Monday, 25 September 2017

Bath and Bath Politics a worrying picture

We now have a cabinet in which the representation of Bath is arguable reduced to one person and there is no representation from the core of the urban area or its unique problems.

For what look like political reasons politicians of all stripes  have chosen to  support a small number of well organised protestors over the interests and health of the majority of people and businesses in the City.

We have few, if any, neutral and well informed media outlets.

We have a new regional mayor whose views about Bath are yet to be clearly articulated but who has chosen to base his operations in Bristol.

We have a police and crime commissioner who was essentially elected by Bristol and has presided over a decline in community policing resources in Bath.

With less than two years to go to council elections we are seeing an increasing emphasis on political point scoring over debate aimed a resolving Baths issues.

The Bath City Forum has failed to deliver even the relatively modest things it was created for and is diverting resources from other arguable better forms of public engagement.

Friday, 22 September 2017

The 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 appointing self nominated individuals to sit as effectively permanent members 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?

What has the forum actually achieved? Many of their reported discussions appear to consist of political point scoring or grandstanding by individual members.

How much is the forum costing? Particular in the light of this already big committee spawning subcommittees. How much officer time is this absorbing?

Are councillors using referral of issues to  the forum as a way of avoiding confronting them?

Friday, 15 September 2017

CCTV issues still unresolved

1. We still do not have a clear method for proposing and getting approval for new CCTV cameras or indeed getting existing cameras moved

2. BANES commercialisation programme is not delivering investment where it is needed or as quickly as it is needed

3. The police contribute little or nothing

4. Residents and businesses will not fundraise or sponsor without:

o   Getting a say in how the network is managed

o   Getting a convincing explanation about why the police don’t contribute

o   Without public bodies taking responsibility for ongoing costs

5. The PCC appears to suggest that the police regard CCTV as a “nice to have” while officers on the ground, and common observation, say it is increasing essential. She still not explain how she is planning to address residents’ concerns without CCTV
6. BANES has failed to get agreement to link Network Rail's CCTV at and around the station

Friday, 8 September 2017

"Putting residents first" in practice

BANES should be customer/resident focussed in the way it operates but too often it is not.

The frontline staff often lack authority to act and there are often too many layers of management between them and decision makers.

Resident impact ought to be an early consideration for any project plan or policy creation discussion but to often impact on residents and residential amenity is only addressed when complaints and criticisms arise. By this stage electors are unhappy and the cost of resolving any issues will be high.

Some parts of BANES and some officers are much better at customer service than others but there appears to be no effective process for spreading or rewarding best practice consistently.

This has allowed a culture to develop in to many areas where instead of looking for ways in which to address residents' issue officers fall back on using regulations and custom and practice to find reasons  for not confronting problems or being creative,

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Policing and Enforcement

We think that strengthening and improving local policing teams should be a priority because funding reductions and decision by senior people in Avon and Somerset have weaken local policing teams and connections between police and the communities they serve.
We agree with the PCC that ensuring Avon and Somerset Constabulary have the right people, right equipment and right culture should be a priority but would note that while CCTV is increasingly important in effective policing Avon and Somerset invest little or nothing in the network.
The Police working effectively with other agencies should be a priority but it appears to us that there is little coordination or pooling of funding with local government enforcement teams and that while the PCC took control of a number of BANES budgets including public protection there is little sign that this money has been spent in improving policing or public safety in BANES. 

There are a number of ways in which the police and environmental protection service can use the powers of the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 for instance in relation to aggressive begging and party houses but they need support from residents in the form of formal complaints and evidence gathering and there has been too little investment in improving or even publicising reporting systems. The use of any of these provisions requires close cooperation between various BANEs enforcement departments and the Police. However, we are now concerned that this may be undermined by manpower reductions in the policing of Bath and in particular the Anti Social Behaviour Unit. We now appear to be more reliant on BANES officers and the BID wardens in addressing anti-social behaviour than we are on the Police.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Poor Quality of BANES consultations

With a few notable exceptions BANES public consultations have been of very poor quality. Some of the recurrent problems are:
  1. Poorly designed questions
  2. Poorly structure questionnaires
  3. Poor presented background information and poorly researched information leading to poorly informed responses
  4. An over reliance on questionnaires
  5. A failure to use more deliberative processes
  6. A focus on consulting groups generating negative publicity
  7. A over reliance on self selecting respondents over more representative sampling
This has led to a whole series of confused, badly informed decisions and an over emphasis on vociferous minorities over wider public opinion.

We need our politicians to get a grip on this by:
  1. Getting better expert advice
  2. Learning from their own best practice
  3. Engaging with a broader range of organisation while designing consultations