Liberal Democrats applaud PCC’s withdrawal of hostile takeover of Fire and Rescue Service

In a joint announcement issued today with Herts County Council, Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd agreed to abandon his proposal to take control of the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, leaving the service under the governance of the County Council.
 
Responding to the news, Liberal Democrat Councillor and Opposition Spokesperson for Fire Service, Barbara Gibson said: “This is long overdue, but very good news. How much time and money has been wasted by the PCC trying to railroad through his empire-building plan in spite of unanimous opposition from every county councillor, including those in the PCC’s own party? In addition, most district councils have passed motions opposing the move.
 
“The takeover bid should never have been submitted. Our sustained campaigning on this issue has saved the Fire Service from being asset-stripped and weakened. Lib Dems will continue to fight to put community safety first.”

Herts Tories short-change schools

Lib Dems were disappointed, but not surprised, when Hertfordshire Tories voted to enhance property developer profits by reducing the amount they have to pay to provide school places.

The change in policy, from the upper end of the range allowed in the regulations to the bottom end, was proposed by officers because it was ‘too difficult to argue’ after neighbouring authorities and the Government’s own agency, the ESFA, allowed developers to contribute the lowest possible amount or are building schools to the lower specification.

Paul Zukowskyj, Shadow Cabinet Resources Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats commented: “I want the very best for our children. Officers should ask for the standard that the County set just two years ago, because if they ask for less they most certainly won’t get more.

“It would probably surprise no-one that some of the developers, and the major shareholders behind them, who stand to potentially benefit from this change are also major donors to the Conservative cause.”

Shameful that County Council has neglected its art collections

At a meeting on Tuesday 5 June, Members of the County Council’s Education, Libraries and Localism panel were faced with stark facts. Following years of neglect, the Council has apparently realised that it has two valuable art collections worth over £25M which nobody was looking after! Their solution: dispose of over 90% of the works, and just keep the most relevant to Hertfordshire.

Unsurprisingly those in the know had raised a petition from over 500 concerned Hertfordshire residents requesting that the Conservative-run County Council rethinks its plans and works considerably harder to ensure that the collection remains in public rather than private hands and seeks alternative management and funding options for the collection.

Panel members from all parties spoke mostly in support of the petitioners, whilst recognising that officers had at least begun to address the problem. Sadly a good and constructive debate was cut off by the Conservative chair who pushed through a recommendation to cabinet, backed by all Tory members, to just note the report and do nothing to address the concerns of petitioners – not good enough in the opinion of the Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillors present!

County Councillor Mark Watkin, Liberal Democrat and Opposition Spokesperson for Education slammed the County’s approach. “The way this wonderful asset has been allowed to fall into decay is shameful.  It is all too reminiscent of the County’s gross mismanagement of Cuffley Camp Outdoor Centre which had to be disposed of because of lack of investment and neglect. It is clear that there has been insufficient and inadequate consultation with bodies such as the University of Hertfordshire, local Museums and other interested bodies. Nothing should be done until all local avenues have been explored, and a coherent strategy developed.”

Lib Dems oppose library plans

At today’s meeting of the Education, Libraries and Localism Cabinet Panel. The Liberal Democrat team voted against the County’s plans to outsource their much loved and highly popular Library Service while the Labour Group leader abstained. In spite of this, the Conservative led Panel agreed to the County developing a detailed business case before finally deciding whether to go ahead with the scheme.

The Conservative run County Council is being forced into making swingeing cuts across all of its services, and in particular is looking to save £1min the Library Service as a result of the withdrawal of funding from the Conservative Government. It aims to do this by establishing a public Service Mutual (PSM) company to operate all the existing libraries which it will hope will result in achieving the necessary savings. To do this it is paying significant sums for consultancy advice from Mutual Ventures which could have been used to improve the current service.

The Council admits it is a high risk approach as the financial benefits of over £600k per annum will only be achieved if  the PSM is awarded charitable status and is able  to reclaim 80% of the business rates that the Libraries pay.

Mark Watkin, opposition spokesperson for Libraries explains “By their own admission, the County Council recognises that the current Library service is relevant, versatile and innovative. Its total usage through visits and online access is increasing. However the outcome of the recent consultation showed that more residents opposed the proposals than supported them, similarly so did a majority of the hard working library staff. The Council needs to have greater confidence in their ability to generate income from a wider use of their facilities. Expecting the County’s 10 District Councils  as well as the County Council to forego their business rate income, is not a socially acceptable approach to solving the financial challenge.”

