Posted by: nigelashtonuk | November 11, 2014

George Ferguson story

From what George has said, it seems he is unaware of what we are already doing. We have combined authorities in the sense that we are already working together and combining many services, including those mentioned by George , such as legal services and human resources, and are working on many more areas, where it makes sense. The rest of us have already “put aside political sensitivities” given that the three authorities of South Glos, Bath & NE Somerset and North Somerset, all have different politically balanced administrations and yet work together well, for the good of our residents. All four authorities, including Bristol, have worked together and have seen the benefit of united bids to central government, without a need to lose their individuality. We have secured major investment in developing a comprehensive network of improved bus and rail services (metrobus and metrowest) as well as securing the largest allocation per head of any LEP in round one of the local growth fund, in part because of our track record of delivery. By working in partnership we achieved a deal with government that gave us an enterprise zone and 4 enterprise areas
Constantly quoting the metropolitan area of Manchester misses the point, we are not Manchester and what works for them should not be mandatory for everywhere else. We talk of localism and devolution and then try to impose another layer of government further away from our communities, without even asking our residents. Of course we are always keen to talk to Government about opportunities to secure the devolution of funding and powers, where it can bring clear benefits to local people but no one has demonstrated any real benefit and we have been told that there would be no new money.

Some people seem to confuse the need for government to give local authorities the power to get on with their existing responsibilities, with the need to create another authority. Apparently we would also have a Metro Mayor. George says he supports devolved powers but then seeks to centralise it.

Cllr Nigel C Ashton
Leader of North Somerset Council
A Unitary Authority
Twitter @NigelCAshton

From: Heather Pickstock [mailto:heather.pickstock]
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 10:52 AM
To: Nigel Ashton (Councillor)
Subject: FW: George Ferguson story


Need a comment from you on this



BRISTOL mayor George Ferguson has challenged the councils in the Bristol area to put aside “political sensitivities” and combine and share services in order to attract Government funding to the region.

Speaking to Bristol Post before his annual state-of-the-nation address at Bristol University last night, Mr Ferguson stressed that this was the right time to create a “combined authority”. This would retain the four existing authorities but see them share services like legal services, human resources, waste management and housing.

It would also see the creation of a strategic planning and integrated transport authority.

“This change would give us critical mass and the reward is huge,” he told the Bristol Post, “There is funding for transport and housing that is being pledged to city areas that take up this challenge. For example, the Government is putting £300m in to affordable housing in Manchester.”

Referring to the historical reluctance between the councils to pool resources with Bristol, Mr Ferguson added: “The only reason for not accepting this change is political sensitivity. The Government has created a window. This is the moment. This is the time to move.”

He added: “This is not a Bristol takeover and the new departments would not necessarily be run from Bristol. Other combined authorities have shared out the responsibilities for the different roles.”

Mr Ferguson was also critical of the region’s current “West of England” title: “I don’t want to dwell too much on names. But for location and clarity, I prefer the title of Bristol City Region. Cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds are creating Northern powerhouses. Bristol needs to be the south west equivalent.”

Last week, the Government announced that Greater Manchester would be getting more powers as well as an elected mayor.

And a few days ago, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told the Post that groups of councils up and down the country were clamouring to become “combined authorities” so they too could enjoy a greater say over their own affairs.

But Mr Pickles warned that councils would only be pushing at an open door if there was agreement between them.

In the Bristol area, the four existing councils co-operate under a body called the West of England Partnership but they continue to run independently of each other.

Mr Ferguson said: “Who can have missed the issue of devolution in the news recently?

“Many of you know I have been pretty vocal in my frustration with the restriction placed on local authorities by this country’s overbearingly centralised system of governance.

“In September, I moderated the first planning session for a Global Parliament of Mayors in Amsterdam.

“This was supported by some of the greatest city leaders.

“The central idea is simple: real devolution and informed policy-making best lie with engaged city leaders.

“And following the Scottish referendum, the Government is showing some serious commitment.

“Great Manchester got its act together across ten authorities and has been promised a metro mayor and more powers – a tribute to the success of city mayoral governance of course, and to the real benefits of working together.

“Greater Birmingham and others have been quick to follow and I have been in conversation with Government ministers over the weekend.

“In the Government’s Autumn Statement we are expecting further announcements on combined authorities. It would be a major missed opportunity if any of England’s major city regions were not now preparing solid partnerships to claim devolved powers.

“The scale of the opportunity before us is huge.”

