A natural continuation of work

THE council needs all the support it can muster in its battle to win extra Government funding for essential transport improvements and as the former executive councillo

THE council needs all the support it can muster in its battle to win extra Government funding for essential transport improvements and as the former executive councillor for transport I'm more than willing to offer what help I can from my democratically encouraged retirement.Most of the projects announced by the present council are a natural continuation of work begun several years ago. Most of my time in that role was spent chasing up and down to Bristol, Bath, Keynsham, or Yate attending meeting after meeting with my opposite numbers in the adjoining councils and the West of England Partnership, negotiating with the largest, most bureaucratic and pointless tier of local government, namely the Regional Assembly and trying to assist or cajole train and bus operators to improve their services. On top of this came the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency, neither of whom gave the slightest assistance to our constant battles to improve Junction 21. To make matters even more challenging my own party didn't have a working majority ensuring local decision making was never a forgone conclusion. When things didn't work out as desired blame was all too readily levelled at the local council. Has anything changed since the Conservatives took control in North Somerset? Not really, other than their absolute majority, and it's not their fault because North Somerset is institutionally incapable of determining major transport improvements off its own bat.Despite sterling work by highly dedicated highways and transport staff a local authority the size of North Somerset is capable of dealing with fairly minor transport matters such as car parking, putting sticking plaster on potholed road surfaces and renewing pedestrian crossings but is probably too small to have effective clout where it really matters ie in Whitehall. One shouldn't mention the 'A' word, but Avon did make some strategic sense in terms of city regional transport planning. One answer might be to remove this function from the hands of the four relatively small councils and create a directly elected greater Bristol transport authority with real powers to get things done and with a small number of working councillors who would be expected to specialise in transport matters and not be delegated from existing councils. Such a move would require a compensatory reduction in the number of district councillors and with a lessened workload they might happily reduce their own allowances. At a parochial level such a change would open up the pandora's box of how Weston-super-Mare ought to be governed.Unfortunately the current economic difficulties will determine what actually happens so patience will become the name of this game, despite press releases from all and sundry.JOHN CROCKFORD-HAWLEY - Former Executive Member for Strategic Planning and Transport, North Somerset Council


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