Agenda item

Governance Options for the City of Bath

A short presentation on the Governance Options for the City of Bath will be given. The forum will then have an opportunity to ask questions.


A presentation was given by Andy Thomas and Maria Lucas on Governance Options for the City of Bath.


This presentation was brought to the forum on the request which came from forum members at previous meetings.


The presentation has been attached; the slide that refers to community governance reviews had the wrong number in the papers that were distributed in advance of the meeting. The bullet that was shown at the meeting contained the correct number and read

·  Triggered by a petition of >7.5%. The total electorate for Bath as at 1st March 2018 is 62,891, this would therefore require 4,716 signatures


Questions and comments were taken following on from the presentation.


1.  Cllr Dine Romero –

(i)  Was there a Bath Area Committee that came before Bath City Forum?

(ii)  If Bath was parished what would be the impact on the mayoralty functions?

(iii)  How is the electorate for Bath defined?

(iv)  How is the Bath Boundary defined?

Response –

(i)  There was a Bath South Area Committee prior to the establishment of the Bath City Forum, when the review took place in 2013-2014 this committee was no longer in place.

(ii)  If an unparished area becomes one or more parish council the arrangements in place for the mayoralty become redundant. The new Council/s will have elections for parish councillors and will elect a Chair. Local Councils can decide to have new arrangements for a Mayor which covers the parish area.

(iii)  The electorate figure is taken on a set date from the electoral role and includes the Wards in Bath.

(iv)  There is a Boundary Review underway which reports back on 8 May 2018. Once this has been completed the Bath Boundary will be defined.


2.  Cllr Rob Appleyard

(i)  Where is the public support?

(ii)  Is this what is wanted by our communities?

(iii)  What is it that is missing at the moment other that the pressures from funding?

(iv)  When looking at the work carried out previously, 37% of those who responded said an area committee was preferred but when combined the total for the parish options was 50%. 

(v)  The mayoralty of this city is in its 790th year and is still making valuable contributions to Bath.


Response from Ashley Ayre – This item has been brought to the forum through a request which came through the agenda setting group. Bath and North East Somerset Council are not proposing a Community Governance Review.



3.  Virginia Williamson – There has not been a conversation about what is wrong with engagement and comments have not been taken on which reflect what people want to say.

Response –

·  A parish council has differences and would have separately elected parish councillors, the minimum being five councillors for a small parish area. Where parishes have casual vacancies they are able to co-opt, this is usually because not enough candidates stand or due to a resignation. 

·  Candidates that stand can be Independent, a minor party or a conventional political party.

·  Ward Councillors in a unitary authority like B&NES could also stand to be a councillor on a parish council.

·  If Bath were to become a single parish it would be one of the largest in the country.


4.  Cllr Joe Rayment – Effective community representation needs to be delivered when looking to the size for a new parish area. It is important that the people in Bath make a decision based upon fair and freely available information.

Response from Cllr Paul Myers – A Community Governance Review would have clear and meaningful discussions with the people and information would be made available. The role of what a new parish can be simple or complex but when an outcome is reached there will be a balance with trade-offs if change is going to happen.

Cllr Paul Myers is a happy to share his experience of Community Governance Review with anybody who wishes to gain a greater understanding.


5.  Cllr Anthony Clarke explained that he holds a role in a parish council which he filled through a casual vacancy.

·  The role of the Chartered Trustees was given to the city to protect the mayoralty when Bath City Council was abolished. Since then the number of place in the country that have this arrangement has fallen from 200 to just 40.Bath are the largest place that have this arrangement with most of the others being very small places.

·  There is a serious argument to think about making Bath a Parish, the change that would become clear is that a parish has the ability of carrying out the will of what locals want.

·  Chartered Trustees are not parish councillors and do not hold the powers to carry out functions that parishes do.


6.  Cllr Shaun Stephenson-McGall –

·  There are decisions that need to be made and these are close to the people affected. These will be a choice that the city will need to take with the understanding that additional service provision will need a precept charge to cover these costs.

·  Residents in the Bath are missing out on services that could be provided should a parish be created.

·  The Councillors for Bath will need to be involved in a political debate about this issue and offer the public clear options.

·  Swindon recently went through a Community Governance Review and opted to have four new parished areas.

·  What is the exact date that the rolling electoral register is used on to set the numbers of signatures required?

