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The Somerset Guardian, 24th January 2024

When the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) was set up I thought that it was a bad idea.  Indeed, I opposed it because essentially, it was the recreation of Avon and the problem with Avon for people living in North East Somerset and indeed, South Gloucestershire, was that it focused on inner Bristol and was not concerned with more rural areas.

This has become particularly apparent with what is happening locally with the public transport. My constituents in North East Somerset have once again lost out as Bristol takes the lion’s share of the money for itself and the same is true for those living in South Gloucestershire.

There is an absurd row between Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES) and WECA as to who is to blame whilst my constituents continue to lose out.  I understand that people sometimes have to book a Westlink slot at midnight if they are to secure a seat under a scheme that links people up to buses that may go into the centre of Bristol and there have even been accusations of the service helping the rich and those who ‘exploit the system’. It is essentially a Bristol focused approach spending money on an urban area and as usual, ignoring the suburban and rural parts of the West of England Combined Authority.

There has also been money that has been scandalously wasted. The Mayor has implemented a wasteful scheme of giving people free bus travel during the month of their birthday. This is not a proper use of public funds; it is a desperate gimmick when vital bus routes have been cancelled to the disadvantage of my constituents. Now, WECA and B&NES are arguing over whether the unspent money in this fund can be redistributed to bring back the bus routes that my constituents once enjoyed with the Mayor even recently admitting that they had “…messed up…” despite still blaming the Government.

When anyone thinks that an extra layer of bureaucracy is necessary they are wrong. WECA should never have been established and it would be a jolly good thing if it were abolished.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance:

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