As Leader of the Council, representing the West of England, I introduced and took part in a key cities debate at the Conservative party conference last week. It was an opportunity to put our case and ensure that our voice was heard by the highest levels of Government.
I made the point that to benefit local residents, areas should be allowed to develop a governance structure appropriate to the deal being proposed. Other topics which came up were spatial plans, how neighbouring areas can work together constructively, the need for greater links between cities with similar industries/economies/supply chains but which are not necessarily geographically nearby, and the general contribution that medium-sized cities and towns make to the economy.
You may have caught the news about the Chancellor’s plans for local government to gain new powers and retain local taxes. The Treasury has said that this will be a fiscally neutral plan – so it will not initially lead to any extra money for councils. We now await the detail the Chancellor’s plan in the Autumn Spending Review in November. However, at this stage we are giving it a cautious welcome as it potentially gives us much more control over our own area, with flexibility to use the money generated locally to grow our economy further, attract new businesses and create jobs.
I went to the official opening of Midland Bridge in Bath on October 1. It was good to see this important bridge refurbished and opened a week ahead of schedule.
Last Thursday, I went to Paulton to a very moving event to honour a hero of the First World War, Oliver Brooks. He was the only soldier from our area to have been awarded the Victoria Cross. 100 years to the day the village of Paulton honoured him with a special ceremony and unveiled a commemorative stone plaque.
The new Bath City Forum met for the first time at The Guildhall last night. I look forward to seeing the development and contribution of this forum, which will consider key issues affecting the city and will assist and advise the Council on issues specific to Bath.
On a personal note, late last week our border terrier went missing. The whole family was very worried and we shared that she was missing on Facebook. We had hundreds of shares and were delighted when Millie turned up at Shepton Mallet vets, over 20 miles from home, within 48 hours. I’d like to thank all those people for sharing it on social media. Also it demonstrates how important it is to get your dogs microchipped. It becomes a legal requirement in April 2016.
And finally don’t forget that the consultation on plans for a park and ride to the east of Bath is open until Sunday October 18 – make sure you have your say.