Monday, 29 February 2016

Have your say on One Stop Shops and customer contact centre

In another of the consultations on cuts, the council is asking for your views on how to save money on the One Stop Shops and customer services it provides.

The ruling Conservatives' preference is to close the Thornbury One Stop Shop and replace it with a  "digital by default" option. This despite past assertions that the council was committed to retaining a presence in the town. The alternatives suggested are keeping Thornbury open part-time and making either Yate or Patchway also part-time or cutting more staff from the customer service team. Anyone who has struggled to get through to the council on the phone recently will be concerned about the latter option.

You can find out more and have your say here.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Have your say on library cuts

This week the council launched a consultation on cuts to libraries of £650,000.

The ruling Conservatives' preferred option would involve closing the mobile library that serves our rural communities along with Chipping Sodbury Library and cutting smaller libraries like Winterbourne to two days a week opening funded by South Glos. Main libraries like Yate and Thornbury would have their hours cut by 8 hours per week on average. They would then look to local communities and volunteers make up some of the lost hours.

The libraries might also be impacted by a review of council buildings.

You can find out more, including information packs for each individual library, and make your comments here until 13th May.

Your Focus Team thinks that protecting services like youth provision and libraries is more important than cutting 50p per month off the green bin charge. If you agree, please sign our petition as well as responding to the council.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Campaign for better broadband in Codrington

Last week Codrington resident Terry Barnaby presented a petition to South Gloucestershire Council calling for better broadband in the village and surrounding area.

Claire Young and Terry Barnaby with the petition
Residents and the 17 small businesses in the area suffer speeds under 0.5 Mbits/s, compared to 100 times that or more in well-served urban areas. Uplink speeds are a particular problem for businesses. Worse still is the poor reliability, with some losing internet access for weeks because of rainwater affecting the lines.

BT has upgraded the cabinet they are connected to, but over the long copper wires that link their properties to the cabinet the speed degrades significantly. For a decent, reliable service they need fibre all the way to their properties.

Well done to all those who collected signatures - watch this blog for future updates.

Have your say on extending Nibley council offices

Earlier this month we reported on proposals to close Kingswood Civic Centre and extend the Badminton Road council offices at Nibley.

At the time, local councillor Claire Young raised concerns about the impact extending the offices could have on traffic and parking in the local area. She also sought, and was given, reassurance that any plans would not affect the ability to deliver the Nibley Park and Ride in the future. Last year we made sure plans for the solar farm would not restrict a future Park and Ride, we need to make sure the same is true of any office extension. We were told they were also looking at whether solar panels could be put over any new parking area.

Now it's your chance to have your say on the proposals. At this stage, it is still on the principles of the different options, not on any detailed plans for an extension. You can find out more and have your say here until 13th May.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Area Forums abolished - last chance to have your say next week

Next week could be your last chance ever to have your say at an Area Forum, after the ruling Conservatives scrapped them.

Not that anyone reading the council press release would have any idea they are being abolished. They talk about everything the public can do there and all the reasons to come along but don't let on what's planned. There is one innocuous looking line: "There will be an update on the future of the Area Forums." That future is gone, because the Tories and Labour voted to get rid of them last week.

Why not come along and make your views known, not only on local highway schemes and community grants, but also on the decision to scrap the forums themselves? You will also be able to hear from Sirona Care and Health about community health care services. The Frome Vale Area Forum will have an update from Network Rail on their forthcoming work on the Dodington Road railway bridge and the Severn Vale Forum will have a bus service update after concerns were raised at previous meetings.

In future, instead of decisions about things like highway safety schemes and community grants being made by the councillors who live in and know the area, they will be made by council committees that have themselves been merged. One committee will now cover everything from waste to strategic planning, libraries to traffic schemes - and make decisions on community grants. The Conservatives have suggested that some of the community grant money could be given to individual councillors but couldn't explain how this would be administered efficiently and transparently.

