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July 28 2017

Public meetings about Your Neighbourhood Consultation have begun, both with the Mayor in attendance and separately in local areas to highlight specific concerns.

Public meetings about Your Neighbourhood Consultation have begun, both with the Mayor in attendance and separately in local areas to highlight specific concerns. 

Bristol City Council need to save £4.7 million over the next three years. Its suggestions to achieve this could see most of the city’s libraries close, along with the majority of public toilets, an impact on school crossing patrols, Community Links and the withdrawal of funding for Neighbourhood Partnerships. 

The council is conducting an online survey on its proposals until Tuesday 5 September. Paper copies are also available on request at both Bishopston and Redland Libraries. A special session to help people fill in the form is being held on 10 August at Bishopston Library.

The Bishopston, Cotham and Redland Neighbourhood Forum met on July 19 to discuss the best way to fill in the detailed and lengthy form to preserve as many local services as possible. 

The importance of getting your form in early was stressed as comments are being read as each document is received. Also, using numbers or bullet points was recommended for comments, as it makes them easier to read.

Each section is laid out with options presented to select. Local councillors pointed out that people do not need to select any of these choices. If you don’t agree with what is presented write ‘none of the above’ in the comments section and then list your own ideas. 

The council proposes to reduce the number of branch libraries from 26 to nine, spread geographically around the city. The Central Library would remain and there would be two types of branch libraries: Area libraries and Local libraries. 

Bishopston Library has been listed in Bristol East’s section, where it remains open if Option 1 or 3 is selected. However, under all three options there would be no more council funding for Redland Library even though it is one of the most well used libraries in Bristol. It is possible to ignore the enforced options 1 - 3 and go straight to the text box where you can say that you want more local libraries or make suggestions about a community-run service.

The crossing patrol at Bishop Road School is unaffected by the proposals; however councillors recommend that people still comment on this, mentioning on the form that they want their school crossing patrol to be retained. 

Residents were vocal in their criticism of the consultation document. One person described it as ‘poor’ due to the lack of consultation before the document was created and another voiced the opinion that the Mayor and his cohorts have already done a done deal. A point was raised that the council could choose to close libraries where the buildings are valuable assets. 

The first of of a series of eight public consultation events involving the Mayor, Cabinet members and senior Bristol City Council managers began at The Greenway Centre in Doncaster Road on 29 June.

Mayor Marvin Rees, Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor with responsibilities for communities and Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Finance, Governance and Performance were in attendance answering questions.

There was much concern from the audience about the closure of public toilets, especially from people with disabilities who rely on the service. Cllr Craig replied that she has been contacted by organisations in other areas who want to take over running community toilets and that this was an option here too.

Cllr Craig also said that she has been hearing that people want their library saved in all areas of Bristol; however the proposals reflect the amount of libraries that the council can afford to run given the budget. 

One questioner raised the issue of why we need another consultation at public expense? Mayor Marvin Rees answered that it was because the council wants to know what the people of Bristol think.

The website states that “Your feedback, along with the views of other local groups and partners and the results of our Equalities Impact Assessments, will be taken into consideration in developing a set of final proposals that match local needs wherever possible. 

The proposals will be put to the Mayor and his Cabinet to make a final decision. In making a decision they will also take consultation responses and Equalities Impact Assessments into consideration.”

So that’s the invitation: fill in your forms and let them know your views. Preferably sooner, rather than at the last minute on September 5.