Mr Ferguson said devolution would mean we would have much more control over local decisions and make real progress without having to jump through “hundreds of Whitehall hoops”.

He said transport improvements, skills for workers, homes and strategic planning would all be at our fingertips.

Mr Ferguson said: “I’m talking tonight about the real interests of local people. Not of politicians. Not of parties, but of people.

“If devolution to Combined Authorities – that is the sharing of services – is in the interest of the people in this region – and it is – then we must go there.

“Let me be absolutely clear. We cannot afford to miss out.

“We must, must, make a proper local commitment that crosses party lines and artificial boundaries.

“We owe it to the people living in this – the finest city region in the UK.

“To my counterparts across the West of England: I know you have people’s best interests at heart, we must seize this chance – before the window of opportunity closes.

“Let’s embrace it – let’s create a Great Western economic powerhouse.

“Let’s exploit these precious few months of pre-election democracy – to make local lives better.

“Let’s work in concert to free us to prosper – together – you know it makes sense.”

The Bristol Post is currently running a campaign for a Greater Bristol to discuss how the region should punch its weight in the future and not miss out on power and money being devolved from Whitehall.

Reacting to Mr Ferguson’s speech, Marti Burgess, a lawyer and owner of Lakota nightclub, said: “I am pleased to hear the mayor’s call to action on a combined authority.

“If we are to have strategic thinking, this has to be through a combined authority. If you look at the Greater Manchester area, you will see all the problems they have had to overcome.

“But through the new powers they will now have control over housing, planning, transport and health and social issues.

“Although we will need a rebrand. The West of England Partnership doesn’t quite cut it.”

She added: “I am worried that social inclusion is still not high up enough on the agenda. We talk a lot about jobs and growth but it all buys into the idea that trickle-down economics works and I am not sure that it does.”

John Harris, who lives in Frome and is a political journalist for the Guardian, backed George’s ideas on devolution.

He said: “The conversation we are starting to have about devolution is central to a new era in British politics.

“We are having a conversation about finally putting power closer to the people themselves.

“It is not just political, it is deeply cultural as well. I think it is a common response to globalisation. If globalisation carries on, everywhere will start to look like Cabot Circus.

“In response to that, people seem to be developing a much keener sense of place. People’s belief that where they live represents something unique is getting more and more prevalent.”


What is a combined authority?

It is a group of councils which voluntarily agree to pool their responsibilities to improve transport, economic development and regeneration.

A combined authority is one step on from what we have in the Bristol area at the moment – co-operation between the four existing councils but they work independently of each other.

If they came together into a combined authority, they would run some departments – such as transport and strategic planning – as one. In turn, the Government would delegate more powers and resources so they could take more control over decision-making.

In Sheffield, for example, the city council is one of four metropolitan boroughs which make up the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority. The four boroughs look after their own affairs but they jointly run the police and fire services and public transport.

Unlike a partnership between councils, a combined authority is a legally recognised body which could assume the role of an integrated transport authority and economic prosperity board.

Any opinions expressed in this e-mail are those of the individual and not necessarily the company. This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and solely for the use of the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient or person responsible for delivering to the intended recipient, be advised that you have received this e-mail in error and that any use is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, advise the sender immediately by using the reply facility in your e-mail software.

Warning: Computer viruses may be transmitted or downloaded onto any computer system via e-mail communication. It is the recipient’s responsibility to take appropriate action to prevent computer viruses being transmitted In this way. Accordingly Local World Ltd disclaim all responsibility which arises directly or indirectly from such transmission of computer viruses.

Local World Ltd, PO Box 10177, 50 St George Street, Leicester LE1 8ED, Company No:08290481, Registered in England and Wales. Vat No:153 4729 06

Posted by: nigelashtonuk | October 14, 2014

14 October, 2014 16:46

Dealing with Government and Developers can be very frustrating and it seems to take years to take action on something we all agreed with at the start. It is even worse having to explain to people why nothing appears to be happening, despite the effort going into it. However , just occasionally, it is good to see plans coming together. Although we will still have budget cuts for some years to come, there is evidence of growth across North Somerset and real opportunities for an increase in employment, education, leisure, retail and residential accommodation .

Whatever you think about the recent approval of the vast development at Hinckley, (and we are still trying to oppose some of the worst aspects of the powerlines ), the effect on all of us in North Somerset cannot be ignored. During construction, there will be over 9000 people employed on site and thousands more involved in small businesses supplying everything from materials and skills, to food, transport and everyday living needs as well as securing local jobs.

