Sunday, 17 January 2016

Bath City Forum

Clearly the Bath City Forum is not an ideal solution nor does it go very far in addressing the Bath governance issue.

However, creating a subcommittee of the Council made up of Councillors with Bath city constituencies to focus on Bath city issues and make authoritative proposals to full council about the how to address city problems and opportunities does make some sense.

To assist in this work, it might also have made sense to set up links between key organisations in the city, such as the BID, CCAG, BTP, Police etc., and forum members. This might, in part, have been achieved by inviting groups to nominate representatives to sit in on Forum discussions.

We are considerably less clear why the council has gone down the route of advertising for individuals to apply for co-option to the subcommittee. The pool created are self-selected and represent only themselves.

Who made the selection from this rather narrow pool and what criteria did they use?

How can they be deselected?

To who, if anyone, will they feel answerable?

What are their priorities for and vision for Bath?

Some of those selected hold offices in organisations which have very clear and often controversial views on Bath City issues. Will they be acting independently or pursuing the agenda of these organisations?

Friday, 15 January 2016

Bath Night Time Economy and the safety of Bath at night

The BathUniversity students union have been running a campaign to address the issue of sexual harassment particularly in nightclubs

The city marshals and representatives of the door staff who work in Bath bars and nightclubs report increased incidents of men hanging around exits and targeting women made vulnerable by alcohol.

Bath has seen two alleged serious sexual assaults since the start of the new year one in the City Centre.

We have been for some time now campaigning to get a discussion of how to get the CCTV network extended to cover areas which are used by people coming to and leaving the cities nightspots.

These developments further highlight the need for such a discussion and swift implementation of any decisions.

Banes and Customer Service Excellence

The Council has been awarded the national Customer Service Excellence Standard ® across all of its services.

This is the latest in a series of awards and prizes claimed by BANES over the last couple of years. Residents have received news of these with a mixture of reactions some have been seen as clearly deserved and some have caused eyebrows to be raised.

All these awards and prizes have caused us to wonder about the amount of council resources and cash that have been used to apply for, created evidence for and be assessed for these prizes and awards and what benefit council tax payers have got for this expenditure.

However this latest award raises another question; who should be judging customers service excellence? We understand that this particular award was made by the Cabinet Office and looking at their dedicated web site it appears that their award was based on an assessment by G4S. The web site site is rather coy about what the cost of such assessments are likely to be be merely saying:

"No two organisations are the same and no two assessments are the same - so, the costs involved vary. The exact cost depends very much on the individual circumstances of your organisation, to find out how much you will have to pay for your Customer Service Excellence ® assessment please contact the certification bodies."

We would have thought that customer service excellence should be judged by customers, in this instance council tax and business rate payers, and that this assessment could be achieved a fairly low cost. Indeed we would be surprised and disappointed if BANES did not routinely collect information about customer satisfaction and suggestions for improvement.

We would have been more interested in and impressed by BANES publishing this assessment in support of its claims of excellence rather than that of the Cabinet Office.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Place making and flood risk management

Throughout the Draft Placemaking Plan there appear to be contradictory statements and some wishful thinking where flood risk in Bath is concerned. For example in the Bath subsection of this Plan, paragraph 122 states that the Recreation Ground “Functions as an important storage area during flood events”. However, the flood risk maps for that area which can be viewed on the B&NES website and are contained in the Black and Veatch Technical Note for the Bath Quays project show the actual flooded areas for various Annual Probability return risk events.  The Rec does indeed flood at a low-risk event but as the water levels rise the line drawn on the B&NES map refuses to contain the water and the inundation spreads into the surrounding properties.

This means that, if the Placemaking Plan is adopted as currently drafted it will effectively be council policy to designate the basement flats of Great Pulteney Street, the houses in Pulteney Mews, those along Pulteney Road to the south of the railway bridge, Broadway and the Dolemeads and Widcombe School as “important flood storage”. We cannot believe that this is what councillors  intend.

In 2012, The Environment Agency produced the Bristol Avon Catchment Flood Management Plan which says “The current level of flood risk in Bath is considered unacceptable”,

The Placemaking Plan predicts that by 2020 “winter precipitation could increase by up 18% and be more intense”.

We are concerned that current plans for development are ignoring, or, at least, understating, the flood risk to existing residents of Bath.

Had storm Desmond tracked a few miles to the south, Bath would not have had a Christmas market, and too many of us would not have had a very happy Christmas.

Paragraph 21 of the Placemaking Plan states that the “Council will encourage and support residents throughout Bath”.

We would argue that a key element of that support has to be a more thorough understanding of the flooding risks posed by future developments and much more concrete and funded proposals for protecting the city.