Allotment fees – victory so far over proposals for massive rises

In a victory for the Liberal Democrats and allotment holders the ruling Conservatives have been forced to shelve their plans to increase allotment fees by 400%.

‘Liberal Democrat councillors and allotment holders were astounded by the attempt by the Conservative council to balance the books on the back of City Centre allotment holders,” noted Clarence councillor Gerard McHale.

‘We have been forthright with our views that this approach isn’t on, and were prepared to vote against these proposal at the forthcoming CNC meeting,’ Gerard added.

‘We are glad to see that the Conservatives’ listening mode also applies locally and we encourage all those concerned to attend the CNC meeting on 28 June to have their voices heard,’ noted Verulam councillor Edgar Hill.

‘We will be seeking a detailed review of the cost base at the next meeting, and will ensure that all proposals coming to the September CNC meeting reflect this,’ added Cunningham councillor Robert Donald.

‘The Liberal Democrats will oppose any unjustifiable increase in fees and ensure that our allotments are protected and not just seen as another revenue generating opportunity by the Tories who are currently running the District Council, he concluded.

Lib Dems oppose Police taking over Fire Service

The Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner has this week released his plan for taking over the Fire Service, justifying the idea with massive ‘efficiency savings’ including ‘one-off capital receipts’ of up to £15m.

Paul Zukowskyj, lead Lib Dem member on the Community Safety panel at County Hall condemned the move saying, “David Lloyd has virtually completed his asset-stripping of the police, including overseeing the loss of more than three hundred police posts across the county since 2012 and closing numerous police station front desks, now he wants to do the same asset stripping to our fire service.

“We need the services, as we’ve seen recently with the terror attacks and now the fire in Grenfell Tower. Asset stripping them will mean they might not be there when we need them the most. This hostile take-over has to be stopped and the Lib Dems at County Hall will resist it every step of the way.” 

Paul continued, “Will closure of Fire Stations follow the closure of our Police Stations?  The Yearly revenue savings of up to £4m, which are most likely to comprise staff losses, are likely to mean less fire fighters at a time when the need for both services has never been clearer. The one-off capital receipts are likely sales to developers of fire or police stations, which the PCC says are no longer required.” 

From offering a free home to voluntary organisations, offering and fitting free smoke alarms, keeping a look-out for vulnerable people in our communities and promoting the ‘Life’ programme for young people, Fire Fighters have worked hard over recent years to become trusted friends in the community, work that would be destroyed if they are seen under the PCC as part of the Police Service.” 

“We need the services of a dedicated Fire Service, as we have seen recently with the terror attacks and now the fire in Grenfell Tower. Asset stripping them will mean they might not be there when we need them the most.  And what will happen to the inter-Service coordinated cooperation by which different Fire Services develop different specialisms to ensure we can deal with anything.”

“There may be some synergy at the top levels of governance as recognised by HCC in the creation of the County Community Safety Unit (CCSU), but that was within the overall democratic accountability of the Cabinet System, with the Portfolio Holder having to be called to account at Council Meetings.  How different with the present PCC, who is monitored by the toothless PCP which never reports to HCC.  We will lose that democratic accountability if we allow this to happen.”

“This hostile take-over has to be stopped and the Lib Dems at County Hall will resist it every step of the way.”

Article 50 – Daisy’s reaction

Responding to the triggering of Article 50, Daisy Cooper, St Albans Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate said:

“Local people and businesses are telling me that BREXIT will have a huge impact and will damage the character and fabric of our city.

“Many independent shops and businesses are run by EU nationals who have made St Albans their home but the Conservative BREXIT government has refused to guarantee their right to stay; at the same time major employers are concerned about the rising cost of goods due to inflation and the future supply of workers.

“The Prime Minister wrongly said today that there’s no going back but democracy didn’t die on 23rd June and it didn’t die today. The fact is that the final deal must be signed off by someone and given the choice between the Prime Minister, MPs, or the people, only the Liberal Democrats are fighting to make sure the people can have their say over what comes next.”

Thameslink complaints increase by 347% in a year

Statistics, released today, by the Office for Road and Rail show that Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) complaints increasing by 347.1% compared to a year ago. The Lib Dems have blasted operators and said ‘this would damn a developing country’.

GTR accounted for 19% of all complaints made nationally in Q3.  Other London and South East TOCs with big increases include South West Trains with a 71.5% increase compared to Q3 last year, Southeastern by 33.3% and Greater Anglia by 18.3%.

The majority of complaints are about punctuality/reliability of services.  Punctuality/reliability complaints vary by train operator, with London Midland receiving the highest proportion of these complaints, making up 52.3% of all complaints about punctuality.

Complaints about fares are also increasing.  ‘Ticket buying facilities – other’ which consists of complaints about the ticket buying process (mostly online ticket sales) is the second most complained about area with 8.1% of complaints, a 4.7 percentage point increase on last year

Trains within the London and South East sector recorded the lowest Q3 level of punctuality since 2003.