The opportunities for North Somerset to benefit from the need for an expansion of higher and further education and skills development are central to this work. The range of skills needed in such a complicated scheme is enormous and we are working with the outstanding Weston College to provide the courses necessary and to support its ambition to become a University centre. In the new year we are also starting work on a new legal and professional academy as a key part of the College plans. At the same time there will be an increase in demand for quality accommodation for students, an essential part of the offer from any University.

In the Bath, Bristol and Filton Region, we are also seeing real growth and relocation, as the combined work of the four authorities and the business community invest in new capital projects and award grants to companies that can show a real benefit. North Somerset will again benefit from access to more jobs and accommodation, providing real investment in our local economy across all our towns and villages. This in turn will be a catalyst to further private sector investment in new shopping, leisure and cultural facilities.

We need to reverse the practice in the past of letting shopping areas sprawl across town, pushing accommodation out to the fringes, leaving our town centres deserted and uninviting at night with shops being boarded up as more and more shopping is being done on the internet. We are looking at sites where we can get more people living in our towns, making them more vibrant. Growth is starting and the Council is working with all its partners to make the most of it.

Posted by: nigelashtonuk | September 8, 2014

8 September, 2014 11:01

Kris Hopkins MP Minister for Local Government


2 Marsham Street



Dear Mr Hopkins


I write in response to your letter of 15 August. As you are already aware, I was away when you sent your letter, and am only able to send a full reply now.

North Somerset Council has published North Somerset Life on a monthly basis for ten years, and we have a wealth of evidence to show that the magazine is highly valued by our residents, and making a positive impact on the community.

In North Somerset we have three main newspaper titles – one paid-for daily (serving mainly the Bristol area), one paid for weekly, and one free weekly. An examination of their ABC figures shows that they are largely bucking the national trend of rapidly declining circulations, and have held steady over the past four years. There is certainly no evidence that the presence of a monthly council magazine has affected their circulation or readership in any way.

Our magazine serves a very different purpose from the local news media, and carries information in a way that the media never would. For example, our magazine features in-depth stories about Council services for vulnerable members of the community – including fostering and adoption, short break care for disabled people, community meals and community alarms. We have compelling evidence which demonstrates that the costs the council avoids, by using the magazine to promote take-up of certain services which are cheaper to deliver than the alternatives, far outweigh the relatively small investment in the magazine.

For example, we have used the magazine repeatedly to inform older and more vulnerable residents about the benefits of the ‘Carelink’ community alarm system which gives them peace of mind in their own home, help at the touch of a button, and the confidence to live independently for longer. A concerted effort to promote the service generated 92 new customers. The council saves up to £13,000 a year for every person who is supported at home instead of council-supported residential care, so the magazine potentially saved the council £1.2m in care costs.

A single article to promote the ‘Shared Lives’ scheme – where people open up their homes to accommodate people with learning disabilities – generated 19 enquiries, and, in turn, six approved carers. No other promotional work carried out by the service achieved anywhere near this kind of return.

The magazine costs about £250,000 (gross) a year for 12 editions including all research, writing, design, print and distribution. This equates to 22p per issue per household, including delivery. The cost of a second class stamp alone is currently 50p.

Although we continue to have a healthy local independent print media in North Somerset, the coverage is patchy, and does not reach large parts of our rural hinterland. We have over 90,000 households, but the main local newspapers (North Somerset Times , Bristol Post and Weston Mercury) have a combined circulation of under 50,000. Unlike the London boroughs, we simply don’t have a viable alternative to our own publication as a means of regular communication of important information

In our 2012 survey of local residents, 91 per cent of respondents told us they used the magazine as a source of information about the council and its services. Two thirds of the population read the magazine every month, and 86 per cent read it regularly. 63 per cent of respondents told us that they find the magazine to be a useful source of information about the council and its services.

The magazine is not political, and does not seek to be. You don’t have to take my word for that though. Following the original consultation on the Publicity Code in the autumn of 2010, Sir Merrick Cockell wrote to me and said:

“Thank you for copying me in to your letter to CLG on the Publicity Code consultation.

I thought the response was balanced and accurate and the two examples of North Somerset Life showed exactly the sort of publication that councils should be aiming to produce.

They are first class, do not stray into politics but inform and entertain. There is no possible way they compete with or endanger a vibrant local press. Any local paper that cannot compete does not deserve to survive or be propped-up by statutory notices.

