At the end of May, two of our student officers, President Alexander and Community Officer Blake, attended the Councils’ Annual General Meeting.
The meeting took place at the Guildhall in Bath City Centre and was the first full council session since the new councillors had been elected in the May 4 Local Elections.
Alexander felt it was very important that the student voice was represented at the meeting through the SU Officers, as it has been an SU aim to look more closely at how we can be involved in the local community and make sure student issues are being taken seriously by local authorities.
At the meeting, individuals could choose to give a 3-minute statement on any topic of their choice. Alexander chose to deliver a statement on developing the civic relationship between B&NES, Students and the Education Providers.
In his statement, Alexander explained that he was there ‘in support of the tens of thousands of Student Residents that live within Bath and North East Somerset and make up roughly one third of the population of the City of Bath’. He acknowledged the importance of students in the city, explaining that they ‘contribute significantly to the local economy in Bath through spending in local businesses, renting or working…making Bath a vibrant place to live’.
He took time to thank The Student Community Partnership (SCP), which aims to act as a bridge between the Educational Institutions, their Students’ Unions and the Local Authority in Bath and who campaign for good neighbourly relations, safety and sustainability through campaigns, event and volunteering. However, he added that he felt more could be done for students by listening to the needs of the student population and working together with the council.
A suggestion of improvement he gave was in relation to the current prices of rent in Bath. Alex explained that, ‘at the moment, both Universities find themselves renting buildings from private companies through nominations agreements in order to house students in the city – often at high rates which are passed on to students, for example with the new Centurion house, the cricket ground development, single rooms are priced at £220 per week, (£11k a year). In the private sector over the road, rooms start at £330 a week, (£17k a year)’.
To combat this, Alexander discussed a new initiative that the Universities in Nottingham and their local council have been working on, called the Student Living Strategy. The strategy’s first priority is to improve the improve the ‘quality, safety, affordability and location of accommodation and promoting growth in affordable options across the city’. Alexander believes this collaborative approach could be highly beneficial in Bath and called upon the council to consider a similar approach. He also queried in general what the council was planning to ensure that meaningful conversations occur for the benefit of all residents of Bath and North East Somerset.
Alexander’s statement was positively received, with Council Leader Kevin Guy saying that he would be ‘more than happy’ to meet with Alexander and his successor as SU President to discuss ideas. Other councillors seconded this, stating they were, ‘more than happy to support’.
In total, there were five residents who spoke, one other notable speaker being 90 year old Mrs Harrington who travelled to Bath from Radstock to discuss the loss of the number 82 bus running between Paulton and Radstock, which she referred to as a ‘lifeline’.
During the meeting, the new Chair of Council was also elected and the Officers’ spent time networking with a number of the councillors, including June Player, Dine Romero and Kevin Guy. Alexander commented that these were all very positive conversations and that the councillors were, ‘keen to work with us and agreed it was needed for this joined up thinking for discussions to happen.’
It was a wonderful experience for Alexander and Blake to attend the meeting, have the opportunity to speak to council leaders and represent our student voice. We will be sure to keep you updated on any progress!