Bath rate UK’s most “progressive” city

Snow Hill, Bath

Originally posted on Challenge – voice of Britain’s youth – here, 31st October 2020.

The West of England Branch of the Young Communist League are dismayed, but not surprised, at the uncritical reporting from news outlets that financial services company Bankrate have rated the city of Bath the UK’s “most progressive place… to live and work” [1].

From our perspective, it is clear that the rating methodology is completely inadequate, across all of the 7 chosen criteria:

That Bath can lead in these rankings whilst simultaneously acknowledging its woeful record on the gender pay gap and women in local government demonstrates clearly how little comfort this news will be to Bath’s workers.

Furthermore, whilst it is of course vital that our Councillors reflect the diversity of local people, and the number of women in local government is an important metric, this alone is not enough; neither ethnicity, type of education, or indeed class were measured in this category.

The environment is a very important consideration when assessing the state of our city, but by ranking cities based upon the number of ultra-low emission vehicle registrations the bias towards wealthy car owners is clear. What about measuring air quality, access to green spaces, or even the provision of low-emission public transport?

We object so strongly on this point precisely because Bath is one of the worst affected cities in the UK by toxic air pollution, and residents’ concerns have fallen on deaf ears for decades; in 2017, the Council’s inaction over illegal levels of NO2 along London Road forced central government to intervene. [2]

The Council’s latest refuse policies have achieved a 30% reduction in general waste going to landfill in the first year of the policy coming in to force [3], this is significant. However, the ranking ignores this, instead implying that recycling is just another trend like going to vegan restaurants or searching on the Internet for “woke-related” terms; this idealist approach completely disregards any material change that may beneficially affect our working class communities.

Voter turnout figures are still more misleading. Voter turnout at the 2019 local government elections clearly demonstrates the problem; Lansdown had a turnout of 50.20% [4], whereas in Twerton only 28.93% [5] of those eligible cast their vote. As with the Brexit referendum, it is clear that elections in Bath paint very different pictures divided along class lines.

SomersetLive describe the ramping up of property prices as “good news” for home owners. [6] This goes to the heart of the problem; an analysis of local life must reflect the gentrification of Bath, and the reality that workers are being forced out of the city, away from their places of work, and in to the surrounding towns and villages in North East Somerset. The need for greater industrial space and affordable housing in the city are strongly tied to the demands on public transport to Bath as a destination.

For all these reasons, and more besides, the greatest issues facing Bath are class issues. Our city was not rated the “most progressive place… to live and work”, despite the warm words being put out, but the best place to own property.

Young communists are clear that Bath is not as a museum for the sole enjoyment of tourists or students. There can be no change in our city until we organise in our communities and workplaces, and unite behind a concrete alternative strategy for Bath.

Nathan Russell