Sirs and Madams, I do not address this to the hard-working and dedicated employees of B&NES and its institutions.
Instead, I address it to the figureheads; to the politicians, and to the others ‘at the top’.
Yesterday I walked through the centre of the City of Bath; my home. It was not a pleasant experience. In fact, it was downright embarrassing.
I was actually embarrassed to be a resident of this city; a city I have loved for many a year.
I refer to the outrageous number of vacant retail outlets on Milsom Street, throughout Milsom Place, along Old Bond Street, New Bond Street, Burton Street, Lansdown Road, Quiet Street, Hay Hill, George Street, Union Street, Stall Street, Green Street, Saville Row… to name just a few. It is shameful.
I wonder how many would-be entrepreneurs have launched businesses in this city over the years only for their dreams to be extorted; stomped upon; choked to death by the rents and the rates affordable only to the larger ‘chains’ – that only stay for a couple of years; for the duration of their sweetheart deals.
Let me guess the standard response from the B&NES Cabinet, from our local politicians, from anyone who may have some level of responsibility and who should be held to account: ‘Times are tough.’ ‘Retail is rapidly moving online.’ ‘The buildings are privately owned and nothing to do with us.’ ‘The coronavirus is here and no one wants to shop.’ ‘Our visitor numbers are down because… blah blah blah blah blah.’
Not good enough.
Where is the action? Where are the ideas, the incentives, the enthusiasm to attract more independent businesses into these vacant units? The City of Bath is known, or certainly used to be known for its independent shops. Why are these no longer being encouraged and nurtured?
Small businesses are failing partly because the rates are too high. This is a problem. The rating system is not fit for purpose. Rethink it. Fix it. Quickly. I want my city back.
Address the issues of transport to assist more people to access the city. Support new ideas that increase access to mobility overall. Think of the exciting opportunities we have to celebrate and to transform this city and make it a world leader in sustainability and innovation.
If only its supposed leaders could think about the exciting possibilities for the residents and businesses of this city in the years ahead.
Present more opportunities for entrepreneurs and street vendors; don’t simply impose ridiculous licences but incentivise and attract. The more exciting the offers of business and entertainment, of food and drink and culture and fashion and, well, everything else, the more people will want to visit this amazing city.
It needs ideas and it needs people in charge who want to make a change; not simply have something to add to their LinkedIn page in their semi-retirement years, or top-up their pension.
Two and half years ago I presented this city with an idea and its Cabinet members all refused to help; plastering on those fake smiles and filling the air with empty words as they considered me to be no-one of note.
They refused to engage with me; offered me nothing; nothing to help me help my own city take advantage of some of the most exciting innovations transforming our world right now. Electric vehicles; electric cars and trucks and vans and motorcycles and e-bikes and – yes, they are a thing: flying cars!
I wanted Bath and North East Somerset to be the leading showcase of future transportation, artificial intelligence, renewable energy.
I wanted to contribute to the cleaning-up of our air by celebrating EVs and introducing them to a wider audience; accelerating the transition to sustainable transportation.
Despite their words, no one ‘at the top’ actually cared. Through inaction; too little too late they have all failed to address the quality of the air and the pollution in any meaningful way. And now I have lung cancer.
While I don’t point the finger of blame necessarily at the quality of the air in the City of Bath, or the complacency of the authorities just yet, we can wait and let the laboratories see about that.
I no longer run a business due to my health. I am a simple resident who loves what this city was, and could become again. I make no claim that I have the answers, but I demand action is taken to support new businesses, independent businesses, features and entertainment and culture and innovation in the City of Bath. I want my city returned to the bustle and the vibrancy of its prime. I want my city back.
This coronavirus will run its course. Technology and our incredible scientists, medical teams and the NHS will create treatments, and ultimately a vaccine. But what do we do until then?
We take our precautions, and we do what we do, but we also think about the future and how exciting it can and will be for our communities, for our families and for our neighbourhoods in the months and the years to come.
There are so many opportunities to tackle the challenges that lie before us, but they demand action. And they demand sound and effective leadership.
If you are unable, or unwilling to play an active and productive role, you are not needed and you are not wanted. Please step aside and let others take it on. Thank you.
Dan W Griffin
20+ year resident of Bath