Commenting on the news Liberal Democrat Transport spokesperson Jenny Randerson:

“The service delivered by some operators is something that would damn a developing country.

“In any other job, in any other industry, the bosses who have presided over months and months of misery would be held to account yet these bosses aren’t.

“Anyone who uses services like Thameslink is familiar with the constant overcrowding and delays which plague the service.

“The government should take responsibility and should have stepped in many months ago to stop this chaos.”

Sandpit Lane closure

Message from the County Council:

I am writing to notify you of the forthcoming Highways Maintenance works due to take place on Sandpit Lane, St Albans.

The works are due to commence on Monday 6th March and are programmed to take approximately 10 Nights to complete.  Given the likelihood of danger to the public whilst the works are being undertaken, it will be necessary to close Sandpit Lane between the junctions of B651 Sandridge Road and  Lemsford Road.

The Road closure will be set up between the hours of 7pm – 5am, the highway will be clear  at all other  times.  The final phase of the scheme will be completed using off peak Lane Closures / Stop Go Boards.

Council calls upon Government to reverse its policy on child refugees

Liberal Democrat Councillors successfully moved a motion at St Albans Full Council on Wednesday night calling on the Government to reverse its abandonment of the commitment to allow 3,000  unaccompanied refugee children into the UK.

Moving the motion, Councillor Anthony Rowlands said:

‘Our community and this Council have done excellent work in supporting Syrian refugees over the past two years. Groups, such as Herts for Refugees, have turned words into action and provided practical support both locally and in France.

‘Last May the government agreed to an amendment by Lord Dubs to the Immigration Bill to enable unaccompanied children to come to the UK.  It was understood that homes would be found for 3,000 children. Earlier this month the Home Office disgracefully back-tracked on this commitment  reducing that number to a shameful 350. Continue reading

Conservatives vote down Lib Dem proposals to increase highways spending by £7 million

At the budget setting meeting today at County Hall, councillors heard about the Administration‘s  plans to reset spending on roads, pavements, gulleys and culverts back to 2012/13 levels.

This means over £4m million more than spent last year, after a series of cuts in spending over the last four years. They also heard about £3.5m extra Government grant for potholes and fixing pavements.

Liberal Democrat Leader and Highways Spokesperson, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst, said: “Our surveys of residents say that the state of our roads and footways is the number one issue  in the county and Hertfordshire Lib Dems don’t think enough is being d on e to add re ss this. Funding for repairing our roads and pavements needs radical resetting, as any resident can tell by driving their local streets and seeing for themselves the damage and unrepaired faults.” Continue reading

Conservatives slash £9 million from highways budgets over 4 years

Local councillors have seized on figures from Herts County Council, showing spending on road and pavement maintenance and improvements have reduced every year over the past four years.

Spending on highways has plummeted from £39.2 million in 2013-14 to £30.1 million this year. This is despite inflation meaning that less can be done for the same amount of money, and the ever-deteriorating state of local roads and pavements.

Cllr Malcolm Cowan, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at County Hall said, “The Conservatives are continually telling residents that spending on roads is going up. These figures, provided by independent and council officers, show that in fact this vital spending has fallen every year for four years.

“The council are forecasting an increase next year. However they did exactly the same this time last year and instead we have seen another fall.

“No wonder local residents are complaining more and more about potholed roads and trip hazards on pavements”.

Turning up the heat on pharmacy cuts

At the Adult Care and Health Cabinet Panel on 3rd February, following debate on the Liberal Democrat Motion referred from the Council Meeting of 15th November 2016, an amended motion was agreed by the Cabinet Panel.

Councillor Ron Tindall (Liberal Democrat Opposition Spokesperson) said:

At a time when we are asking Pharmacists to do more to take pressure off GPs and A&E departments, the government has introduced cuts to pharmacy funding that fly in the face of economic reality [see financial detail below], and which could lead to local community closures.

He continued:

Community pharmacists play a far bigger role that many people realise ands we need to stop the closure of local pharmacists at the heart of the community.  Government funding policies are resulting in a breakdown and fragmentation of our NHS and Social Care Services.

Amended motion

“Hertfordshire County Council believes that the local pharmacies have an important role in supporting the health and wellbeing of the population and that they are being underused as part of the response to the health and social needs of local communities.

The Adult Care and Health Cabinet Panel:

  1. asks the Chairman to write through the Health and Wellbeing Board to NHS England commissioners to highlight the importance of access to pharmacies and pharmacy services throughout the County, especially in rural areas and the vital role local pharmacies have in supporting vulnerable people, and to urge the discontinuation of any reductions.
  2. notes the representations already made by the Chairman of the Public Health Localism and Libraries Cabinet Panel
  3. asks the Director of Public Health during the commissioning and production of the next pharmaceutical needs assessment to consider the impact of these changes if the regulations on the National Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee allow this.”