Bath Voice Political News: a brief round-up ahead of May’s council elections in Bath and North East Somerset

By Harry Mottram: Bathonians and all voters in Bath and North East Somerset go to the polls on Thursday, May 4th, 2023 to elect new councillors.
Remember you need personal identification when you vote such as a photo driving licence or passport – or you may not be allowed to tick your cross in the booth.
In Bath and North East Somerset the current council is controlled by the Liberal Democrats who swept to power four years ago when they gained more councillors than the Conservatives in 2019.
Bath Voice understands the LibDems have 35 councillors, the Tories 12, Labour 5, Independents 6, and Greens 1 despite some changes since 2019.
Nationally the Conservatives are not doing well in the opinion polls compared to Labour but local elections tend to throw up contrasting results compared to a General Election.

There are no reliable local opinion polls so it is not known how well the Lib Dems, Tories, Labour and Greens will do or whether the Independents will prosper and remain above party politics.
The Liberal Democrats will be defending their record including such policies that have seen creating the first social or council housing in a generation in former offices.
Another policy are the changes to residential roads plagued by rat runs and ‘park and stride’ commuters but these have not been universally embraced by some residents who lobbied against them.
They have also taken flack over the failed attempt to introduce a bike park at Entry Hill’s former golf course – which is now in effect a park and a dog walker’s paradise.

The Government’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office recommended measures to protect the city centre against terrorism after vehicles were used to kill people in other cities in the past. The barriers have been criticised as being too expensive and cutting access and have been dubbed The Ring of Steel. The jury is still out on whether the scheme has a positive or negative effect on trade and access.
They have also introduced more cycle lanes in the city and approved the use of Voi’s e-scooters – to the anger of some motorists but the joy of those who use them.

In their defence they have said they have put in place many of the policies promised in the last election.
The Conservatives have been vocal in their opposition to some of the Resident’s Parking Zones and restrictions to vehicles in general as they claim they affect shops and businesses and are not wanted by some residents due to the costs of paying to park. And they haven’t held back on their criticism of the ‘Ring of Steel’ in part due to the cost that’s risen to more than £7 million.
Plus they will point to the victory of Police and Crime Commissioner Conservative Mark Shelford in the PCC election as good omen.
Labour have made it plain they would be in favour of the Council building more council homes and of getting tough with land owners who allow plots to remain empty when there is a shortage of affordable housing in the city.
They are also keen for social services to be brought back within the Council’s full control rather than contracting private firms to carry out many services once done by local authorities.
In the past Labour had city councillors in Bath and they will be hoping their national popularity will have an affect. They do have Dan Norris for Labour who was elected as the Metro Mayor and he has worked with B&NES, South Glos and Bristol on transport and a number of areas to coordinate the councils to work together with mixed results – depending on your point of view.

There are currently five Independent councillors and they rely on their personal integrity and social standing to gain votes as they have no official political party for support.
These include councillors in several areas outside the city while in Bath the former mayor Cllr June Player represents Westmoreland along with fellow Independent Cllr Colin Blackburn – and will hope for a further endorsement from voters.

The Green Party may be hoping to emulate their colleagues in Bristol who became the second largest group in the city at the last election.
Currently their only representative is Cllr Joanna Wright of Lambridge. She was elected as a LibDem but switched to the Greens after she failed to agree with their response to the climate emergency after they changed leaders from Dino Romaro to Kevin Guy.

Local elections are important as they affect in some ways the lives of residents as much as a general election so the most important thing for voters is to vote on Thursday, May 4th, 2023, even if it’s raining.

Bath Voice Monthly Newspaper is distributed free to thousands of homes and some supermarkets – distributed from the first of the month. Harry Mottram is the News Editor

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