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Staple Hill Labour councillor Shirley Potts last night received the Medal of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) awarded in the recent Birthday Honours List. The ceremony, held at Kingswood Civic Centre, was performed by the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Dame Janet Trotter.

The Lord Lieutenant cited Shirley’s longstanding and wide-ranging work in Staple Hill, including a pivotal role in establishing the annual Christmas on the Hill parade and celebration, the Our Place Community Flat (now the Staple Hill Community Hub) on the Pendennis estate, and the Friends of Page Park which is now a thriving community-led organisation.

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Responding to the award, Councillor Potts spoke of her indebtedness to volunteers in her community. She told the Council:

“We all know in this Chamber how important these volunteers are now – without them many of the needs of our communities would not be met and I think we are all eager that their efforts should be recognised.

I couldn’t do the work I’ve done without these volunteers. Volunteers are passionate about the area and they work so hard. I think this medal should be dedicated to them and to the agencies who work with them, and also to my supportive but long-suffering husband.

It is now onward and upward!”

Shirley has been a councillor continuously for 35 years, first on Kingswood Borough Council and on South Gloucestershire Council since its inception in 1995.

Medallist Shirley dedicates to volunteers

Staple Hill Labour councillor Shirley Potts last night received the Medal of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) awarded in the recent Birthday Honours List. The ceremony, held at...

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have tabled 11 questions to the district’s Tory Cabinet members to answer at next week’s Council meeting, following the new Council leader’s recent declaration at Cabinet that they would not answer them there.

The questions cover a wide range of topics including library access, MetroBus, kerbside recycling, tourism, fly tipping, debt collection and the plight of EU citizens post Brexit.

At the Cabinet meeting earlier this month, Labour councillor Ian Boulton was blocked from directing questions to specific Cabinet members, being told that they would have to go to the chair instead. This leaves tabling formal questions at Council the only route available to make individual Cabinet members account for themselves.

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Labour Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney observes:

“At the most recent Cabinet meeting the new Leader of the Council appeared to be restricting opportunities to hold the small group of 7 Tory Cabinet members to account.

We have always been concerned about the concentration of power in such a small group, however this now seems to be contracting to just the Leader.  Until now councillors have been able to raise issues with each portfolio holder at Cabinet meetings, so this latest development sounds alarm bells about the state of openness and accountability at this council.

I am sure that the public will be shocked to discover that the special responsibility allowance that most Cabinet members receive is now effectively hush money.”

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The 11 questions are:

To the Executive Councillor for Corporate Resources

From Councillor Adam Monk - How and in what ways has the executive councillor engaged with South Gloucestershire’s major employers since taking up the role?

From Councillor Ian Boulton - With his recent first-hand experience of the Council chasing debt, what is the executive councillor doing to make this service effective and customer-centric?

To the Executive Councillor for Communities and Tourism

From Councillor Eve Orpen - Patchway has experienced a fair amount of fly tipping of large white goods, and residents often expect the Town Council to clear these, which is an expense. How is this council supporting town and parish councils to deal with dumped rubbish?

From Councillor Eve Orpen - How have the recent changes to the green bin collection affected the council’s income?

From Councillor Shirley Potts - Whilst celebrating the increase in recycling rates, what is the executive councillor doing to identify new items for recycling from kerbside collections?

From Councillor Adam Monk - Given recent confirmation that the patronage of South Gloucestershire libraries has reduced since the introduction of Open Access, what actions will the executive councillor be taking to increase numbers?

From Councillor Michael Bell - How does the Council monitor and respond to enforced closures of libraries during advertised Open Access hours?

From Councillor April Begley - How is the Council helping South Gloucestershire’s EU citizens concerned about their future status to access appropriate information and support?

From Councillor Shirley Potts - What strategies and management plans does the executive councillor have to promote tourism in South Gloucestershire?

From Councillor Shirley Potts - What is the executive councillor's vision for the role of tourism in the local post-Brexit economy and what is he doing to achieve it?

To the Executive Councillor for PTSE

From Councillor Roger Hutchinson - The MetroBus project seems beset by regular revelations of increased cost and technical complexity. Is the executive councillor concerned about public confidence in the MetroBus project, and what is he doing to boost it?

"Hush money" criticism of Tory Cabinet

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have tabled 11 questions to the district’s Tory Cabinet members to answer at next week’s Council meeting, following the new Council leader’s recent declaration at...

Labour’s leader on South Gloucestershire Council is criticising the district’s Tories for opposing democratic elections to fill council vacancies.

Councillor Pat Rooney says that this is a worrying trend, and that all political parties should support the voters’ right to choose their own representatives.

A by election will be held this month for a vacant seat on Emersons Green Town Council. The district’s Tory leader has written to voters criticising the cost of the contest, following his predecessor who did the same thing last August when Dodington voters were asked to choose new representatives.

At the Cabinet meeting held today, Councillor Rooney asked the Tory Leader if he opposed elections to fill vacancies. She was told  that voters were being 'subjected to an unnecessary cost'.

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Councillor Rooney says:

“South Gloucestershire’s Tories clearly don’t agree that democracy should be central to local councils, as they seem happy to deprive local electors from having their say. When I questioned the Conservatives on this last autumn they pointedly refused to say that elections should be held, and their new leader has reiterated this view.

I believe that all political parties should support the voters’ right to elect their council representatives.

Elections are not an unnecessary cost, they are an important part of the democratic process. I do not share the Conservatives’ view that vacancies should be filled by a cabal of existing councillors rather than by the people they are meant to be serving.”

Councillor Rooney observes:

“It ill behoves any Conservative from lecturing others about the cost of elections when their party wasted £180 million on an unnecessary general election last summer and then spent £1 billion from the public coffers to get the DUP to prop up their government.

Last summer we had a by election in Winterbourne caused by a Tory councillor’s resignation, but the Tories did not complain about that. Their double standards are breath taking.”

Tories slammed for opposing elections

Labour’s leader on South Gloucestershire Council is criticising the district’s Tories for opposing democratic elections to fill council vacancies.

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