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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The other controversial issue that has been withdrawn from tonight’s meeting is a Conservative motion on antisemitism which Labour says could be much better worded.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...

Labour is again criticising the culture of concealment at Tory-run South Gloucestershire Council after wholesale changes to the district’s planning processes were published without consultation.

Proposals being put to next week’s Council AGM will abolish the council’s two long-standing Development Control Committees and slash the number of councillors involved in detailed planning decisions by 30%. This comes a year after the Conservatives forced through a Cabinet system which concentrates power in the hands of just 8 members.

Labour is particularly angry that the report containing the proposals falsely claims that the opposition groups had been consulted on the change.*

*UPDATE - Following Labour's complaint the report was re-published with this wording removed.

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Labour Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney says:

“This is a further example of the culture of concealment at South Gloucestershire Council. It signals the growing contempt that the ruling Tories have for the other political parties.

I would have been perfectly happy to enter a discussion about reforming our planning processes and can understand some of the arguments for it, but the Tories did not see fit to ask us. And to add insult to injury, the report originally claimed that the proposals have been developed in consultation with the political group leaders. This is simply not true.

South Gloucestershire used to pride itself on the mature and constructive way in which it conducted its politics. Sadly, finding out about such a fundamental change without warning shows that the Conservatives have turned their backs on that culture and have replaced it with one of secrecy and arrogance.”

Shock as planning process pulled apart

Labour is again criticising the culture of concealment at Tory-run South Gloucestershire Council after wholesale changes to the district’s planning processes were published without consultation.

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have tabled 18 questions to the Council’s Tory Leadership on a wide range of issues including criticism from a local MP and one of its own outgoing members, and comments made on BBC Radio Bristol.

Other topics covered include school performance at KS4 and KS5, the range and number of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities that schools are offering, youth service diversity, cameras at the council’s Sort It centres and committing to a Construction Charter.

In addition, Labour Group Leader Pat Rooney has tabled a set of questions asking for a detailed assessment of the first year of the West of England Combined Authority against six criteria.

The questions are due to be answered by the relevant Conservative Executive Councillor at the Council meeting on Wednesday 16th May.

 

The text of the 18 questions is given below.

 

To the Leader of the Council

From Councillor Ian Scott

What is the Leader’s view of the criticisms recently made in Parliament by the MP for Filton & Bradley Stoke of the salaries and number of senior officers employed by South Gloucestershire Council?

From Councillor Ian Boulton
 
What is the Leader’s view of the suggestion recently made in Parliament by the MP for Filton & Bradley Stoke that Council Tax increases should be subject to a local referendum?

From Councillor Adam Monk
 
What is the Leader’s interpretation of the statement recently made in Parliament by the MP for Filton & Bradley Stoke that he hopes that

‘South Gloucestershire Council takes this opportunity to look carefully at the governance of the council and how effectively it works’?

From Councillor Andy Perkins

The Executive Councillor for Corporate Resources told Cabinet on 23rd April that, in being replaced as the Cabinet member, he was “the subject of ageism”.  How does the Leader respond to this accusation and what is he doing to combat age discrimination at all levels of the Council?

From Councillor Pat Rooney

How does the Leader intend to deal with the recent approach from Unite to sign up to their Construction Charter?

From Councillor Martin Farmer

The Leader last month told BBC Radio Bristol that he would return in July to describe which services will face further cuts. What plan does he have to discuss with residents where the axe will fall before they hear about it on local radio?

From Councillor Pat Rooney

As this Council’s appointee to the West of England Combined Authority, what is the Leader’s assessment of WECA’s first year in terms of its achievements?

From Councillor Pat Rooney

As this Council’s appointee to the West of England Combined Authority, what is the Leader’s assessment of WECA’s first year in terms of its ambition and vision?
 
From Councillor Pat Rooney

As this Council’s appointee to the West of England Combined Authority, what is the Leader’s assessment of WECA’s first year in terms of its organisation and structure?
 
From Councillor Pat Rooney

As this Council’s appointee to the West of England Combined Authority, what is the Leader’s assessment of WECA’s first year in terms of its profile and communications?
 
From Councillor Pat Rooney

As this Council’s appointee to the West of England Combined Authority, what is the Leader’s assessment of WECA’s first year in terms of its sub-regional leadership?
 
From Councillor Pat Rooney

As this Council’s appointee to the West of England Combined Authority, what is the Leader’s assessment of WECA’s first year in terms of it developing relationships and partnerships?

 

To the Executive Councillor for Children & Young People

From Councillor April Begley

How and in what ways does the council work with young people to ensure that its youth services are responsive to the diversity of their needs?

 

To the Executive Councillor for Schools, Skills & Employment

From Councillor Gareth Manson

Is the executive councillor concerned about the performance of South Gloucestershire schools at KS4 and KS5?

From Councillor April Begley

What affect is the transfer of funds from the schools block to the high needs block reported at Cabinet last month having on the schools and their pupils?

From Councillor Adam Monk

Given that our schools routinely report that they are struggling to balance their budgets, how is the council monitoring what is happening to the range and number of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities that they are offering?

 

To the Executive Councillor for Corporate Resources

From Councillor Adam Monk

How and in what ways will the executive councillor build strong relationships with South Gloucestershire’s major business rate payers?

 

To the Executive Councillor for Community Services

From Councillor Michael Bell

Could the executive councillor outline the recent problems with web cameras at the council’s Sort It centres and explain how he will ensure that they get resolved?

Cabinet to face 18 Labour questions

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have tabled 18 questions to the Council’s Tory Leadership on a wide range of issues including criticism from a local MP and one of its...

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