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Highways contractor with £1m+ fines set to get further five year contract

Liberal Democrat opposition councillors at Herts County Council have hit out over a decision to recommend that its main highways contractor, Ringway, is set to be awarded an extended contract for another five years.

Ringway has been fined just under £1.2m for poor workmanship in the last 5 years, leaving opposition councillors scratching their heads over the decision to extend Ringway’s services.

Deductions totalling £1,187,348 have been made against Ringway’s contract for poor performance against set standards, with more fines pending this year.

The contract, in place since 2012, is worth over £182m and covers the provision of highways works across Hertfordshire. Only last week Shropshire Council announced that Ringway were to be replaced by Kier to manage its highways. Ringway had won the contract in 2011 but had a number of problems.

Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst exposed last week that the Conservative council were to recommend that Ringway get an extended contract at the November meeting of the County Council’s Cabinet Panel for Highways. Stephen comments: “I am shocked that the Conservative council want to award Ringway another five year contract, just saying it’s ok because they are improving! There has, on the face of it, been no market testing, something I thought the Conservatives were in favour of. Are there no other highways contractors that are more efficient and cause fewer problems for Hertfordshire’s residents?”

“It is almost daily that my colleagues and I report issues that do not result in fines but are just sloppy jobs or things that are being ignored. One has to think there must be a better choice.”

 

Conservative county council set to agree current highways contractors can carry on for another five years

Opposition councillors at County Hall have been shocked and angered to hear that Herts County Council are intending to extend the contracts of much-criticised highways contractors Ringway for a further five years.

Councillors were informed in a short email sent on Monday afternoon, with the news that the full decision would be made in November.

“This was a bolt out of the blue,” said Leader of the Opposition, Liberal Democrat Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst. “Over the past six years there has been considerable criticism and many justified complaints from residents and councillors about the poor state of our roads and pavements. Despite the poor performance of the highways contractor it seems that Conservative councillors and county council officers are prepared simply to grant Ringway a further five year contract. Continue reading

Care crisis cover-up: vulnerable residents to be asked to pay more to meet the funding shortfall in social care

The Conservative-run County Council is set to ask some of the most vulnerable residents in Hertfordshire to contribute more to social care charges to cover up the Government’s failure to fund social care properly.

The move comes at a time when demand for social care is growing, but continued cuts to social care budgets imposed at national level mean Hertfordshire County Council is looking to save £4m in its adult care budget.

Conservative councillors seem determined that it is our most vulnerable residents who should make up the difference. At the most recent Adult Care Services Cabinet Panel they voted to consult users on proposed increases to care charges that could leave some paying more than £130 a week extra for the care they receive. The move was opposed by Liberal Democrat Councillors.

Councillor Ron Tindall, Liberal Democrat Opposition Spokesperson for Adult Care Services and Health and Wellbeing, said: “These cuts are a direct result of the government’s continued failure to properly fund social care. We have some sympathy with the Council’s need to make savings, but these proposals will simply push more vulnerable people into poverty, and will likely mean that some will turn down services that they feel they can no longer afford.” Continue reading

Fencing Work – Temporary Closure of Alban Way from 2 October for 10 days

From the District Council:

St Albans City & District Council’s Housing Department will be replacing the wooden boundary fence between Woodvale Park and Alban Way.

The Alban Way will be closed to both pedestrians and cyclists during this work.

The works are due to start on Monday 2 October 2017 and will take around 10 days to complete.

Advanced warning signs were erected at each end of the proposed closure on 22 September to forewarn users of the impending closure.

A signed diversion route will be in operation when the Alban Way is closed, which will divert users via Morrisons car park, Hatfield Road and Sutton Road, and vice-a-versa. A plan of this diversion route is attached for information.

Cable: 10,000 EU nationals have quit NHS since Brexit vote

Vince Cable has called on Theresa May to use her speech in Florence tomorrow to make a bold offer on EU nationals’ rights, as new figures reveal that almost 10,000 EU workers quit the NHS in the year after the Brexit vote.

9,832 EU nationals left the NHS between 30 June 2016 and 30 June 2017, figures published by NHS Digital today have revealed. This is an increase of 22% on the previous year, and up 42% on two years earlier.

In total 3,885 nurses, 1,794 doctors and 1,518 support staff from the EU left the NHS between June 2016 and June 2017.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for negotiations on the rights of EU nationals in the UK and British citizens living in Europe to be ring-fenced so that neither are used as bargaining chips in the broader Brexit negotiations.

Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

We are losing thousands of high-quality nurses and doctors from the NHS, driven partly by this government’s heartless approach to the Brexit talks.

Using EU nationals as bargaining chips is not only morally wrong, it is utterly counter-productive and damaging to our NHS.

It’s time for the government to take the issue of EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in Europe out of these negotiations.

Theresa May must make a bold offer to the EU to ring-fence negotiations on citizens’ rights and come to a rapid agreement.

Car parking visitor permit charges review

The impact of an increase to the cost of visitor car parking permits in the St Albans District is to be reviewed.

The price of a single-use permit for streets that form part of a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) rose from a minimum 37p to £1.30 earlier this year.

This rise was due to the withdrawal by St Albans City and District Council of four-hour visitor parking permits. They had cost £3.70 for a book of ten – the equivalent of 37p each.

Vouchers are now only available at a cost £13 for a book, £1.30 each, although they can cover a whole day.

A report on parking permits was considered by the Council’s Community, Environment and Sport Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on Thursday 7 September.

After a debate, members decided to ask the Car Parking Working Party to review the impact of the changes at its meeting next month.

They have also been asked to investigate how the scheme could be amended to assist those residents who are less able to pay.

Councillor Anthony Rowlands, the Committee’s Chair, said: “This was a significant rise for many of our residents and I have been told some are struggling with it. Continue reading

Did Herts Police Tsar deliberately mislead County Council?

David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, was recently challenged at a Council meeting by Paul Zukowskyj, Lib Dem shadow cabinet member for resources, about the loss of constabulary staff, including significant numbers of police officers and PCSO’s, since Mr Lloyd was first elected in 2012.

Government data clearly show a fall in constabulary staff from 3729 FTE in 2012 to 3398 FTE in 2017.

The minutes of the meeting state “Mr Lloyd stated that he did not recognise the challenge and provided assurance that his office was committed to retaining the same number of PCSO’s within the county”. In the meeting Mr Lloyd stated that the staff numbers appeared to have fallen much more than they actually had due to the establishment of cross-county collaborative units and redeployment of staff to them.

However, in response to an FOI to Hertfordshire Constabulary, the Constabulary state they have followed the guidance by the Home Office in preparing the figures: “For the purposes of counting accurately, officers and staff that are part of these units should be counted only by the force whose payroll they are on.”

So are the staff on the payroll of another force? Continue reading