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Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have opposed the Government’s plans to reduce the size of the House of Commons to 600 MPs, and slammed the likely effect on the district’s own constituencies.

The council’s ruling Conservatives this evening forced through a motion in support of the plans, despite the Leader of Labour’s councillors telling them that there was no justification for them. Councillor Pat Rooney said:

Pat_fed_up.jpg“The last time that the Commons was this small was in 1800, before the Irish MPs were included, so this will produce the smallest House of Commons in the United Kingdom’s entire history.

This comes at a time when the UK’s population is steadily growing. And once we Brexit our Parliament will surely have greater responsibilities – that is what we were told.

It is hypocritical of the Government to cut the elected half of Parliament when at the same time the House of Lords is growing, with 804 current members and 260 new peers created since May 2010.

Forcing up the size of each constituency inevitably means that at least one of South Gloucestershire’s seats will have to be cross border. And the proposal for Kingswood is bizarre, adding a large rural ward onto a compact semi-urban seat, completely changing its character.

These plans make no objective sense. But then the objective of this motion is to support Conservative Party advantage rather than common sense.”

Labour slams boundary move

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have opposed the Government’s plans to reduce the size of the House of Commons to 600 MPs, and slammed the likely effect on the district’s...

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire are describing the Conservative Council’s decision to abolish its policy-making committee system as ‘a backwards step for democracy and transparency’.

Five years ago South Gloucestershire became one of the first councils in the country to take advantage of a change in the law which allowed the creation of committees to make policy decisions instead of the highly centralised ‘Cabinet’ system where many decisions are delegated to individual councillors.

Now the Conservatives have used their majority on the Council to force through a change back to the old system, creating a Cabinet of 8 members which will determine the vast majority of policies.

Pat_fed_up.jpgCommenting on the move, Councillor Pat Rooney, the Leader of Labour’s councillors on the authority, says:

“All elected councillors should have a voice, an influence and a vote on policy decisions, and these should be made in public. This Cabinet system will concentrate power in the hands of just 8 of our 70 councillors. Some decisions will be delegated to individual councillors for approval, leading to policy being made by the stroke of a pen behind closed doors. 

Our past experience with this system is that most councillors get sidelined and their valid challenges get treated with contempt.

This change is unnecessary because the committee system does not prevent the Tories from running the council as they have a majority on each committee. The big difference is that committees operate in public so all decisions are made in public. Abolishing our committee structure is a backwards step for democracy and transparency.

South Gloucestershire used to enjoy an enviable reputation for openness, so this is sad day for South Gloucestershire.”

Labour laments ‘backwards step for democracy’

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire are describing the Conservative Council’s decision to abolish its policy-making committee system as ‘a backwards step for democracy and transparency’.

Papers just published confirm that Conservative-run South Gloucestershire Council intends to press ahead with large-scale cuts to the number of staffed hours at the district’s libraries.

After a backlash last year against initial proposals to reduce the opening hours completely, the council ran a public consultation last autumn on introducing a modified ‘Open Plus’ system which would see access controlled by swipe card technology for much of the week.

74% of the consultation’s respondents said that the council should not cut staffed hours and, significantly, “there was a reoccurring feeling amongst many that the outcome of this consultation had already been decided and was inevitable; that nothing consultees said could change the mind of those who make the decision”.

Labour councillors have argued that the Open Plus technology should not be used as a justification for slashing staffed hours, and have echoed the public’s concerns about safety and fair access at those times when the libraries are not staffed.

IM_Boulton.jpgThe proposals being put to the vote next Wednesday (29th) to proceed with Open Plus still cut staffed hours by 30% district-wide.  However, they now exempt Hanham Library from the new system on the grounds of “fire risk”.

Councillor Ian Boulton, Labour’s Lead on community services, says:

“The Tory chair of the Environment & Communities Committee is presumably very disappointed that the library in her ward is not being put forward for ‘Open Plus’ technology given that she has consistently argued that this is a great system. Of course she has failed to convince her constituents of its merits, as Hanham probably has the most vocal campaign group in the district opposing the plans.”

Councillor Roger Hutchinson, Labour’s Deputy Lead on community services, adds:

“New technologies that deliver an addition to the current service are welcome, but they should not be used as a cover to cut the existing and much-valued library staff. We have received briefings on how this swipe-card system works in other countries and it is clear that it has been used to enhance rather than replace the existing services.”

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NOTE – The future library proposals are online at https://council.southglos.gov.uk/documents/s81565/libraries.a1.pdf

Library changes set for approval

Papers just published confirm that Conservative-run South Gloucestershire Council intends to press ahead with large-scale cuts to the number of staffed hours at the district’s libraries.

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