Response – There is a rule about the cut of date, we will need to look up the guidance and then will feed this back.


7.  Nicolette Boater –

·  The debates of the 2013-15 cross-party councillor working group (which I reviewed, and some of which, I attended) were more focused on community liaison than on Bath governance.  Consequently concerns about the latter were not addressed in either the composition or powers of the resulting Bath City Forum.

·  The 2014/15 VoiceBox survey of 3,000 B&NES residents on a wide range of subjects, indicated that although Bath residents appeared to be more pro parishing than those in North East Somerset, few residents understood or fully engaged with these governance issues (with the majority having no view, and preferences more determined by the definition of options than their content).

·  The Bath governance deficit, currently manifested in there being only 2 out of 8 B&NES Cabinet members from Bath wards, is only going to get bigger. Not only is the Ward Boundary review likely to result in a disproportionate reduction in the number of Bath relative to North East Somerset councillors, but such central government powers and diminishing resources that are directed to localities are increasingly being directed at regional or large local authority areas rather than small cities such as Bath.

·  The real worth of improving Bath governance comes from its long term benefits - an investment of £100k in a Community Governance Review may be insignificant relative to benefits flowing from 22 years of improved governance and protection of the city’s assets and services. However, a Community Governance Review would only be the start of a complex set of considerations where there will be conflicting community interests and compromises will have to be made. 

·  I hope the forum will take the debate on improving Bath’s governance forward, and in so doing, will be diligent in assembling information and conversing with communities, and open-minded in developing and appraising options.



8.  Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones –

·  Shaun’s comments summarised the points very well.

·  If we do make a choice to do anything it will take many years to develop a fully functional new local council.

·  The Bath City Forum determines its arrangements and links to the community, as it is an unelected body whose powers are determined by B&NES Council.

·  We presently have a way of working; if the Bath City Forum wants to expand its remit, there is a process to review the terms of reference by going through Council.


9.  Cllr Paul Myers -

·  The process that has to be followed for creation of a new parish needs to start with a fair minded body that are willing to discuss the issues, understand what the outcomes might be and work together.

·  If a new parish is the outcome there will then be all of the regulations that will need setting in place.

·  This is only the start as governance needs to be lived and newly elected parish councillors need to have the judgement to represent the people well.

·  There are choices that have to be taken about what a parish is going to take responsibility for, this can have many difference in parished areas.


10.Andrew Page –

·  What is the challenge that we are setting out to solve?

·  If the Bath City Forum is unable to act in the ways it wants to then can this be fixed through additional delegated responsibilities?

·  Is this issue about the gaps in funding?


11. Cllr Dine Romero –

·  We are talking about paying for services that we need in Bath

·  What happens to the money that gets generated in Bath?

·  Do we have a list of designated statutory duties that have to be provided by a unitary authority?


12. Cllr Shaun Stephenson-McGall –

·  The geography that we are part of is important, we need to have an identity and a sense of belonging to a community. If all our decisions are being made by B&NES this harms democracy.

·  Locality is about our city; think how it must feel for people living in Whitchurch that are having services run from Bath.

·  We need to decide what we want for our future, if this is to be a Community Governance Review it is fair to say it could take around 18 months (as it did in Swindon), If the outcome is like that of Swindon we then have to build new local council/s.

·  It would be helpful to hold a separate event (separate to the forum) to hear about experiences of where this has already happened.


13.Cllr Colin Blackburn –

·  The boundary review reports back to B&NES on 8th May 2018.

·  This session has opened your eyes and ears to what options could be explored.

·  The position now will be for the communities to discuss what they want going forward and decide if they have the will to move forward.


14.Rosie Phillips –

·  We need to be clear on why we are asking the question

·  The decision making needs to engage with communities including those who are harder to reach.

·  Simple , easy to understand information needs to be freely available

·  Early discussions are needed and then need to be returned to.


15.Cllr Joe Rayment –

·  It appears that frustrations have arisen due to the advisory level that the forum presently holds. This is not able to be resolved unless we move to a body that hold elected powers.

·  It would be worth exploring the options by holding afternoon/evening sessions to gain community views.

·  In this meeting of the forum there appears to have been no objections raised on the idea of moving towards a parish option?

Response – The comment about no objects was not met with full agreement although nobody formally responded.






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