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The leader of South Gloucestershire’s Labour councillors has questioned the level of public support for ‘Open Access’ at the district’s libraries, after the Conservative council’s Annual Performance Report revealed that just 13% of eligible users have signed up for the scheme.

‘Open Access’ swipe-cards were introduced into nine South Gloucestershire libraries last year as a cost-saving measure, with users needing to register to gain access during unstaffed hours.  In parallel, staffed hours were cut by 30% across the district. Labour councillors believe that ‘Open Access’ technology has a role in enhancing staffed services but should not be used as a cover to cut the much-valued library staff.

At the Council’s Cabinet meeting this week, Councillor Pat Rooney questioned the ruling Conservatives on the 13% take-up of the scheme.

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Councillor Rooney says:

“The council’s official performance report tells us that, as of April, 3,655 library users had signed up for ‘Open Access’, which equates to around 13% of all eligible library users. When I raised my concerns at Cabinet about this low figure they were dismissed by the Tories, who continue to boast that this is a great system and an exemplar for future value for money improvements.

It is surely a false economy if cost-cutting changes result in very few residents actually using the new service. The ‘Open Access’ swipe-card system has been in place for several months now, so the low registration levels cannot be casually dismissed as teething problems. Unless the Tories improve the take-up of the scheme, their flagship policy is in danger of hitting the rocks.”

Library scheme “in danger of hitting the rocks”

The leader of South Gloucestershire’s Labour councillors has questioned the level of public support for ‘Open Access’ at the district’s libraries, after the Conservative council’s Annual Performance Report revealed that...

Labour councillor Martin Farmer has asked South Gloucestershire’s Tory Council leadership to investigate a possible major business and jobs opportunity.

The Ministry of Defence recently announced that it would buy what they call “Boxer” armoured vehicles in a deal worth over £4bn, with a new build line for the Boxer vehicles being created in the UK.  This new build line should bring hundreds of new, skilled jobs, with significant spin offs into the rest of the economy.

Councillor Farmer used today’s Cabinet meeting to ask the council and West of England Combined Authority to investigate the opportunities for bringing this build line to the area, having previously discussed it with council officials.

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Councillor Farmer says:

“We have a skilled workforce here in South Gloucestershire and one of major manufacturers of the Boxer has an engineering office in Bradley Stoke. Rolls-Royce also has a major involvement in the Boxer from one of its overseas divisions.

I have asked the council's leadership, and through them the West of England Combined Authority, to establish with the relevant Government and Industry bodies if a build line for the Boxer is still a live business opportunity. If it is, we should be pursuing it in order to bring further significant economic benefits to our area.”

Councillor pursues armoured vehicle opportunity

Labour councillor Martin Farmer has asked South Gloucestershire’s Tory Council leadership to investigate a possible major business and jobs opportunity.

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have welcomed a last-minute decision to withdraw two controversial items from the agenda of this evening’s Council meeting, which included scrapping the authority’s existing planning decision process.

The council’s ruling Conservatives unveiled their plans last week to abolish the council’s two long-standing Development Control Committees, slash the number of councillors involved in detailed planning decisions by 30%, and make it more difficult for councillors to refer applications to a public committee hearing. Labour criticised the move and the lack of openness in publishing the plans without any consultation within the wider council.

The Conservative Administration has now relented and agreed to defer any decision until the Council’s next meeting in mid-July. This should enable councillors to scrutinise the proposals in greater depth.

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Labour Group’s Lead on planning policy matters, Councillor Roger Hutchinson, says:

“I was very concerned that major changes to our planning system would be forced through without any scrutiny, so I welcome this pause which will allow us to reconsider them. I recognise that there is a need to get a balance between cost and democracy but I do not think that the original plans got that balance right. I want to avoid any change that restricts a councillor’s ability to trigger a public hearing of a local planning application, as this is an important aspect of our representational role.”

 

The other controversial issue that has been withdrawn from tonight’s meeting is a Conservative motion on antisemitism which Labour says could be much better worded. This will also be subject to further discussion before being re-presented in July.

Labour Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney comments:

“We need to present a united front against antisemitism, and I am hopeful that this pause will allow us to agree better wording that does just that. South Gloucestershire has a proud tradition of the three political parties issuing joint statements against hate and discrimination, and I am confident that we will be able to do the same on this issue.”

Planning change pause welcomed

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have welcomed a last-minute decision to withdraw two controversial items from the agenda of this evening’s Council meeting, which included scrapping the authority’s existing planning...

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