of the same gender
Any two children up to the age of 10 of opposite gender
Any other child
So a couple with 2 children under 10 will be entitled to 2 bedrooms and the 2 bedroom LHA rate for the BRMA where their property is located will be used to calculate Housing Benefit

The Rent Service will provide the LHA rates for each BRMA on a monthly basis and these will be published on our website and at key council offices. The customer can therefore determine what the maximum amount of Housing Benefit would be. Armed with this information the customer should have more choice over the type of rented accommodation that they can choose from.

Whilst LHA is the new way of working out the maximum Housing Benefit a claimant could get, the amount of Housing Benefit awarded will still depend on the claimants’ income and savings and whether other people living in the household contribute to the rent.

What if the rent is more or less than the LHA rate?

One of the advantages of the LHA scheme is that if the claimant finds accommodation that is cheaper than the amount of LHA they are entitled to, then they can keep up to £15 of the excess. If the claimant finds accommodation that is more expensive than the LHA they are entitled to then it will be up to the claimant to pay the difference.

We will not know what the LHA rates will be for Bath & North East Somerset until the beginning of April but indicative rates received so far suggest they may be more generous than the equivalent rent levels currently approved by the Rent Service. This is good news for claimants.

How does LHA affect landlords?

The only change for most landlords is that LHA will normally be paid direct to the claimant. The tenant will be responsible for paying their rent to the landlord. However in certain circumstances it may be more appropriate to pay the LHA direct to the landlord. A safeguard policy has been written to help identify vulnerable people who could not reasonably be expected to manage their own affairs or would have difficulty paying their rent.

Why has the Government decided to make this change?

The Government wishes to streamline the process in order to promote:
Fairness – by paying similar rent to tenants in similar circumstances
Choice – pre-determined rates of payment allow claimants to choose accommodation to suit their budget

Transparency – by making it easier for tenants to find out in advance what their eligible rent will be Personal Responsibility – by making tenants take responsibility for budgeting for and paying their own rent

Financial Inclusion – to encourage tenants to have their Housing Benefit paid into a bank account and set up a standing order to pay rent to their landlord
Simplicity – the LHA scheme aims to streamline the present complicated system

What has the Revenues & Benefits section done to prepare for LHA?

We have given presentations to key stakeholders, landlords and agencies explaining how LHA will work. The landlord presentations were a joint enterprise with our colleagues at South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bristol City Councils.

We have compiled a Safeguard Policy in consultation with stakeholders and especially the CAB and NESCAB

We have written to current private sector claimants to advise them of the forthcoming change

We have worked with the banks and building societies to draw up a leaflet explaining how to open a bank or building society account and distributed to stakeholders and claimants
Information about LHA is on our website with specific pages for tenants, landlords and stakeholders/carers

We have provided LHA training for Revenues, Benefits and Customer Services staff

We are currently reviewing Housing Benefit Claim forms

We are shortly issuing further detailed information about LHA to our landlords

Monday, 17 March 2008

Local Planning applications Lambridge Ward

There are two planning applications that have been registered with Bath & North East Somerset Council in the Lambridge ward this week.

The first one is on the Site Of Former Nursery Bailbrook Lane Lower Swainswick Bath and the proposal is for the Erection of 3 no dwellings (Use Class C3) and associated access works on former nursery site and is a resubmission.

The application number is 08/00905/FUL and you can view the application by following the link on the application number. The application was registered on 10th March 2008 and has a decision date of 5th May 2008.

The second application is at Bailbrook House Conference and Training Centre London Road West Lower Swainswick and the proposal is for Replacement of glazed corridor and conservatory, provision of new disabled access ramp and removal of modern additions.

The application number is 08/00942/FUL and you can view the application by following the link on the application number. The application was registered on 10th March 2008 and has a decision date of 9th June 2008.

Any representations on these applications should be made in writing to Development Control, Trimbridge House, Trim Street, Bath BA1 2DP. Alternatively representations can be made using the Planning Service pages of the Council’s website All representations must arrive no later than the 12th April 2008

Friday, 14 March 2008

“7.56% is real tax increase in Council budget”

“7.56% is the real tax increase Bath & North East Somerset Council residents are facing this year”, this is because a Conservative budget was approved by full council on 19th February 2008 despite Liberal Democrats voting against after failing to get other opposition parties to agree to amendments that would have softened the blow.

Directly, residents are going to be charged a 3.95% Council tax increase. However, with all of the hikes in other fees and charges and the introduction of new fees planned by the Conservative Cabinet, the real figure is 7.56%.

New and increased charges in this budget include: the introduction of charges for on-street parking for disabled drivers; increases in charges for services for older people; an increase of 56% for residents’ parking permits; increases in park and ride fares; extensions to other car park charges; and a 10% increase in garden and bulky waste charges.

“This Conservative budget appears to have a low Council tax rise, but when all the other charges and fees are taken into account, the real burden on residents is much higher.
“The budget will hit vulnerable people with high charges; it will punish drivers, without improving traffic flows; it will delay, put off or abandon important environmental measures, such as same-day collection and extending recycling; and it will exacerbate problems through cuts to the Council’s youth and other services.

“The Liberal Democrats believe this Conservative budget of service cuts and increased charges is fundamentally flawed. We have fought hard for improvements, and will be proposing an amendment which is intended to reduce the burden on older people and the vulnerable, to help protect services for young people and to put environmental protection high on the agenda.
“By trying to claim a low Council tax increase on the one hand and introducing new fees and increased charges on the other, the Conservative Cabinet is driving our authority into the sand, putting its head in after it and blaming everyone else.”