Conservatives in Bath have launched a major public consultation on the future governance of the city.
Conservative councillors are asking local people for their views on what should be done to enable Bath residents to have a greater say over decisions affecting their city.
Bath has lacked its own decision-making forum since the old Bath City Council was abolished and replaced by B&NES in 1996. In launching their consultation, local Conservatives have said they are hoping to try and find a way to address this long-standing issue.
Residents are being asked to comment on a range of different proposals aimed at giving Bath a greater influence over policy decisions affecting the city, and indicate which of the options they prefer.
One of the ideas put forward would see the creation of a new Bath Council. Such a Council would be in addition to B&NES and have the same legal powers as a Town or Parish Council, meaning it would be able to provide extra local services and oversee matters such as community events in the city.
Other possibilities include creating several smaller Parish Councils representing local communities within the city, establishing a special committee of Bath-based B&NES councillors, or setting up a ‘Bath Senate’ of independent city representatives.
Alternatively, residents can also indicate whether they would prefer to keep the situation as it is, where all decisions affecting the city are taken by Bath and North East Somerset Council.
However, none of the options include the abolition B&NES Council, as this could only be initiated as part of a nationally-driven reorganisation of local government, something which the Coalition Government has indicated it has no plans to undertake.
Conservatives have said that they do not have a settled view on which, if any, of the options would be the right one, but say they want to spark a debate on the future governance of the city and find out what Bath residents think.
B&NES Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Tim Warren, said:
“Ever since Bath City Council was abolished and replaced by B&NES, Bath has lacked its own forum at which decisions affecting the city can be discussed and debated by the city.
“We therefore believe it’s time to look at ways of giving Bath residents a greater say over the issues that affect the city.
“There are various ways in which this can be achieved, each with their own pros and cons. Conservatives don’t have a settled view on which option would be best for Bath. Instead we wanted to set out the options and ask the residents of Bath what they thought of them, and which, if any, would be right for the city.”
Conservative Deputy Leader, Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones (Cons, Lansdown), commented:
“Many residents in Bath frequently raise the issue that, unlike most other cities, Bath does not have its own City Council or other representative forum able to discuss matters relating to the city.
“We hope that by launching this consultation it will spark a public debate on how Bath can best be represented in future.
“There is no clear-cut answer to this issue, and of course residents may ultimately feel they would rather just keep things as they are. But we feel it’s important for local people to have a say over how their city should be run.
“How each of the proposals would be funded obviously needs to be considered carefully, and we want to be honest that some of the ideas would have a cost attached. For example, a new Bath Council would likely need to charge an additional levy to pay for the extra services they would provide.
“However, some of the other proposals could be achieved on a pretty much a cost-neutral basis. But the first step is to found out what residents think of the ideas, and these considerations are all part of the issues we are asking residents to think about when stating their preferred choice.”