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The Big Rethink: Cllr Dr Yukteshwar Kumar

Senior Lecturer, Politics, Languages & International Studies,
University of Bath; and Liberal Democrat Councillor for Bathwick

The scale and impact of Covid-19 on our societies and communities will have far-reaching consequences – more prolonged and profound than the 2008 financial crisis. Even affluent Bath, generally protected from the severity of past economic downturns, is being hit. Yet Bath remains more resilient than most cities and is ready to rise to the challenge.

B&NES Council has recognised that Covid-19 related costs, combined with a fall in tourist income, left an unpredicted £53 million hole in this year’s budget. Central government has not been able to provide the level of support needed for the council to continue to provide usual services. The council administration are making seriously hard choices, but I am proud that the residents I speak to support this administration in putting the needs of our most vulnerable residents, particularly the elderly, as a top priority.

Bath remains more resilient than most cities and is ready to rise to the challenge

To-date all redundancies have been voluntary both in the council and the university, and I’m relieved at the offer both organisations have been able to make staff wanting to exit.

Nearly one in four universities in England were in deficit before Covid-19. While this included the University of Bath (an income of £309.8 million in 2018–19, with an expenditure of £354.2 million), the university benefits from substantial growth and has made investments based on robust, sustainable financial plans.

Like many British universities, Bath relies heavily on tuition fees. Unlike others, Bath is not planning to have all lectures online next term, and its admission rate remains high. I’m optimistic that a hybrid of live classes and online sessions can help balance some of the tensions between residents and our student population.

Summer is upon us, and the skies have become bluer. Hopefully, we will build on lessons learned during the crisis to permanently reduce traffic and air pollution

The University of Bath contributes over £350 million to the local economy each year. This money is needed to keep our shops open and our city thriving. Yet the disruption to residents from the increase in students has led to some resentment. So I welcome the innovations made in online learning giving a chance to mitigate against future disruptions.

Summer is upon us, and the skies have become bluer. Hopefully, we will build on lessons learned during the crisis to permanently reduce traffic and air pollution, with more people working from home instead of driving to an office.

I am so grateful for the responsible and supportive attitude of the vast majority of B&NES residents. This has meant that Covid-19 related casualties have been significantly lower here than other counties. My ward of Bathwick has been incredibly fortunate, having no Covid-19 deaths.

I am so grateful for the responsible and supportive attitude of the vast majority of B&NES resident

I believe a vaccine will be forthcoming; tourists will return to Bath, and our streets will be clean again, but we need to continue with the inspirational work I’ve witnessed in communities coming together to support each other. I urge us all to stay positive, combat this challenge collectively, and take care of each other.

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