'Catalogue of failure' claims against council after year in power

Piles of rubbish and bin bags in front of full skips
-Credit: (Image: Cllr Sam Bromiley)

A fierce dispute has flared up in South Gloucestershire as the opposition Conservatives lambast the Lib Dem/Labour coalition for a "catalogue of failure" during their first year at the helm. The Tories are taking aim at the new administration, which wrested control from them after the May 2023 local elections, accusing it of a series of blunders that have sparked concern and upset among the community.

The Conservative critique includes the management of last summer's bin strikes by Suez workers leading to overflowing waste containers, the abolition of complimentary car parking, intentions to build on greenbelt land, doubling the fee for garden waste collection, and an expressed wish to extend the interval between black bin collections to three weeks.

The Lib Dems and Labour have hit back hard, blaming “chronic underfunding” from the Conservative government and inheriting the bin strike, a waste budget black hole, car park charges and the lack of a Local Plan from the previous Tory council administration, along with hailing their reversal of cuts to the holiday meal vouchers for the poorest children.

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Cllr Sam Bromiley, the leader of the Conservative group, expressed concerns that the potential strike action by Suez employees could result in a public health crisis due to "stacks of rubbish and overflowing bins littered all over the district". He claimed that he was the first councillor to meet with union members in an attempt to negotiate a resolution, not anyone from the Lib Dem/Labour cabinet.

Cllr Bromiley also criticised the coalition for breaking its promise to maintain free parking at council-owned car parks and for publishing plans that could lead to the destruction of "large swathes of precious greenbelt effectively demolished", which has led residents to form the local campaign group Save Our Green Spaces, as reports Bristol Live.

He said: “It’s astonishing how things can go so wrong in such a short space of time. The policies that the administration has pursued over the past 12 months have been extremely damaging for residents and businesses in South Gloucestershire, and it’s deeply regrettable that we will likely see more of the same this year.

“The Conservative group has been consistent in voting against these policies, saying no to car parking charges, higher fees, the destruction of the greenbelt and other highly controversial proposals. We will continue to act as a strong voice for residents on the council while holding the cabinet to account at every opportunity.”

In response, the Lib Dem/Labour partnership said: “Our experience of being in administration has only highlighted the catalogue of chronic underfunding from the Conservative government. We have spent the year working hard to deal with a myriad of situations we inherited.

“This started virtually from day one when we had to oversee the end to the long-running industrial dispute between Suez and some of its workers – something that began during the previous administration, not ours.” They said the Tories’ last budget, approved in February 2023, was balanced for only one year.

“It failed to tackle the financial black hole in the waste budget, borrowed against future income, and set income targets that could only be met by introducing car parking charges,” the two parties said. “After making some tough decisions, we have produced a three-year balanced budget which should provide some protection for the vital services our most vulnerable residents rely on.

“The previous administration repeatedly failed to produce a Local Plan that would meet their own Conservative government’s housing targets. As a result, valued green spaces in South Gloucestershire were already being lost because developers were demonstrating to the Planning Inspectorate how the previous administration failed in its duty to plan for itself.

“This has left every inch of green space, including greenbelt, at risk from this ‘speculative development’. We are taking back control of where homes should be built, prioritising affordable homes, and ensuring the essential infrastructure they require doesn’t lag behind but is built in good time for the residents moving in.

“It is interesting how Cllr Bromiley has chosen to ignore the progress we’ve made, virtually from a standing start, to begin building the long overdue new schools in Lyde Green.” They said the coalition had invested an extra £1million in children’s social care to bring it out of Ofsted special measures and protected libraries from the “worst of the financial cuts” in the Tories’ final budget.