Road closure – announcement from the county council

Temporary Closing and Temporary Waiting Restrictions in Bardwell Road and Blenkin Close, St Albans

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 the following lengths of roads and to prohibit all vehicles from waiting at any time on both sides of these lengths of roads whilst works are in progress:-

  1. that length of Bardwell Road, St Albans from its junction with Sopwell Lane south eastwards to its junction with Thorpe Road, a distance of approximately 91 metres.
  1. that length of Blenkin Close, St Albans from its junction with Lawrance Road north westwards for its entire length.

The purpose of the Order is to enable highway maintenance works to take place.

The sections of roads will each be closed and the temporary waiting restrictions will be in place for up to 7 days during the period 4 January 2016 and 12 January 2016, when signs are in place.

If you have any queries about the highway maintenance works, the temporary road closures or the temporary waiting restrictions, please contact Neil Anderton tel. 0300 123 4047 at Ringway.


Look before you book

A social media campaign to encourage people to check Food Hygiene Ratings is being backed by St Albans City and District Council.

The 5th anniversary of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is being celebrated with a week of educational events.

Online videos, infographics, league tables, Twitter posts and Facebook conversations will be used to raise awareness of the system and the health issues involved.

The awareness campaign will take part in the week that runs from Tuesday 24 November to Monday 30 November.

The Council is a member of the FHRS and its food safety officers inspect restaurants, takeaways, pubs, schools, hospitals, cafes and other food outlets in the District.

They award a hygiene rating that ranges from a zero, signifying “urgent improvement required”, to the top mark of five, an indication of “very good” standards.

Consumers are urged to “look and book” by checking the rating on a website before dining out or making a purchase.

More than 600 premises in the District have been rated with the vast majority being awarded three stars – “generally satisfactory” – or above. Four stars signify “good”.

However, a number of restaurants, pubs and takeaways have been rated at two, “improvement necessary”, one, “major improvement necessary”, or even none.

Inspectors check on how the food is handled, the condition of the building and the general management of the business.

People can check the ratings for outlets in the District and elsewhere on

FHRS was launched by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with local authorities with the aim of driving up hygiene standards.

The scheme is designed to encourage all businesses, no matter how small, to aspire to the top rating.

It is hoped an improvement in standards will reduce the incidence of foodborne illness that has been estimated at 500,000 cases a year in England.

Hertfordshire Tories downplay school’s funding crisis

At yesterday’s meeting of the County Council, the Conservative administration massively downplayed the urgency of the funding crisis facing the County’s schools. The crisis, which has already seen teachers losing their jobs, class sizes increased and subjects cut, is set to get very much worse in coming years.

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson, Cllr Mark Watkin, presented letters from the heads of nine successful secondary schools describing how they were being forced to reduce teacher numbers, cut teaching assistants, increase class sizes and cut subjects. Each school is facing cuts of £2-300k in their budgets and have little option but to lose staff.

In a motion presented yesterday (Tuesday 10th Nov), Mark simply asked that Councillor Robert Gordon, the Conservative Leader, write to the Education Minister in support of the Chair of the Schools Forum. Alan Gray, Head Teacher of Sandringham School and Chair of the Forum, which represents all schools in Hertfordshire, had written to the Minister responsible for schools funding expressing his concern about the impact real-terms cuts would have on the quality of education that Hertfordshire Schools could provide.

The Conservatives passed their own motion instead, which despite evidence from officers reports and letters from Head Teachers, utterly failed to acknowledge the shortfall of £28.3m in schools budgets next financial year, and the growth of that shortfall to a £70m deficit in 2019-20.

Mark commented. “My motion was not radical. I simply asked the Council to recognise the depth of the crisis that Secondary Heads face and write a supporting letter to the Minister. By downplaying this they have sent out a very negative message to parents and Hertfordshire Schools.”

St Albans City revamp news

The long-awaited revamp of St Albans City Rail Station hinges on a crucial funding decision that will be made next month .

Station operator Govia Thameslink Railways (GTR) has applied for £5 million from a special Department for Transport (DfT) fund.

The money would provide more than two-thirds of the finance required to carry out the planned improvements. The DfT is due to announce its decision on the application in mid-December.

GTR Executives gave an update on the project to a meeting of the Local Services Scrutiny Committee of St Albans City and District Council on Thursday 5 November.

Govia has also applied for £1 million from the Government’s Growth Deal Fund which is administered by the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and is  intended to boost local economies.

That decision is due by the end of January 2016.

Andrew Sidgwick, GTR’s Local Development Manager, gave councillors an outline on the planned changes to the station.

He said: “We want to make sure that we create a sense of community pride in the station building. We want a sensitive design.”

The Ridgmont Road entrance, which he said currently resembled “a greenhouse,” will be pulled down and replaced with a larger building.

There will be more ticket gates to reduce the rush-hour exit queues and more ticket machines.

A  new cycle hub with a repair shop and shower facilities  will be built beside it and there will also be a sit-down café. Toilet facilities will be constructed on the adjoining platform 4.

Parking bays will be removed to lay down a wider, safe footpath to the entrance and create  “a gateway to St Albans City Centre”.

Other alterations include expanding the main entrance’s concourse with more ticket machines and  converting a staff area into a shop.

Canopies will be extended to shelter the full length of the platforms and a new waiting room created on the central platform

GTR has so far secured £350,000 made up of £200,000 from the Network Rail’s National Stations Improvement Programme and £150,000 from the company’s own  Improving Station Facilities budget.

