Town councillor surgeries resume with ‘non-political’ twice-monthly schedule

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Archive image: Town councillor ‘face to face’ surgery in the foyer of the Willow Brook shopping centre on Saturday 31st July 2021 L-r: Cllr John Ashe and Cllr Tom Aditya.

Bradley Stoke town councillors have resumed the staging of regular ‘surgery’ sessions following a break that spanned the recent local elections.

The purpose of the face-to-face advice surgeries is to give local residents an additional opportunity to discuss local issues with their elected representatives. Councillors feedback information to the town council office, which then takes the appropriate steps to resolve each issue or forwards it to the appropriate organisation, such as South Gloucestershire Council or Avon and Somerset Police.

Prior to the recent election period, the surgeries were held once a month on a Saturday at the Willow Brook shopping centre. However, the new schedule sees them being held twice a month – with one session being held at one of the council’s three activity centres (on a rotating basis) and the other at the Willow Brook Centre.

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When the matter was discussed at June’s Full council meeting, the use of the activity centres was proposed as a way of reaching out to residents in different parts of the town. However, one councillor, Ben Randles (Conservative, Webbs Wood), expressed scepticism whether this would attract much engagement as, unlike the shopping centre, the activity centres have very little “passing trade”.

The new council has reversed a controversial decision made in June 2022 to staff the surgeries on a ‘party political’ basis, rotating between the ‘majority political party’ and the ‘opposition’ in accordance with the overall ratio of council members. At that time, then-councillor Angela Morey (Labour, Bradley Stoke North) described the restriction as a “thinly veiled attempt [by the then-ruling Conservatives] to stop me being able to speak to people on behalf of the council.”

Going forward, the surgeries will be “open to all councillors to attend (not tied to political parties), on a voluntary basis”.

Historically, the surgeries have a poor record of engagement, with typically five or fewer residents raising issues with councillors over each two-hour session. At the June meeting, one councillor, Roger Avenin (Conservative, Webbs Wood), described the sessions as being a “waste of time” and said he wouldn’t be volunteering to attend.

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The first surgery of the new council period was held at the Jubilee Centre on 8th July. The Journal has been informed that this was staffed by two councillors – Natalie Field (Labour, Woodlands) and James Nelson (Green Party, Primrose Bridge) – and they engaged with just a single resident, who raised an issue that turned out to be under the remit of South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) rather than the town council. The individual was signposted to SGC’s One Stop Shop.

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Upcoming surgery schedule

  • Saturday 29th July at the Willow Brook Centre
  • Saturday 12th August at Brook Way Activity Centre
  • Saturday 26th August at the Willow Brook Centre
  • Saturday 9th September at Baileys Court Activity Centre
  • Saturday 23rd September at the Willow Brook Centre

In all cases, the session runs from 10am to 12pm.

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Other ways of raising issues

For reference, the main responsibilities of the town council are the maintenance of the its three activity centres (Baileys Court, Brook Way and The Jubilee), the skate park, Jubilee Green, the Beacon Playscheme and other play areas. It also maintains highway verges on behalf of SGC.

There is no need for most residents to attend one of the face-to-face town council surgeries in order to raise a local issue. In many cases it may be best to contact your SGC ward councillor in the first instance. An easy way to do this is via writetothem.com (just enter your postcode). Should the issue turn out to be within the remit of the town council, the SGC ward councillor should be able to forward your enquiry (or you can use the Contact page on the Bradley Stoke Town Council website).

For non-emergency policing issues, the Bradley Stoke police beat team may be contacted via an online form at the bottom of their dedicated webpage. N.B. Do not use this contact form to report a crime. You can report a crime online or call 101 (for non-emergencies) or 999 (for emergencies).

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