Consultation on crime priorities

Note from the district council:

Each year the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) consults with the public and local groups on its plans for the coming year to tackle crime and disorder across the District. The survey seeks residents’ views on whether the Partnership’s priorities are correct and how they think we should tackle these.  It gives residents an opportunity to share their views on crime and anti-social behaviour in the district and to highlight problems that they feel need to be addressed. The results from the survey will support the development of action plans for the Community Safety Partnership in the coming year.

Please read the draft strategy before answering the questions in the survey. The survey can be accessed:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/JMZ3P6H

The strategy can be found here: CSP Draft Strategy 2018-19

Herts CC responds to Chris White over 20 mph fiasco

A shamefaced Herts County Council has responded to Chris White’s criticism of its failure to complete the installation of the 20 mph zone east of Holywell Hill.

Chris said: “Controversial highways contractor Ringway encountered a detailed snag in relation to signing outside one particular house. But they failed to tell the County Council or indeed local county councillors.

“This project is already years overdue despite it being flagged as of key importance by me and my colleague Sandy Walkington. This latest fiasco shows yet again that Ringway should no longer be the main highways contractor in this county – as Liberal Democrats have pointed out repeatedly.”

He added: “They now promise that the problems will be resolved this month – but we have had promises before. We want action and competence – so it’s difficult to be optimistic with Ringway, a company which can’t even empty a blocked drain even a year after it has been reported, let alone keep a grip on pothole repairs.”

St Albans District Council local plan consultation

Note from the District Council:

St Albans City and District Council has begun a six-week consultation on its Local Plan for the years 2020 to 2036.

This is a major document that will identify what land can be used for residential, community and commercial developments.

It will also detail the new roads, schools, green spaces and other infrastructure that will be needed to support the growing population.

A five-minute video explaining the background to the Local Plan has also been made.

The questionnaire, the video and significant documents are available on the Council’s website at www.stalbans.gov.uk/localplan2018.

Advice on what to do with recycling over Christmas

Real Christmas Trees
Our crews will collect most real Christmas trees from houses if they are put out for collection with green garden waste bins before the end of January 2018. If you live in a flat and have a tree, please take it to your local Household Waste and Recycling Centre instead. Alternatively, some garden centres, including Ayletts, will collect your tree for a small fee.

Wrapping paper and Christmas cards
Put paper and cards in your kerbside paper box after removing any ribbons and bows first. If you live in a flat use your communal paper bin.

Food waste
Food waste is collected weekly. Just put it out for collection in your kerbside caddy. Or if you are living in a flat, place it in your communal food bin. Food waste collected in this way will be turned into renewable energy and nutrient-rich biofertiliser. Please remember you no longer have to use compostable liners in your food caddy due to the way that food waste is treated. You can continue to use biodegradable or paper bags or switch to bin liners (not black), carrier bags, bread bags or paper wrappings.

Cardboard
Flatten your cardboard and remove all plastic first before recycling it. If you live in a house, place the cardboard in your paper recycling box or underneath it securely. If you live in a flat, put your cardboard in your communal paper and card bin in the recycling area.

Plastic, foil, cans and glass bottles
Put all of these items in your black recycling bin, or in your recycling box in some areas. If you live in a flat, put them in the labelled bin in your communal recycling area. Please squash all plastic bottles.

Used stamps
Some charities take donations of used stamps, including first, second and overseas stamps, to raise funds. They include Oxfam and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Details are available on their websites.

Christmas collection dates

Remember that your collection day will change over Christmas and the New Year festive period. Details are available on the Council’s website at: www.stalbans.gov.uk/bincollection. Also look out for your 2018 collection calendar being delivered to homes in December.

New Year clear out

If you are having a New Year clear out, then put small electrical items and old clothes for collection in separate carrier bags next to your bins. Larger electrical items can be taken to your local Household Waste and Recycling Centre . A bulky waste collection is available for £45 for up to 6 items. For more information about this, see: http://www.stalbans.gov.uk/bulkywaste.