North Somerset left with the ‘crumbs’ in plans to improve infrastructure
PUBLISHED: 13:00 30 September 2017
North Somerset Council has ‘made life harder and shut itself out of key decisions on infrastructure’ as other districts in the South West look to tackle their road and rail issues.
‘Instead of compromising’ and joining the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), the council ‘has to take crumbs from the table’ while the other authorities involved progress with plans to improve infrastructure, according to Cllr Mike Bell.
WECA – made up of Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils – has revealed a list of projects, including park-and-ride schemes, and road and rail improvements – with similar works, like the reopening of Portishead rail line, long called for in North Somerset.
North Somerset rejected the chance to work with the other authorities under a metro mayor last year – snubbing a share of £1billion of Government funding in the process.
WECA believes its ‘ambitious’ proposals will ‘help deliver economic growth’ through major infrastructure improvements – and Cllr Bell believes the council was ‘wrong’ not to sign up.
The LibDem group leader said: “Nobody on any council seemed to want a metro mayor, but it was take it or leave it. Instead of compromising, North Somerset shut itself out of key decisions 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.”
Labour leader Richard Tucker also 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, says Cllr Bell is ‘out of the loop’. He said the council is working with WECA on housing, jobs and transport plans, like Portishead’s MetroWest rail scheme.
He added: “While WECA is 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.”