I will use them as examples in discussions with Ministers.”

When my administration came to power in May 2007, I instructed officers to carry out a comprehensive review of the publication and other forms of council publicity as I was not convinced of their efficacy. The outcome of that review was the consolidation of a number of less effective forms of communication into the one monthly magazine, using Royal Mail to ensure delivery to all households in our area. This has also enabled us to lower costs to the council significantly by reducing the number of general publications

and focusing our effort through a single magazine. If we were not able to do this, we may in fact have to reintroduce other more costly means to get messages across.

The magazine is also a very useful tool as a means of conveying messages from central government – free school meals and Individual Electoral Registration – being very recent cases in point. Our ability to do this without a monthly edition would be significantly compromised.

So, in summary, I believe, very strongly, that the magazine, in its current format, is our single most effective means of communicating with our residents, there is not a viable alternative, it is not political, it does not compete with the local media, and it has demonstrated an ability to save the council money many times over.

For those reasons, I do not think it would be in the best interests of our resident community to reduce the magazine’s frequency to just four editions a year. We would be in dereliction of our duty to inform and safeguard. Whilst I totally understand and support the intentions of the Code of Practice, the publication of information articles written by our departments is not what it was aimed at. I hope, in the light of this evidence, that you will withdraw your objection to our current arrangement.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Nigel Ashton

Leader of North Somerset Council

Cllr Nigel C Ashton

Leader of North Somerset Council

A Unitary Authority

Twitter @NigelCAshton


Posted by: nigelashtonuk | July 16, 2014

16 July, 2014 18:57

Last week, Parliament debated the merits of the Magna Carta, something we have all heard of but probably do not remember much about since leaving school. Next year is the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the original on 15 June 1215 by King John and his Barons. It sought to protect the rights of individuals and limit the power of the King or ruler. Although greatly changed and superseded, it is seen as the key moment for the rule of law in this country and many others.

It seems timely, after the celebrations and memorials this year to all the sacrifices made during the First World War and subsequent conflicts, that this should be followed by a detailed look at our governance arrangements. Democracy is often quoted as being the worst form of government except for all the other options. Millions have died “to defend our way of life” and to keep our right to govern ourselves. In any discussion, most of us jealously defend democracy and everyone’s right to vote but then in the elections many of us do not bother but I suppose exercise our right not to vote. We demand our right to choose who will be our government but then,having elected them, we hold them in very low esteem. Perhaps we and they, need to better understand what we ask of them.

It has been wonderful to see so many communities honoring those who fought for us ,it is also encouraging to see so many schools studying what it really meant. I hope that next year they will look at what we have achieved, not the Party Political bickering, or arguments about central versus local, or national versus international but what we really ask any level of government to do. We are one of the best countries in the world to live in with so much to enjoy but we still have constant dissatisfaction, a tendency to blame others for anything that goes wrong and a frustration that we always seem powerless to change anything because of rules and regulations. In my experience,often used as an excuse for doing nothing.

Perhaps a real benefit of these two years, will be recognizing that we are not honoring the past for protecting our way of life but for protecting our right to choose how to change it.



I hope you are all enjoying the sunny weather so far and been able to attend some the events going on ( see pages 15 to 19) including a number of village fêtes which I always enjoy, as it brings out the community spirit.

Posted by: nigelashtonuk | July 11, 2014

11 July, 2014 18:49

“A politician complaining about the media is like a sea captain complaining about the weather”. An old saying that I think most would still agree with and include anyone in the public eye not just politicians, but it is changing. It is part of our democratic process that Press, TV and Radio can hold anyone in public office to account on behalf of the general public. Sometimes it could seem too biased or too personal but it was accepted as the price paid and the best way to make sure that those in any position of influence were held to account. It also came with the understanding that the media would ensure that what they reported was factual. There have been a number of issues exposed by journalists over recent years, whether it was House of Lords , MPs, Councils, Police, Care homes or Big Business, even parts of the Press themselves and we are better off as a nation to have this constant examination and reassurance.

