‘Sham’ Liveable Neighbourhoods consultation should be scrapped and restarted

The Liveable Neighbourhoods consultation is a sham and it must be scrapped and started again, Conservative councillors say.

The Liberal Democrat administration in control of Bath and North East Somerset Council recently held a public consultation on their plans for Liveable Neighbourhoods.

The plans involve introducing Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) to restrict vehicle movements at various locations across the district, and the five-week public consultation to seek the views of residents ended on 3 January 2022.

But numerous complaints have been made about the way the administration has conducted the consultation, with respondents accusing the council of asking leading questions and ignoring the majority of residents.

In an email sent to members of the Lib Dem Cabinet, one resident complained: “From the information presented with this consultation, I learned little that was new from the previous consultation of a year ago.”

He added: “Included were questions and pull down answers which could only be described as leading and I suspect meant to support an agenda already decided.”

Another resident said: “I have tried to participate in the so-called consultation but it is highly selective and complicated and does not allow generalised comment. It would seem that this is a sham consultation and I wonder what legal standing it has.”

And another said: “As with previous surveys of this nature produced by the council, your questions (tick boxes) seem designed to ensure that the output can be used to claim support for your approach.

“In addition to leading questions, I am also very concerned that it’s possible for suggestions to be ‘liked’ but not for them to be disagreed with. This absolutely skews the results of the survey and must call into doubt its conclusions from the outset.”

The Lib Dem administration has also been criticised for only alerting certain residents – those who live close to proposed LTN schemes – to the consultation, rather than the city as a whole.

Reflecting this concern, one resident wrote to the Lib Dem leadership to say: “I suggest that this is an oversight that risks undermining the results of the survey and your claim to be a ‘listening council’.” 

Following the complaints, Cllr Vic Pritchard, Leader of the Conservative Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council, is urging the administration to scrap the consultation and go back to the drawing board.

Cllr Pritchard said: “This consultation has no legitimacy whatsoever and should be scrapped and started again.

“The Liveable Neighbourhoods policy will be hugely disruptive for residents and businesses right across our district, and it cannot be introduced on the back of such poor levels of public engagement.

“It’s clear that this survey was designed to produce an outcome already decided by the administration. Quite simply, this is consultation in name only.

“I urge the administration to take these complaints seriously, scrap the consultation and go back to the drawing board.”