North Somerset to miss out on ‘ambitious’ road and rail improvements?
PUBLISHED: 12:10 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 12:10 21 September 2017
North Somerset Council has ‘shut itself out of key decisions’ and is left ‘having to take crumbs from the table’ as other authorities in the region press on with plans to improve infrastructure.
‘Instead of compromising’ and taking a share of £1billion in Government cash, North Somerset has ‘made life harder’ for itself and will be left out of key decisions made by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), according to Central ward councillor Mike Bell.
WECA – made up of Bristol city, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils – has announced a list of infrastructure projects, including park-and-ride schemes, and improvements to rail and roads – with similar solutions long called for in North Somerset.
Last summer North Somerset rejected the Government’s devolution deal and a metro mayor, which would have overseen the authorities, meaning the district is not directly involved in WECA.
And Cllr Bell has lamented that ‘wrong’ decision after the combined authority unveiled ‘ambitious’ proposals to ‘help deliver economic growth’ through major improvements to infrastructure.
He said: “Nobody on any council seemed to want a metro mayor, but it was take it or leave it.
“Instead of compromising, North Somerset has shut itself out of key decisions on infrastructure and on £1billion in Government cash.
“North Somerset is left having to take crumbs from the table instead of being sat at the head. Officials are doing their best, but we’ve made life harder for ourselves, ignoring advice from industry and education leaders en route.”
Cllr Richard Tucker believes the district would be better off in WECA, adding: “Many of the wider issues concerning infrastructure planning can only really be tackled at that level.”
But council deputy leader, Elfan Ap Rees, believes Cllr Bell is ‘clearly out of the loop’.
He said the council is working with WECA to develop initiatives for housing, jobs and transport like A38 improvements and the MetroWest rail programme.
He added: “While WECA is currently having some difficulty getting up to speed with the wider West of England agenda, we have seen no evidence other joint initiatives shouldn’t continue.
“Meanwhile, we have the advantage of developing our own North Somerset agenda and funding with government and other neighbouring authorities.”