However, I am getting concerned with the direction we seem to be heading in the era of so called social media and celebrity culture. Modern technology of Smart Phones, Tablets, variations on Facebook and Twitter type sites and the International web, has provided easy access to instant news and information for millions around the world, but there is no control or correction. We now live in a world where anyone can anonymously publish outrageous lies without ever having to justify themselves, it destroys careers, families and worst of all, on occasion has driven individuals including children, to take their own lives. The public are often being deliberately misled and it is often impossible to know what to believe. Instant access to information has led to the reduction in professional and responsible reporting as media companies need to either sensationalise stories or put an interpretation on it whilst still presenting it as fact. Some radio and TV interviewers seem to regard themselves as more important than the guests, not allowing them to answer, constant interruption and innuendo, they are using sarcasm and badgering because of a lack of ability to get the best out of the interviewee, surely it is possible to be tough and still respectful. We constantly hear complaints about some young people not having self discipline or respect, where do they learn that from. Greater access to information is fine but we need to know that those who provide it are trustworthy and have just as high standards as those they demand of others. Freedom of speech , absolutely, but a measure of responsibility as well.

Posted by: nigelashtonuk | July 11, 2014

Persuading Brandon Lewis to visit North Somerset

Posted by: nigelashtonuk | March 26, 2014

MetroWest Phase 1 – Rail Project

As you will be aware we are taking forward the rail project including proposals to re-open the Portishead line, with Network Rail and their contractors. This work draws on previous work, augmented by more detailed work in relation to the dis-used section of line between Portishead and Pill.

Next week contractors will be undertaking some minor vegetation clearance work to enable access for equipment to undertake ground investigation works. A total of 24 bore holes will be drilled along the dis-used line. The soil bores will then be analysed to ascertain ground conditions and the extent of any soil contamination. This will then be fed into the Network Rail (GRIP 1-2) work stream, which is due to be reported this spring.

The minor vegetation clearance work will cause some noise, with the use of chain saws etc, but will be limited to clearing brambles and vegetation within the track bed at certain locations (not the whole line), to enable access for the ground investigation equipment, which is essentially a compact rail trolley. The ground investigation work will generate some noise while the bore holes are drilled, however the noise at each location should only last approximately 10 minutes or so.

The clearance work is planned for next week 1st/2nd April, with the ground investigation work on the 3rd/4th April.

Posted by: nigelashtonuk | February 21, 2014

Members Only

Members Only

  • Minister opens Weston Package
  • Park homes seminar
  • Policy and Scrutiny Panel news
  • ‘Dementia friends’ date
  • Chief Executive’s blog
  • Leader’s diary
  • Committees, meetings and decisions
  • High Sheriff’s visit
  • Town and parish councils
  • News from assistant executive members
  • Roadworks
  • Consultations
  • What’s on
  • In the news
  • Contact

Issue 62 210214.pdf

Posted by: nigelashtonuk | February 21, 2014

Trip to budapest

Keeping in touch
Visit for information about our services
Council Connect: for all streets, open spaces and environmental protection enquiries visit
Care Connect: for all adult social services enquiries visit Out of hours emergencies: 01934 622 669
Privacy and confidentiality notice:

The information contained in this email transmission is intended by North Somerset Council for the use of the named individual or entity to which it is directed and may contain information that is privileged or otherwise confidential. If you have received this email transmission in error, please delete it from your system without copying or forwarding it, and notify the sender of the error by reply email. Any views expressed within this message or any other associated files are the views and expressions of the individual and not North Somerset Council. North Somerset Council takes all reasonable precautions to ensure that no viruses are transmitted with any electronic communications sent, however the council can accept no responsibility for any loss or damage resulting directly or indirectly from the use of this email or any contents or attachments.

Cllr Nigel Ashton
Leader of North Somerset Council
Twitter. @NigelCAshton

Posted by: nigelashtonuk | February 21, 2014

New Year’s Day

Keeping in touch
Visit for information about our services
Council Connect: for all streets, open spaces and environmental protection enquiries visit
Care Connect: for all adult social services enquiries visit Out of hours emergencies: 01934 622 669
Privacy and confidentiality notice:

The information contained in this email transmission is intended by North Somerset Council for the use of the named individual or entity to which it is directed and may contain information that is privileged or otherwise confidential. If you have received this email transmission in error, please delete it from your system without copying or forwarding it, and notify the sender of the error by reply email. Any views expressed within this message or any other associated files are the views and expressions of the individual and not North Somerset Council. North Somerset Council takes all reasonable precautions to ensure that no viruses are transmitted with any electronic communications sent, however the council can accept no responsibility for any loss or damage resulting directly or indirectly from the use of this email or any contents or attachments.

Cllr Nigel Ashton
Leader of North Somerset Council
Twitter. @NigelCAshton

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »