County Bus cuts ‘driven by dogma, not funding’

Conservatives at County Hall have effectively confirmed today that the extensive bus cuts they are planning are driven by the Tory desire to slash and burn public services and not a need to find financial savings.

At today’s (Wednesday 10th Dec) Policy, Resources and Transformation Cabinet Panel, a paper on HCC’s finances reported an underspend of over £15m so far this financial year, a figure only likely to grow as the year progresses.

Included in the finance report was a ‘transport service’ underspend of £756,000, more than the originally intended cut. The very next item, from the same County department, reported another £650,000 saving (from a Waste Management Budget) , this one ‘ongoing’ so it would be expected every year going forward. Continue reading

St Claire’s update

Note from district council

A meeting was held with St Peter’s Ward Councillors , David Bogle and myself. It was agreed to send out the following agreed headlines to the Residents’ Association, St Claire’s Action Group and those residents who have contacted us with questions or comments.

  1. A meeting will be held next week between the Council and Hightown to discuss whether a lower density proposal with Council support through a grant is possible.
  2. If agreement is not reached between Council and Hightown on a lower density proposal, and if the Council decides not to support the original proposal then Hightown would look at alternative options for the building.
  3. In terms of further engagement with residents, Ward Councillors will continue to liaise with all residents in order to represent all views and be a point of contact for queries. The Council will assist with questions and keep the Residents Association and Action Group updated. Depending on how the above progresses this could include a further event an example of which might be an exhibition at which questionnaires could be made available.

Concern expressed about deterioration of Thameslink service 

St Albans City and District Council’s Local Services Scrutiny Committee registered concern about the deteriorating standard of the Thameslink service at a meeting on Thursday 4 December.

Committee members voiced concern about the service after questioning senior management from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Network Rail. They also raised more than 20 questions about Thameslink’s performance sent by members of the public to the Committee in advance of the meeting. These included questions about the late running of trains, cancellations, overcrowding and use of four carriage trains at peak hours. Continue reading

Tories refuse to discuss bus cuts with local people

Liberal Democrat Councillor Anthony Rowlands, Chair of the all party Local Services Scrutiny Committee, has strongly criticised the Conservative administration at County Hall for refusing to appear before the Committee to answer local residents’ concerns over planned cuts in bus subsidies and highways repairs.

Anthony said: ‘These are reasonable requests. There is no other public forum in which local concerns can be discussed in detail – not least because the County Council recently abolished the local highways joint committee with the District Council which could have dealt with such matters.

‘Both Council officers and myself, as Scrutiny Committee Chair, have written to Councillor Terry Douris, the Cabinet member at County in charge of highways and buses.  Councillor Douris has refused to speak to us and he won’t even instruct a senior officer to attend the Committee. He excuses himself by saying he is about to have a private meeting with his Cabinet counterpart at the District – another Conservative!

‘Local residents could be forgiven for assuming that the County Council was not interested in their views.  County claims it wants to work in partnership with the District Council. Responses such as this make that sound like total humbug.’

Tories and Labour unite to oppose Lib Dem proposals to reverse car parking increases

At last night’s District Council budget meeting Labour councillors refused to support Liberal Democrat proposals to reverse the disastrous parking charges introduced by the Conservative administration – while some Tory members claimed that no shops had closed in St Albans since the introduction of Sunday parking.

“We were baffled to hear the Labour group decided not to support our motion to change the car parking regime, especially as they had already voted to change it at the July council meeting. It is clear that if you vote Labour in St Albans you are propping up the Tory Administration,” commented local Liberal Democrat councillor Gerard McHale.

“Over the course of the debate one Labour councillor commented that they believed that Sunday charges are fair in St Albans and encouraged St Albans shoppers to go to London Colney instead, showing that Labour cannot be trusted to look after our city centre.

“In addition to the car parking changes the Tory and Labour members failed to support changes to support flood victims, to reduce the backlog of resident parking and to provide bike racks in flats around the district” added Liberal Democrat group leader Chris White.

HCC flood performance not good enough

Liberal Democrats were celebrating that the ruling Tory group on Herts County Council has finally admitted the performance on flooding is not good enough. A motion criticising the continued failures and calling for action was modified by the Tories on Tues to make it clear they would not spend any more money, but did call for performance to be improved.

Cllr Malcolm Cowan. who proposed the motion, said: ‘Clearly the action needed has been watered down, but it is a start, and we will back again if it doesn’t improve. Herts residents are fed up with roads being under water every time it rains, and seeing no action week after week, month after month, and year after year.

‘In one case I did get fixed, some while back, residents told me they had had the problem for 35 years.’


The true cost of the bus consultation

Yesterday at County Hall in Hertfordshire Conservatives failed to listen to two motions asking them to call a halt to their planned£1.7m of cuts to bus services in the County.

After consulting with the public earlier this year and 13,000 people asking them to stop their planned cuts, they decided to ignore the resounding “No” they had received from the public, and start another round of consultation on more proposed cuts.

Stephen Giles-Medhurst, (LibDem), Leader of the opposition on HCC, commented, “The Conservatives at County Hall have admitted that the consultation they have chosen to ignore cost local taxpayers over £16,000 for printed materials.  What they haven’t disclosed is how much the Council Tax payers of Hertfordshire have paid for the salaries of the five staff who worked on this full-time for 4 months. Instead they could have been working with local bus operators, user groups, the NHS and local Councils to find ways of improving bus services and usage, as well as reducing costs.”