Frome Vale Area Forum (which includes Frampton Cotterell, Ladden Brook and Westerleigh wards) meets at 7pm on Thursday 3rd March in Chipping Sodbury Baptist Church. Severn Vale Area Forum (which includes Charfield ward) meets at 7pm on Wednesday 2nd March in Turnberries Community Centre, Thornbury.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Budget - council tax up, services cut

Council tax will go up by 3.99% in the coming year, but services such as youth provision and libraries face cuts.

After funding from the Government had been slashed more than expected, at the last minute they offered South Glos some additional one-off money. The Liberal Democrats proposed using some of it to protect youth services and Chipping Sodbury library.

Instead, the Tories funnelled the cash into a 50p a month cut in the green bin charge, less than the price of a chocolate bar.

The Liberal Democrat amendment proposed maintaining the Positive Activities Fund for youth services at the current level, instead of the quarter million pound cuts proposed by the Tories. The youth fund will be cut for each of the next three years, meaning fewer sessions and activities for young people across South Gloucestershire. The amendment would also would have kept Chipping Sodbury Library open for an extra year, giving the local community more time to find a long term solution.

The Liberal Democrats believe in enabling everyone to fulfil their potential in life, whatever their background. Universal youth services are a vital part of this - reaching out to teenagers who may be alienated from school, offering health advice and emotional support and giving our young people a positive focus. The wider community also benefits from supporting our young people. Libraries too are about more than just access to books - they offer many other activities and services, including access to computers for people of all ages to use for studying, applying for jobs and accessing services.

The Conservative councillors largely remained silent, refusing to explain why they felt a small reduction in the green bin charge was more important than youth services, libraries, PCSOs on the beat and a whole string of other ways the money could have been spent. Before the election, we challenged them to explain what they would cut instead, now we know.

You can read how our local paper covered it here.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Dragon Road bridge closure - revised diversion route

Last week Claire Young attended the Network Rail drop-in session on the work they will be doing on Dragon Road bridge as part of rail electrification. They have changed the diversion route for the road closure from the one we previously reported. It will now go via Badminton Road/Stover Road/Iron Acton bypass/Bristol Road, as shown on this map.

You can find out more about the work from this factsheet.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Have your say on Extracare Housing service charges

South Glos is consulting on proposals to change how they charge for Extracare Housing services, in order to cut £200k from the budget.

Extracare Housing is housing designed with the needs of frailer, older people in mind and offers different levels of care and support on site. Currently, service users are charged using a series of charging bands as opposed to an hourly rate, as used for services in the community. There are only 3 bands, which no longer reflect the actual service provided, so they are proposing to increase the number of bands to 7.

The council will be holding drop-in surgeries in each of the five Extracare schemes, including one from 10am to 12 noon and 4.30pm-6.30pm on Thursday 18th February in Cambrian Green Court, Yate. You can also find out more and have your say at:

The deadline for comments is 30th March.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Beware scam emails

Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, are warning people to watch out for official looking emails purporting to be from the Royal Mail that claim a package has been seized by HM Revenue & Customs upon arrival into the United Kingdom. The emails contain a link to a document that will install malicious software on your computer designed to steal credentials like account names, email addresses and passwords etc. If you receive one of these emails, do not click on any links or download any attachments and report it to Action Fraud

You can find out more about the scam here, where you can also sign up for fraud and scam alerts. The Action Fraud site has lots of useful information about types of fraud to watch out for, reporting forms and other resources.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Register to use Sort It Centres

You now need to register if you want to use the Sort It recycling centres. This has been introduced to cut the number of commercial users and those from outside South Glos using the sites.

You don't need to sign up straight away, but must do so at least 24 hours before your next visit. You can sign up at any time of year and you only need to do it once, unless you change your address or vehicle. You can register online, by calling 01454 868000 or at the One Stop Shops.

