Blog : Posts tagged with 'council'

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Return Of The Guided Bus

In which I discuss the likely and hoped-for death of the Bristol guided busway plans


Regular readers – local regular readers, if there are any – might have noticed that it’s a while now since I’ve mentioned “Bus Rapid Transit”, the West Of England Partnership’s unloved and highly expensive scheme for a South Bristol guided busway to replace the current park-and-ride route. Because, you know, the way to improve bus services in Bristol is to replace the bus routes that are, erm, already the best bus routes in the city, with slightly different buses* on their own private roads. If you’ve not heard about this: you might want to read this, this, and this, in which – with a few misconceptions which got sorted out along the way – I demonstrate that it will be rather tricky to build the thing.**

I’ve been quiet, because, well, there’s only so many times you can ridicule these plans, and I hardly have enough space here to point out all their shortcomings. Their consultation phase is over; and presumably the Partnership is now collating the results. Catching up on the blogs I read, though, I’ve noticed that the other day Chris Hutt of the Green Bristol Blog has spotted that the project is probably doomed. Not because of anything going on here in Bristol, but because of events up in the North, where Mancunians have overwhelmingly rejected the proposed Manchester Congestion Charge scheme.

The Manchester proposals were horridly complex, with two rings of toll lines, motorists paying to cross each line in either direction, and the outer ring following the M60 motorway.*** But the scale of the no-vote is bound to put off any other councils from putting forward further congestion-charge proposals in the near future. Even though, as London’s shown, they definitely work in terms of reducing traffic, no city population as a whole is going to vote for them. Even in an apparently-green city like this one.

The reason this is important is: the Bristol guided bus scheme was, essentially, nothing more than a pill to sweeten a congestion charging scheme which would be coming along with it. None of this was mentioned in the consultation documents, of course; but then, you had to study the consultation documents pretty damn carefully to spot that it was about a new bus route. The key is that the guided bus route will be funded from a bid to the Transport Innovation Fund – a body which only accepts bids for “demand management” schemes. You can’t just have the carrot of a new bus route; you have to be proposing a stick to go with it. The exact nature of Bristol’s stick is, as yet, unknown; but it would almost certainly involve some sort of road pricing.

You never know; the council – sorry, the Partnership – still might push forward with the scheme. Presumably they’re planning to produce positive results from the consultation,**** and then say: well, you wanted this scheme, and we can only have that if we have the congestion charging too. But I doubt anyone in Bristol really wants a guided bus – itself a grand waste of public money which would be much better spent improving the ordinary bus routes – enough to agree to congestion charging in return.

* using vague and unspecified “sustainable fuel”, of course. Not that the planners have said what said fuel is going to be, or even shown any sign that they have any idea what it would be.

** and – for train geeks – that it will effectively destroy the Bristol Harbour Railway in its current form, as the route requires almost the entire railway trackbed right up to Prince St Bridge.

*** The only circular motorway in Britain, road trivia fans.

**** Would I be cynical to suggest that they had planned the overall tone of the consultation result beforehand? Would I?

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Voter Participation

In which there is still nobody worth voting for


About a year ago,* I wrote about local elections, and why I wasn’t going to bother voting. I didn’t think it was a particularly good post myself, but it was good enough for the Guardian to quote it, so more people probably read that post (or that part of that post) than anything else I’ve ever put on the site.

Well, this year, I’m going to vote anyway, even though I have no idea who the candidates are, or what they are standing for. In fact, I’m not really sure why at all, other than a vague feeling that, you know, really, I should make the most of my rights. As I said last year, though, we get the politicians we deserve. I might not have managed to set up the Symbolic Forest Party in the last twelve months, but I’m going to go out and vote for someone today, and then (if they get in) I’m going to see what they do. I’m going to keep an eye on them and see what good (or otherwise) my voting has actually done.

* in fact it was a year ago tomorrow – I used a bad Star Wars related pun in the post title

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Vote early, vote often … so long as it’s worthwhile

In which there’s nothing to vote for


As I said yesterday, I’ve been pondering the rather rubbish choice we have in the forthcoming local elections. Checking the candidate list in the local paper, I discovered that in our ward there is a grand total of two candidates for the available seat: one Labour and one Tory. Oh, what a choice I have.

At least, if I don’t vote, I don’t have to worry about letting in any of the Nasty Parties in this ward. The reason we only have a choice of two candidates is that we currently have a hung council governed by a Tory-Liberal coalition. To try to ensure at least some slice of the pie, the local Tories and Lib Dems have agreed that neither can beat Labour on their own.* They’ve also agreed not to compete against each other; each seat has a Labour candidate, and a Tory-Liberal Coalition candidate, although of course they’re careful not to say that out loud.

Now, I know that local politics is important, and should be all about local issues, nothing to do with national politics. The current Tory-Liberal council was elected on local issues – largely, the enormous deficit run up by the previous Labour administration. Nevertheless, on Friday morning, all of the party leaders will be trumpeting their results as being a vote of suppose for their national policies. I can’t bring myself to vote for a party that wants to bring in an expensive and repressive identity-tracking database; and neither can I bring myself to vote for a party run by Norman Lamont’s old sidekick. Right. That’s my vote out of the window, then.

People always complain about voter apathy, but I’m not being apathetic here. I’m making a deliberate choice to abstain, because my choices range from bad to worse. The problem is: I want the parties to realise that I’m not apathetic. So, the plan** is: write to the candidates and tell them why I’m not voting for them. Write to the local Lib Dem leadership and ask them if they really think that their effective merger with the Tories is really a good thing for local democracy. Write a sarcastic letter to Lib Dem head office applauding their “let’s not stand against the Tories” attitude, and asking if they plan to continue it at the next general election. Above all, make sure they all realise that just because I’m not voting, it doesn’t mean I don’t care, or that I’m not interested in local politics. Let’s see if I get any replies.

* The local council follows the standard county-wide voting pattern: red on the council estates and in the Victorian terraces; blue as soon as you get anywhere near fields or big gardens; odd patches of yellow in suburban villages.

** Assuming I am not too lazy

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Success

In which the local council gets a prominent score


Today’s big news: the Audit Commission has published the latest Comprehensive Performance Assessment, which sounds like a new teenage exam but is actually about local government. More specifically, how well each council is doing at standard local government stuff like mending potholes and emptying your bins.*

Now, many councils didn’t do very well in the CPA. However, I felt a perverse pride in the fact that only one council in the country scored a nice round zero. My local council. Hurrah! If we can’t be good at something, we may as well be famous for being spectacularly bad at it.

The council themselves, of course, are saying that things are actually a lot better now than when the Auditors were doing the actual research, which is a handy thing for them to say because it’s almost entirely unprovable. If there’s one thing not many politicians will say, it’s: “well, yes, now you mention it, we are a bit rubbish at everything.”

* I might be simplifying a little here.

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