County’s emails fail anxious parents

Angry parents are demanding to know why the vital Internet services telling them whether their children had gained their chosen secondary school failed for most of Monday. It was only in the late afternoon following the intervention of Lib Dem County Councillor Chris White that the problem was spotted and the service established.

Opposition Spokesperson Mark Watkin commented “This is unacceptable. The County Council should have had back-up services ready to meet this sort of emergency. Being allocated the school of your choice is second only to learning the results of the state’s exams in the significance it can make to a child’s life. I expect the Admissions Team to publish an apology on the County’s website and in future to take the necessary steps to ensure that this never happens again.”

But one part of Herts CC admits the bus cuts are a problem….

County council chiefs have been caught out on the real impact of the proposed bus cuts in one of their own policy papers.
 
A paper submitted by council officers to the Adult Care Panel stated, “HCC’s recent consultation on reducing bus services will have an impact on older people who are dependent on public transport accessing services, particularly in areas where older people live alone or where transport links are poor and therefore people will be at risk of being isolated from their communities’
 
County councillor,  Kareen Hastrick said, “Liberal Democrat councillors have been saying for the past nine months that the proposed cuts to our bus services would have a devastating impact on older people, but the Conservatives running the county council denied this.

Continue reading

Liberal Democrats call for local accountability over play areas

Liberal Democrats have called for local people and their councillors to have a much greater say across the district on how play areas are managed.
Liberal Democrat group leader Chris White said after Wednesday’s evening’s full council meeting: ‘It is clear that there is an appetite in the community to have a detailed say on how play and leisure areas are managed rather than having decisions made for them in the civic centre.
‘I am delighted that the City Neighbourhoods Committee will now be having a look at how small and effective local forums can be established for those parts of the city which currently don’t already have arrangements in place.
‘In due course, we will be seeking to spread the idea across the whole district.’

Hertfordshire Conservatives’ Council Tax Hike

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have been shocked by local Tories’ plans to hike council tax by 1.99% this year, the maximum they can without taking it to a county-wide referendum.

In a highly controversial budget Hertfordshire Conservatives have proposed swingeing cuts to buses and library services. Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group, Stephen Giles-Medhurst commented: “I am appalled. The County Council clearly has to be careful and look after taxpayers’ money properly, but right now putting up Council Tax by almost 2 percent and also hitting services to the elderly and vulnerable leave a bad taste in the mouth.  We all know times are tough, but the Liberal Democrat Group have looked long and hard at the options available to us and will be proposing an alternative budget that ring-fences essential services and freezes Council Tax”

Paul Zukowskyj, Liberal Democrat FInance and Regeneration spokesperson said “I am appalled that the Conservative administration is seeking to impose this on the people of Hertfordshire. There is Central Government funding available to help those Councils who seek to keep Council tax low to help local people. This year HCC Conservatives have decided they would rather raise the Council Tax by as much as they can while slashing services.”

Lib Dem amendments: BUDGET2015_FinalAmendment

 

Athletics charity volunteers able to train

Volunteers dedicated to supporting disabled athletes in St Albans can take part in essential training, thanks to a local county councillor.

Cllr Chris White (St Albans Central) has allocated £395 from his locality budget to Special Olympics St Albans.

Special Olympics St Albans is a local charity providing sporting opportunities for people with learning disabilities. The money will help them to pay for training courses for their volunteers, who support the 120 athletes that attend their sessions each week.

Cllr White said: “It is a privilege to be able to support the Special Olympics and the work they do for local people with a learning disability.”

A total of £10,000 is available to each of the 77 members of Hertfordshire County Council to spend on worthwhile community projects in their area.

Street light repair shambles

Street light repairs across Hertfordshire are managed in a way that would make the Mad Hatter look organised.  Liberal Democrat County Councillors have been receiving emails stating that street lights would be repaired within 4 weeks when they knew full well that in a significant number of cases repairs had not been completed after 12 weeks or more.

After an email exchange between Lib Dem County Councillor Chris White (St Albans Central) and Herts County Council, it has become clear that the published 20 working day repair claims only applies to minor roads – and then not always.

For ‘classified roads’ (A, B and C roads), there is no time limit at all and Chris was told not to pursue any more street light failures with the council. Continue reading

GOVIA THAMESLINK BOTTOM OF THE CLASS

Commenting on today’s Which? Report showing Govia Thameslink has the worst passenger satisfaction of all the rail companies in the UK, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Sandy Walkington said: “This must come as no surprise. Yet it relates to survey work conducted in November 2014 so does not even include the horrible performance record of 2015. It also flatters Thameslink since the figures combine customer satisfaction for the Thameslink route through St Pancras with the relatively smoothly functioning Great Northern service out of Kings Cross also operated by GTR.

“We are seeing a railway company in denial – with continuing failures to communicate and a compensation mechanism which still fails to recognise the grinding waste of time created by constant failure to deliver the timetable.”

Cllr Chris White, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on St Albans District Council, said “We have contacted colleagues along the whole route to ensure a joint approach to this problem. We have also contacted Susan Kramer, rail minister, to ask her to use all her powers to force GTR to get a grip on its railway and deliver the promises made when it took on the franchise.”

A summary of the Which? findings is at http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/leisure/reviews-ns/best-and-worst-uk-train-companies/best-train-companies-overall/

 

 

Plans to improve St Albans Market under scrutiny

A long-term strategy to improve St Albans popular markets was reviewed by St Albans City and District Council’s Local Services Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 5 February.

The five year plan aims to increase the markets’ financial viability and contribution to the development of the City centre.

It includes proposals to boost promotion of the markets, recruit traders for products not currently sold, increase the markets’ footprints and pilot new types of market.

The St Albans Market Strategy was developed following an in-depth review of the markets with input from the cross-party Market Task and Finish Group.

The Council also used a questionnaire to seek the views of traders, who sell goods at the Wednesday and Saturday Charter Markets. The traders said that St Albans Charter Markets are good and desirable markets on which to trade. They also expressed a desire to work with the Council to make the markets even better and to try out new initiatives. Concerns raised included a need for more publicity, parking for customers and the condition of the stalls and lighting.

Members of Local Services Scrutiny Committee discussed the outcome of the consultation with traders and the Strategy to improve the markets.

They also heard that some actions have already been taken to develop the markets. These include the introduction of a food quarter at the Wednesday market and the development of the annual Christmas Market. A new management team has also been appointed. Continue reading

Announcement about West Coast main line

From Network Rail

You may or may not be aware that Network Rail has called off the Feb closures as a result of a 350,000 tonne landslide at Harbury, which is blocking the Chiltern line into London Marylebone.

As part of the February closures, the industry was advising passengers to use alternative routes into London. This included the Chiltern route into London Marylebone, from Birmingham via Banbury.

Originally it was estimated that this line would be re-opened before the Watford improvement works began. However it has now been confirmed that the line will be closed for several weeks. As a result, Network Rail has called off the improvement works at Watford and London Midland will instead be running a special train timetable during the closures instead. Details of this will become available early next week.