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B&NES Council Corporate Strategy 2020 to 2024

Context and challenges

About our area

Bath and North East Somerset is thriving and diverse, with many needs, strengths, resources and assets.

As well as being our main commercial and recreational centre, the World Heritage City of Bath is an international tourist and heritage destination that provides a spectacular setting for world-class arts, culture, and leisure facilities.

Our market towns of Keynsham, Midsomer Norton and Radstock combine with rural communities ranging from the foothills of the Mendips, to the Chew Valley in the west and Cotswold villages around Bath.

  • Two thirds of the area lies in Green Belt - we have 2 areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 37 Conservation Areas and 6,408 Listed Buildings.
  • Home to over 192,000 people, we expect our population to rise to 199,000 by 2037 - the most significant increases will be amongst older people, with a 124% increase in those aged 85 and over.
  • Between 2001 and 2017, the growth in the 20-24 age range accounted for nearly 50% of the area's population growth, highlighting the area’s student population.

About the council

We have an important role in shaping the future of our area. Despite reductions in funding in recent years, we have access to skills and resources that can improve people’s lives and meet our key challenges. We provide and commission hundreds of services to local residents. For example, in 2017/18 we:

  • Issued 326,000 library items
  • Prepared 1,185 Educational Health Care Plans for children with special educational needs and disabilities
  • Supported 1,551 vulnerable adults to live independently in their own homes
  • Secured residential care for 1,000 people
  • Considered over 1,100 licensing and 3,000 planning applications
  • Provided services supporting 521 people with learning difficulties, 348 people with mental health issues and 1,318 people with physical support
  • Maintained 1250 km of highways and 16,000 street lights

Our COVID-19 response in figures (to October 2020)

  • Over 8000 calls received by the Compassionate Communities Hub
  • 50,000 people receiving our weekly update
  • Emergency accommodation provided to house 42 people during lockdown
  • £42.9m in COVID-19 support grants paid to help over 3500 businesses
  • Over 2177 tasks, such as helping with food and medicines, carried out by volunteers
  • 377 emergency food parcels delivered

Our key challenges

Tackling the climate and nature emergency

In March 2019 we resolved to declare a Climate Emergency. This was in response to the latest science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and clear demands from our community.

We pledged to provide the leadership to enable B&NES to become carbon neutral by 2030 and make the council itself carbon neutral by the same date. This will have a significant impact on everything we do as an organisation and requires a step change across the public, private and community sectors in our area.

Inequalities in life experience

Despite our area being one of the least deprived authorities in the country, there are significant inequality gaps in education, employment and health outcomes for local residents. Life expectancy for men varies by up to 8 years between those living in our least and most deprived areas.

Our more disadvantaged pupils often achieve lower qualifications and fewer go on to sustain education, employment or training after reaching 18 years old. We need to do more to address inequalities in the educational attainment of our young people.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the global Black Lives Matter movement, the council leader convened a webinar to address the legacy of the slave trade in Bath & North East Somerset. In July 2020 we expressed our solidarity with protesters challenging structural racism, and agreed to establish a Race Equality Panel to tackle deep-seated inequalities in our area.

Budget pressures in delivering our statutory social care duties to support vulnerable residents

Over 80% of our funding now goes into health, social care and children’s services. Our older residents are living longer with complex and combined health conditions which are costly. The number of looked after children has also risen by 40% in the past 5 years. Supporting the 21 children with the most complex needs cost over £3m in 2018/19.

We must be as efficient and effective as possible in delivering these services. This requires some hard decisions about where our money is best spent. We also need to think about how we can help our residents to live well so that we can deliver services into the future.

Covid-19 hit the council’s services hard. We faced a “double-whammy” of reductions in services’ income with additional cost pressures on providing support to our most vulnerable and providing items such as PPE. We reacted quickly to these pressures and agreed a Financial Recovery Plan to stabilise our finances.

Working better with our local communities

Our local communities have significant strengths and resources. This includes skills, knowledge and links which support a wide range of groups and networks. Our residents have an important contribution to make to meeting our key challenges, whether being a good neighbour, making healthy choices, or volunteering in a community project.

We need to listen to local people about what is working well in their area and develop solutions which work for them, rather than imposing an approach from above. We can also help local communities by using the skills and experience of our employees, as well as our buildings and other facilities.

Our local COVID-19 response showed the strength of our local communities. As well as the work undertaken by 3SG through its volunteer community connectors and third sector groups such as CAB B&NES and Bath Mind, a myriad of local initiatives sprung up to help those in need.