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Lib Dems pledge to modernise council and make it more accessible to the public

The Lib Dems have promised to accelerate the modernisation process at St Albans District Council in order to make it more useful to local residents.

Lib Dem Group Leader Chris White said: ‘The council is still absolutely yoked to the idea of residents having to phone through problems and seems to forget that in this day and age the majority of residents would prefer to engage with routine issues on-line – leaving the phones free for those who do not have access to computers or who need a proper discussion.

‘Currently the council receives 2000 phone calls each working day. This is far too many and the whole organisation needs to be restructured to make it more friendly to residents and more cost efficient: it is crazily expensive if an issue like a missed bin is dealt with by phone or even by email.

‘By contrast, the area where people really do need to have conversations – planning – remains underresourced and underperforming. There is a constant stream of complaints about this department and resources need to be freed up from other areas to make sure it starts to deliver a proper service.’

Conservatives cut local highways budgets

The Conservatives running Herts County Council pushed through a cut of over 11% from the local highways budget of £90,000. This £90,000 was allocated to County Councillors  to get local roads and pavements resurfaced that the County would not otherwise do. It’s now been cut.

The cut was voted through at a County Cabinet meeting on Monday, at which no opposition members are allowed to speak. No mention was made of this cut in this year’s C ounty Council budget that the Conservatives voted through.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Stephen Giles-Medhurst said: ‘The Lib Dem Team believes that local County Councillors should be given a greater say in what is done locally and the resources to get local roads and footways resurfaced not less.

‘The biggest issue coming up on the doorsteps in the current election is the state of our roads and pavements – the vote on Monday is the Conservatives’ answer to residents’ concerns. No doubt residents will take note.’

‘No’ to police and fire merger

Chris White has followed up on comments made last week on BBC Radio with a firm pledge to oppose any attempts to merge the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service with the Police Service.

Chris said: ‘It is high time we had evidence-based politics in this country – not centrally imposed dogma. The Fire Service is fine where it is – part of the County Council where it prevents and fights fires and undertakes rescues with consummate skill. Anyone who saw the magnificent performance at Buncefield a few years ago knows this.

‘So if it ain’t broke don’t fix it – just because some Conservative special advisor in Whitehall has noticed that fire engines and police cars both have blue lights.’

Chris added: ‘We need integration between services so that they work together. The creation of the Police and Crime Commissioner post has made working with other public services like councils and the NHS more difficult. Let’s not make it any more difficult by removing the Fire Service from the control of local electors.’

County Council ‘don’t give a damn’ about local residents in row over Albert Street

 Chris White has condemned Hertfordshire County Council for not being able ‘to give a damn’ over their repeated failure to restore traffic calming in Albert Street.

Chris said:

‘When the street was resurfaced a year or so ago the County Council contractor failed to restore the humps.

‘I have pursued this ever since and have been given various excuses, not least that the original contractor no longer worked for the County Council.

‘Eventually the Council got round to redoing the humps a week or so ago but a minor top surface dressing will do nothing to restore the humps to their former height and so nothing to reduce the speed of traffic.

‘On top of that residents were told to move their cars even though none of the humps was where cars were normally parked.

‘They show nothing but contempt for local residents and councillors. They haven’t even acknowledged the formal complaint I have made.’

Chris condemns Thameslink plea for commuters to avoid the rush hour

Local councillor Chris White has condemned the plea by Govia to commuters to travel outside the rush hour.

Chris said: ‘People have to work for a living. They can’t just drift in half way through the morning. Well they can – but some would find themselves on the return train home carrying a P45.

‘Govia is clearly too incompetent to run a railway and so should hand the franchise back to the Government.’

District Council community grant system

From Monday, local voluntary and community groups can apply for a Community Grant. There is £70,700 in the fund (one of four Voluntary and Community Sector funding schemes within the Council’s overall £0.5m support of this sector). To find out more regarding our Voluntary and Community Sector funding and the application form please visit the SADC website.   Applications for grants of between £500 and £5,000 are welcomed up to 5pm on Friday 27 May 2016.

We are looking to fund projects and activities that benefit the local community, building an inclusive community where everybody is able to take part and contribute to community life.