There are two types of registration:
  • Standard vehicle registration for vehicles of any size (up to 3.5 tonnes) that have rear and/or side facing windows including cars of any size, campervans, people carriers etc.
  • Restricted vehicle registration for:
    • vans of any size without rear facing windows including minibuses, campervans and cars
    • 4×4s, pick-up trucks or people carriers (MPV) without rear seats and/or windows or with an open back
    • flatbed vehicles, box vans, horse boxes with integrated cab and agricultural vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes.
Restricted vehicles are limited to 12 visits a year. Access times for large vehicles will continue to apply. The height and trailer restrictions at Little Stoke Sort It Recycling Centre will also remain in place.

For information about what can be accepted at the Sort It centres, where to find them and opening times visit

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Celebrate National Libraries Day and enjoy free half-term activities

This Saturday, 6th February, is National Libraries Day.

All libraries in South Gloucestershire will be holding free treasure hunts for children to find the famous children’s book characters that have been hidden around the library. They will also all be holding a free story time at 11am, reading family favourite ‘The Gruffalo’ by Julia Donaldson. The story time is suitable for children and families (children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult).

Anyone of any age can get in touch on the day via Twitter (@LibrariesWest #librariesday) and on Facebook (/librarieswest) to share what they love most about their library. You can find your nearest library at and there is more info on National Libraries Day at

As usual during half term there will be a range of activities for children - you can find out more here.

And of course if you value your local library, watch out for the consultation later this month on the future of our libraries. We'll keep you posted.

Police ask for witnesses to Coalpit Heath burglary

Following a burglary at the house of an elderly resident in Oldlands Avenue, Coalpit Heath on Monday, police are asking anyone with information or who saw anything suspicious in the area to call 101, quoting reference number 5216018385.

Police were called to the house on Monday 1st February at around 3.30pm. Someone had broken in through a rear door while the owner was out, searched all the rooms and stolen a Rolex watch and some antique china.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Westerleigh Neighbourhood Watch AGM

The Westerleigh Neighbourhood Watch will be holding their AGM next Tuesday, 9th February, from 7.30pm in St James Church. They suggest going early for pancakes (from 6.30pm).

Dragon Road bridge closure - drop-in event

As part of rail electrification, Network Rail will be raising the height of the sides of the Dragon Road bridge and installing anti-climb coping stones. To carry out the work the bridge will be closed to motorists from 9.30am on Monday 29 February until the end of April. Throughout this time, pedestrians and cyclists will still be able to cross the bridge.

If you'd like to find out more about this work, Network Rail are holding a drop-in event on Tuesday 9 February from 6.30pm to 9pm at the Winterbourne Methodist Church on Down Road. Members of the Network Rail project team will be on-hand throughout to explain more about the plans and to answer any questions.

The diversionary route for motorists during the temporary closure is: Harcombe Hill – Hicks Common Road – Flaxpits Lane.

Updated 16th February: The diversion route has been revised - see here.

Could you contribute to local knowledge?

Historical maps of South Gloucestershire are now freely available online thanks to the Know Your Place West of England project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Know Your Place is a free digital mapping resource that enables you to explore your neighbourhood online through old maps, archive images and linked information. Historic Environment Record data is available alongside the maps and you will be able to upload and share your own information about the area.

Over the coming months, the project will extend to include the counties of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, North Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset. More resources will be added, including enclosure and tithe maps, drawings and photographs from archive and museum collections

To start exploring South Gloucestershire’s maps and heritage information visit

Badminton Road council offices to be extended?

South Gloucestershire Council is looking to make more savings on office space. The Conservative administration's preferred option is to extend the offices (and parking) at Badminton Road, Nibley and move staff there, so they can close Kingswood Civic Centre.

At the Policy and Resources committee meeting on Monday, local councillor Claire Young raised concern about the potential impact on people living around the council offices, where there are already concerns about parking and traffic.

Claire also sought, and was given, reassurance that any plans would not affect the ability to deliver the Nibley Park and Ride in the future. Last year we made sure plans for the solar farm would not restrict a future Park and Ride, we need to make sure the same is true of any office extension. We were told they were also looking at whether solar panels could be put over any new parking area. When more detailed plans are available we will let you know.