Cllr Tim Warren is the Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council.
After our tremendous success in the 2015 local and national elections in Bath & North East Somerset, where we secured the first Council majority of any party since the authority’s creation in 1995 and elected Conservative Members of Parliament for both Bath and North East Somerset, I vowed to invest heavily in the future of the area, putting the interests of our residents first. Since then, the political landscape in Britain has undergone a tumultuous period where the EU referendum and subsequent General Election produced varying results throughout the region.
Despite this, we have managed to overwhelmingly deliver on our commitments with around 95 per cent of our manifesto being completed to date.
This has been front and centred through tackling waste left from the previous administration. When we came to power, we inherited a significant budget deficit, with a black hole of £49m that had to be filled by 2019/2020. However, through strong financial management we have delivered over £27 million of savings, with £15 million more underway. To make the Council financially self-sufficient, we have explored innovative ways of generating income which include the creation of a new Council-owned housing company that delivers affordable local homes.
In addition, we are currently lobbying the Government to grant the introduction of a local Tourism Levy which has proven to be a success in many other world cities. Our ability to improve local transport and infrastructure has been vastly aided by the creation of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) which I helped spearhead with Bristol and South Gloucestershire. In the short period since its formation, we have secured over £21 million investment for our highways and roads. WECA has also championed the future MetroWest project which will provide more frequent trains between Bristol, Keynsham, Bath and Wiltshire.
Providing affordable housing is one of the greatest challenges facing the South West. We have delivered a record number of new homes with over 1,250 being built in 2017/18 alone – the majority of which are on ‘brownfield sites’. By allocating £7.2 million to local affordable housing projects and putting a ten per cent cap on Homes of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs), we are protecting local communities. We believe it is fundamental to invest in our young people; this has been demonstrated by our £27 million backing into new school buildings and additional Primary School places.
We have also boosted our schools budget by £3.7 million – one of the biggest increases in the country – and written up a new ‘fair funding formula’ to ensure that investment is fairly distributed.
We firmly believe in promoting greater choice and independence for older people; this is shown by increasing the Adult Social Care budget by £7.5m – the biggest and most sustained investment in social care in well over ten years.
Our collective goal in B&NES is to become a national leader in environmental sustainability, setting the example for others has been progressed by an increase in recycling rates by over 30% and the introduction of the Our Local Green Energy and Our Fairer Energy tariffs, which provide 100 per cent renewable electricity as part of a dual fuel offer with gas, offering locally-generated renewable energy to residents at one of the cheapest rates on the market.
On top of this, I am pleased to have led a Syrian Refugee Programme here in B&NES which helped to breakdown prejudice and misunderstanding over the crisis.
Whilst the national picture is increasingly unpredictable, we believe our broad range of achievements locally and vision for the future stand us in a strong position for next year’s election.