Applications from local groups must meet at least two of the following criteria –

  1. Reduce inequalities.
  2. Enable local people to become involved in community life.
  3. Encourage people from different groups* to get on well together.
  4. Increase local people’s engagement/interest in local democracy.
  5. Provide support to vulnerable communities in the District.

* i.e. different faith and cultural backgrounds or those with or without a disability.

Groups applying to the fund will need to provide evidence that their activity/project is needed by the community and that it will make a real difference. Please support your local community by promoting the funding to groups and helping them to identify evidence to support their projects.

The application process is short and straight forward. Additional support is available through Advice Surgeries, run by St Albans CVS: dates on CVS St Albans website. There will be 4 around the District in the first 2 weeks to discuss ideas and 4 in the closing weeks, where groups may attend if they have a completed draft application. It is recommended that groups attend one of these if they have not successfully applied for funding before.

Some examples of projects that have been successful include Special Olympics St Albans, OVO (the Maltings Arts Theatre’s resident theatre company), and St Peter’s Church, St Albans. The Special Olympics’ grant enabled 25 young athletes with a learning disability to attend a residential activity week in Devon. OVO used its grant for a performing arts project for groups that are under-represented in the local community. St Peter’s Church installed a storyteller’s seat and benches in St Peter’s Churchyard using wood from a fallen tree.

To support the Community Grants Fund there is a Launch event on Thursday 7 April 2016. Groups will hear from Council officers about priorities, from the CVS about how to complete the form and from groups which were successful in getting a grant in previous years.


Camp Road to be closed on Sunday 17 April

From the County Council

NOTICE is given that the Hertfordshire County Council intend to make an Order under Section 14[1] of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, to prohibit all traffic from using that length of Camp Road, St Albans from its junction with B691 Stanhope Road south eastwards to its junction with Ninedells Place, a distance of approximately 30 metres.

The purpose of the Order is to enable gas connection works to take place.

The section of road will be closed on Sunday 17 April 2016, when signs are in place. An alternative signed route will be provided for traffic whilst the road closure is in place.

Damning report shows homelessness will rocket due to Tory housing bill

An LGA report report released today shows that councils fear that the Conservative housing bill will see a sell off of homes that will not be replaced and a rocketing of homelessness in communities across Britain.

The survey of local authorities, treated as a snapshot by the LGA laid out their concerns starkly.

The key statistics from this survey are:

–          78% said there would be an increase in homelessness

–          90% of councils surveyed said their number of council homes would decrease

–          74% said the homes sold under RTB would not be replaced

–          82% said there would be less estate regeneration

The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to think again and take advantage of the remaining stages (Report and Third Reading) of the Housing Bill to change the law to help families in housing need.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

“The rise of homelessness because of the Government’s housing reforms is utterly appalling. The most vulnerable people in our communities are being completely overlooked. The blame for this lies firmly at the Government’s door.

“When is the Government going to do a proper assessment of the impact of their housing reforms on those most in need?”

Commenting on the results of the council survey which was initiated by Liberal Democrats within the LGA, leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said:

“This survey confirms our fears about the devastation that will be caused by the Government’s housing reforms. Liberal Democrats asked for this survey to be carried out because we suspected this disastrous impact.

“A huge reduction in affordable housing is forecasted across the country. The Tories are intent on destroying housing for those most in need.

“The housing crisis in Britain is desperate, yet the Government is busy giving cash handouts to help those with wealthy parents buy a nice home while the numbers of homes for everyone else is being slashed.

“We need to stop this before it’s too late. Liberal Democrats in the Lords have launched a major attack on the reforms and will be fighting them to the bitter end.”

Mental Health key issue for district council

Mental health has been highlighted as a key issue for all of St Albans City and District Council’s services especially those working in housing and community safety.

A motion setting out the Council’s commitment won unanimous approval from all parties at a meeting of the full Council on Wednesday 24 February.

It was proposed by Liberal Democrat Councillor Anthony Rowlands who was appointed the District’s Mental Health Champion last year.

Councillors Julian Daly, Leader of the Conservative Group, Roma Mills, Leader of the Labour Group and Simon Grover, Green and Independent Group Leader, supported the proposals.

The Council has invested £110,000 over the past four years in 24 mental health projects including telephone helplines, workshops and counselling sessions. Continue reading