The performance of the Liberal Democrats in charge of Bath and North East Somerset Council over the past 12 months has been hapless and embarrassing, opposition councillors say.
And the administration desperately needs to get its house in order if it is to win back the trust of residents in 2022.
The past year has seen the Lib Dem administration make a number of poor policy decisions and avoidable mistakes. We have also seen unnecessary public squabbling among current and former members of Cabinet.
This year congestion has dramatically increased across Bath, especially at weekends, with one driver reporting an eight-minute journey taking three hours. Alarmingly, the chaos on Bath’s roads has been welcomed by the Lib Dems, with the administration arguing that traffic disruption is needed to force people to change their driving habits.
The repair work to Cleveland Bridge, which began in May and was initially meant to take four months to complete, still isn’t finished and relationships have soured between the council and neighbouring authorities, which means finding a long-term traffic solution has been made more difficult.
The administration has pressed ahead with the Ring of Steel, despite repeated pleas for a rethink from residents. And it was revealed at December’s Cabinet meeting that plans for the ring’s ‘inner zone’ were not, as the administration has always claimed, initiated by Avon and Somerset Police.
Cabinet infighting over the Ring of Steel has been played out in full public view, with Cllr Kevin Guy and Cllr Dine Romero exchanging petty blows in the local press.
Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are still being pursued, despite other local authorities removing them after finding they created more problems than they solved. In some areas they have been successful, but the B&NES administration has dismissed concerns that Bath’s unique topography will result in LTNs having an overall negative effect on the city.
This year’s Christmas Markets were extended and then completely cancelled by the Leader of the Council, creating great uncertainly for businesses at what should be a highly profitable time of year.
The Green Park car park was only reopened after a campaign by local residents and Conservative councillors.
To top it all off, barely a month has gone by this year without the administration appearing in the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ section of Private Eye magazine, causing further embarrassment to the council.
Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “I hope members of the current administration look back at their performance over the past 12 months and find the courage to be honest in their evaluations.
“They have done very little to make us feel proud of where we live but plenty to embarrass us. They have antagonised residents, ignored legitimate concerns about controversial policies, called each other names in the local press and sought to hide from scrutiny whenever possible.
“Even as the leader of the opposition, I want this administration to succeed. Because if they succeed, Bath and North East Somerset succeeds. But their record over the past year tells us only one thing – they are failing, and it’s residents who will suffer.
“As we head into 2022, one thing is crystal clear – B&NES deserves better.”