If all the finance is obtained , then – after station users have been consulted – it is planned to begin work in December 2016 and complete in May 2018. The landlord, Network Rail, will have to agree to the changes

The station currently copes with more than seven million passenger entries and exits a year – the highest in Hertfordshire.

GTR was awarded the Thameslink franchise last year by the Department of Transport for seven years. It promised to seccure funds to significantly improve stations on the route.

Councillor Anthony Rowlands, Chair of the Local Services Scrutiny Committee of St Albans City and District Council, said: “As a regular user of St Albans City Rail Station, I am well aware that conditions have been unsatisfactory for many years. This work can’t come soon enough.

“The improvements, particularly the enlargement of the Ridgmont Road entrance, are long overdue.

“Govia got the franchise partly on the promise of improvements to stations and we will be watching to make sure they see this through. St Albans needs a first class rail station.”

GTR Stakehholder Manager Katherine Cox also briefed Councillors on services on the Thameslink route over the festive season.

She said a Saturday service would run from Tuesday 29 December  to Thursday 31  December on trains from Bedford into London. There are no trains on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

However, people travelling south of London to Gatwick and beyond faced extra journey times of around an hour due to Network Rail works.

GTR Local Development Manager Larry Heyman said the issue of driver shortages had improved and should be resolved by next summer.

He said any cancellations caused by the problem over the Christmas period “will be few and far between with a relatively minimal impact on daily journeys.”

Chris helps fund plans to redevelop Fleetville Community Centre

County Councillor Chris White has awarded £2,000 to Fleetville Community Centre, from his locality budget, to begin the process to replace the existing community centre with a new building.

The money will help to fund early stage consultation, legal advice, accreditation, a structural survey and the creation of a website. The current building was built in 1942, is in constant need of repair and is a drain on the Community Centre’s finances. It is intended that the new building will better serve the needs of the community, accommodating a variety of group sizes and activities, and minimise energy costs.

Chris said: “This is an important community facility and it is vital that it is renewed as it reaches the end of its useful life.”

Anne Main’s ‘weasel words’ attacked

Local Liberal Democrats have condemned Anne Main’s explanation of why she voted with the Government against an opposition motion to seek to scrap VAT on women’s sanitary products.

Chris White, Liberal Democrat leader on St Albans District Council, said: ‘Right-thinking people all know that it is wrong to tax these items as if they were luxuries.

‘But to claim that you voted against something which you really agree with because you were given assurances by a minister in this government is either naive or cynical.

‘And Anne Main is not naive. Her explanation is just weasel words.’

Chris added: ‘The role of an MP is to represent her constituents. She has failed yet again to do so. The other day it was tax credits. Yesterday it was tampons. Tomorrow no doubt she will administer yet another kicking to the less well off in St Albans.’

2,600 families in St Albans will lose out under Conservative plans to cut tax credits

2,600 families in St Albans will lose out under Conservative plans to cut tax credits.

Figures produced by the House of Commons Library show over three million low-income working families currently in receipt of tax credits will see their entitlement reduced, as part of the Government’s proposals.

The change will mean a total loss of £2.9 million to families in St Albans, with the average family losing £750 a year.

Despite claims from the Conservatives that those affected will benefit from plans to increase the minimum wage, the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has said Tory figures don’t stack up.

IFS analysis shows a £750 average loss will only be offset by £200 as a result of the new minimum wage.

Liberal Democrats have opposed the move and said it undermines the work of the Coalition Government, to make sure it always pays more to be in work than on benefits.

Cllr Chris White said:

“The changes to tax credits will hammer families in St Albans.  The move completely undermines any claim the Tories have of being on the side of working families.

“Ex Conservative Councillor for St Albans Heidi Allen MP went as far as saying in Parliament that these cuts are a ‘single minded’ attempt to reach a budget surplus.

“What makes this even worse is that 4,600 in our area will now be forced to live in poorer households, reducing their life chances and making it harder for their parents to make ends meet.

“Study after study have shown that the Conservative’s claim to be supporting low income families through a minimum wage increase nowhere near make up for these cuts. It’s time for them to come clean and be honest with those doing the right thing and going out to work.

“I am pleased that Lib Dems are opposing this measure. We worked hard in Coalition to ensure that work would always pay more than choosing to remain on benefits. It is a disgrace the Conservatives are now undermining this good work.”

“Heartless” Conservatives Ignore Herts School Funding Crisis

Conservative Councillors on the County’s education committee (Education, Enterprise and Skills Cabinet Panel) have refused to support the action of the Chairman of the County’s headteachers’ committee (Schools Forum).

The Schools Forum Chair has written to the Education Minister at the Department for Education expressing deep concern about the funding crisis facing Hertfordshire Secondary Schools.

Senior County Education officers explained to the EES Cabinet Panel that in 2016/17 they predict an unfunded cut of £23m on top of ‘savings’ of £5m (£28m total). As a result of this massive cut to education they expect almost all the secondary schools in the county to run out of money and reserves. They also predicted that the situation would get worse as future funding is expected to be cut by almost £60m by 2020.

The Liberal Democrats proposed a motion asking that the Committee support the action of the Chairman of the Schools Forum by asking the Council Leader to simply write his own letter to the Department of Education in support, but all the Conservative Councillors voted against this simple request. Continue reading