Memorandum by Transport 2000 South West
Network (RG 50)
We feel that, although we recognize the importance
of regional government, that the present South West Regional Assembly
does not function effectively as a united body. Members appear
to be more interested in Local and Parish Council viewpoints than
the good of the region as a whole. The SW Regional Assembly is
aptly-named by the media as "Wessex County Council",
although those who have seen it in action often talk about Wessex
Parish Council. The size170 membersis far too large.
There are huge tensions between the deep rural
areas and the city regions. Government Office (GOSW) is not set
up to regulate or represent such a diverse view, and tends to
end up siding with the rural authorities, under pressure their
forthright lobbying, despite clear government polices on city
regions and sustainable communities.
2. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Public participation is very poor, and there
is no democratic services department within the South West Regional
Assembly for which community participation is supposed to directed.
This is in no way a reflection on the staff, but rather on the
numbers of staff present in order to carry out effective management
of statements, and questions to committees and so on. In practice
these are not recorded and filed, and community groups are expected
to do their own photocopying because of lack of secretarial support.
The Assembly has failed completely to reach hard-to-reach communities
or in fact working class areas in discussion of the Regional Spatial
Strategy. The latest consultation of the RSS was held in the Cheltenham
Race Course complete with three course lunches, had a gentlemanly
atmosphere which suited the British establishment flavour of retired
generals and Commanders from the County Councils with very few
ordinary tax-payers and voters.
This issue has now been picked up by David Miliband,
Minister for the Regions and Sustainable Communities, in his recent
letter to the chief executive of the South West Regional Assembly.
The issue is acknowledged by the Assembly, but they lack resources
to outreach to working class communities, such as Hartcliff, Cambourne-Pool
Redruth, Trowbridge, Swindon, parts of Gloucester or even the
south side of Bath.
Often a county will be pushing an agenda favored
by a minority of active parochial elderly retired councilors where
the general community and taxpayers and voters are unaware even
of the discussions taking place. This is made worse by the county
councils fighting the Assembly because they do not believe in
it, with Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Devon particularly problematic.
Whilst the Assembly has done some very good
things such as supporting the Public Transport Users Forum, and
working with Sustainability South West, with some laudable polices
emerging, their ability to get the county authorities to sign
up to delivery is very difficult. These county councils oppose
the unitary authorities and wish to keep the money away from PUAs
at all times.
3. NEED FOR
We believe that the regional assembly should
be broken up into City Regions based on the current sub-regions
Torbay and South Devon.
Greater Bristol including Bath and
NE Somerset, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, and the City
Swindon incorporating North Wilts
and Kennet but not the area south of Calne.
Gloucester and Cheltenham.
Taunton incorporating Wellington.
Bath and West Wilts, Mendip, North
Bath is the most dysfunctional of the city regions
that the Assembly has set up for the RSS process.
Sub-regional partnerships work, up to a fashion,
and have been a success except for Bath which needs serious government
office intervention. The city of Bath functions almost like Vatican
City, and fails to work with its hinterland in any meaningful
way with Wiltshire, Mendip and Somerset, where housing allocation
in being allocated in large numbers to satellite towns to Radstock,
Chilcomton, Midsomer Norton, Trowbridge, Shepton Mallet and Frome,
and even Wells and Glastonbury, rather than provide an urban extension.
Sub-regional partnerships and city regions need
to be created in the south west, set round the city regions of
Greater Bristol, Bath, Swindon, Gloucester-Cheltenham, Plymouth,
Torbay, South Devon, Bournemouth and Poole and the Cornish Five
Towns. Cornwall could be a unitary authority in its own right,
but would need a special arrangement within Plymouth and Tamarside
for joint working. A second option would involve breaking up Devon
and Cornwall to create city regions. Somerset could be split into
Yeovil, Taunton and West Somerset, and South Somerset would be
one council. Sedgemore would go to North Somerset and Greater
Bristol, and Mendip in with West wilts and North Wilts as far
as Calne and with Bath itself, to create the Bath City Region.
Greater Bristol needs to be one authority with a London Assembly
model and the four unitary authorities underneath, plus the Bath
A new South Dorset Unitary authority needs to
be created, covering from Swanage to Lyme Regis, including Dorchester
and Weymouth. The rest of Dorset needs to go into a south Coast
Metropole authority covering Bournemouth and Poole, Hampshire
and South Wiltshire. The county names can be kept in the titles
eg Bath, Somerset and Wiltshire Unitary Council.
Transport, like police, fire-fighting and health
should be planned on regional basis, with strong sub-regional
units for delivery. A regional transport board, formed out of
a new regional assembly partnership, would create a more equal
footing between rural and urban areas. The present model is a
shire model. The regional transport board would have sub-regional
partnerships similar to the Welsh and Scottish transport partnerships,
but with powers to franchise and regulate bus services, and ferry
services and inter-regional air services. The present 1985 bus
deregulation Act is a worse piece of legislation than the railways
act and is causing major problems at local government level, with
bus fares rising, and powers of council intervention limited.
The industry is not properly regulated to protect the passenger
interest. The model needs to change to a franchise model with
private sector delivery, similar to the railways, with democratic
accountability to elected transport partnerships in the city regions,
similar to the London model.
The industry would then be properly funded,
and fares protected by linking with government social polices
and modal shift with public transport. Local rail needs also to
be devolved to these partnerships with boards made up operators,
users and business community representation to control
fares, service levels, new stations. These within larger franchises
set by the department for transport. he case for City Regions
in England is very strong, and the regional assembly should be
made into partnerships of City Regions but with boundaries which
are meaningful to modern day people. The Bournemouth and Poole
sees itself as not really part of the South West Region.
With the railways, the local and regional trains
nee sot devolved to the passenger Transport Authorities on a regional
basis only, the funding of services included in the RFA as soon
possible, to balance up the present road and bus funding.
The public transport forums need to be rolled
out across the eight English regions as soon as possible, the
South west and West Midlands, North west and East Midlands are
in existence, but the government needs to work with the RDAs and
regional Assemblies to set up Regional Public Transport User Forums
in the Thames Valley, Eastern England, Yorkshire and Humber, the
North East, Sussex and Kent, and the Solent Area including Dorset
and Southern Wiltshire. This model is much better than the now
defunct Rail Passenger Committees, as they are more inclusive
and reaching to grass routes communities and deal with issues
such as social inclusion, crime and disorder issues, ethnic minorities
and the gay community.
Other regions that need attention are the west
Midlands where for instance, whilst we would welcome a West-Midlands
wide Assembly based on the whole of the area and not just the
urban conurbations. The PTE needs to cover the whole area, and
be accountable like the Assembly in London. This should have an
operational arm to run bus and rail services with a user Forum
with more resources, as is the case in the West Midlands PTF.