Following his election to become St Albans and District Council’s new Leader, Chris White has announced the Liberal Democrats’ plans for the local area.
The Liberal Democrats will overhaul aspects of council services to deliver a better experience for residents, visitors and local businesses, and work to improve the environment for all and restore pride in the district. Councillor White this week set out the new administration’s top priorities:
“I am delighted that the district’s residents have put their trust in the Liberal Democrats,” Chris said.
“We now have the opportunity to take urgent action on the issues that matter, starting with a declaration of a climate emergency and the development of a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions. The Liberal Democratswill work to reduce climate-changing emissions emitted by the council itself. We will also work with businesses to reduce their own carbon footprints, while empowering residents to do the same.
“We want to do politics differently, working with the community and sourcing new and better ideas from residents and businesses wherever we can. That’s why we will establish an environmental forum to ensure this council continuously improves its own environmental performance.
“This council needs to be planting trees and safeguarding biodiversity wherever possible, as well as adapting the district to extreme weather impacts, such as increased frequency of flooding and drought. We will launch a campaign to drastically reduce, and hopefully eliminate, single-use plastic in our many cafes and restaurants, and explore stricter environmental standards on developments and council properties.”
In addition to working to make it easier for residents and visitors to walk, cycle and to use public transport, the group will lead development of a sustainable and sensible approach to resolving local parking and congestion problems.
Another priority area is housing.
“We believe that every resident should be able to live in a home suitable to their needs and which is well maintained,” said Chris. “The Liberal Democrats want to make necessary improvements to many of the functions of the council’s housing department, including turning the council into a significant social housing developer in its own right.
“We will revisit this council’s strategy towards the growing homelessness and rough sleeper crisis. We want to provide people who present to the council as homeless and in priority need with high-quality temporary accommodation, not an expensive and inappropriate hotel room where they can’t even cook themselves a meal.”
Also on the new administration’s list of priorities are improvements to the efficiency and reliability of the local planning process to help enable delivery of the vital housing and commercial developments that the District needs, together with the necessary infrastructure, and updating planning enforcement policies and processes to ensure these are fit for purpose. The new administration aims to agree the Local Plan as soon as possible, so that we can quickly move to refresh the assumptions on which it is based, especially in relation to the city centre.
The group pledges to do all it can to support local businesses against the growing impacts of Brexit, and work to ensure the district’s resilience in the current climate of uncertainty.
“By working closely with the Business Improvement District (BID) in St Albans to forge a neighbourhood plan for the central areas, and learning from the previous administration’s experiences of undertaking large events such as the Christmas market, we aim to return commercial vibrancy to the high street. We will fight to protect the district’s pubs and retail from developers and crippling business rates, and will review the district’s tourism strategy and funding. We aim to have the new museum breaking even by the end of 2020/2021, and will devise a plan for enhanced or replacement community facilities, such as in Sopwell.”
Notes to editors
The Liberal Democrats won 12 of the 20 available seats in the local elections on 2 May and the group now has 25 District Councillors, more than any other party.
Chris White was elected to become Leader with support from all of the Liberal Democrat group, the support of the one Green Councillor, Simon Grover, and Independent Councillor Tony Swendell (Redbourn Ward). Labour abstained and the Conservatives voted for their own candidate.
Chris White announced the new Council Cabinet on 22 May, naming the following councillors as Portfolio Holders:
· Cllr Chris White – Leader, Climate and Environment
· Cllr Anthony Rowlands – Deputy Leader, Community, Leisure and Sport
· Cllr Robert Donald – Property, Commercial and Development
· Cllr Jamie Day – Planning
· Cllr Mandy McNeil – Business, Culture and Tourism
· Cllr Jacqui Taylor – Housing, Inclusion and Protection
· Cllr Karen Young – Resources
Chris White has been Liberal Democrat councillor for Clarence Ward since 2008 and is currently Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group.
Chris White qualified as a chartered accountant in 1984.
He was elected a county councillor in Hertfordshire in 1993 and group leader in 1994. He sat on Hertfordshire Police Authority from 1995 to 2002.
From 1995 to 1999 he jointly led Hertfordshire County Council, in coalition with Labour.
Chris became chair of the Regeneration Board of the Local Government Association in 2004 and chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board in 2006, stepping down in 2012. He was a member of the Board of the Audit Commission from 2005 to 2011. He also represents the Liberal Democrat Group at the LGA on Refugees and on Brexit.