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.

Snow bulletin from Herts CC last night

HCC staff have been working hard to respond to the level of snow that Hertfordshire is currently experiencing and there have been meetings held during the day to monitor the situation, review services and determine any action that needs to be taken to ensure that we are maintaining the highest possible levels of service to residents.

The snow has had a severe impact on the road networks, and I understand you have been receiving update emails during the day on the actions being undertaken in respect of gritting the roads.  A further run took place at 7 pm and there will be another at 4 am.

More snow is expected until around 2 am with temperatures dropping below zero and then sleet and rain expected at around 9 am.

Herts Fire and Rescue Service have been responding to incidents, and are coordinating the volunteer network of 4×4 drivers as part of our adverse weather plans. These incredible volunteers have been busy all day transporting patients being discharged from hospitals, rescue stranded cars (when considered safe to do so) and supporting social care colleagues if transport is required urgently.

Adult Care Services have been able to maintain their 7 day service today with all staff travelling to their hospital workbase.  Service providers have triggered their own snow plans and, as at 5.00 pm, were not reporting any major issues.  If there are any issues regarding service delivery tomorrow, providers will be prioritising time critical calls and requesting that family and friends support non-critical calls wherever possible.  Managers are preparing for tomorrow to look to ensure patient discharges are being managed effectively.

Over 350 schools have advised that they are going to be closed on Monday, and further notifications are likely to come in during the night and early morning. (more…)

Give councillors a say on highways contract extension, urge Lib Dems

MPs are seemingly getting more of a say on Brexit than local councillors on highways matters, say Hertfordshire Lib Dems, after their motion to allow for councillor-led scrutiny of the highways contract was quashed by the Conservatives at full council earlier this week.

Liberal Democrat County Councillors slammed the Conservative-run council’s plans to award a five year extension to contractor Ringway worth £250m before agreeing the terms of improvements needed. The contract extension follows considerable and continued complaints from residents about poor highways performance.

(more…)

Heartless Herts Valleys CCG pulls the plug on Nascot Lawn

Yesterday the Herts Valleys CCG made the appalling announcement that they had confirmed their previous decision to withdraw their £600,000 annual support for Nascot Lawn children’s respite care home.

Cynically they claim their decision was taken because the County Council had failed to engage with them in looking for a workable way forward when it has been their failure to engage from the outset that has caused this dreadful situation to occur. What have they been doing for the last six weeks during the engagement process? The one glimmer of hope is that their funding has to continue for a further six months, which provides a desperately short period of opportunity for a viable respite service to be formed. In the meantime, the families face a bleak future with no idea how they and their vulnerable children will receive respite care.

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Mark Watkin, Opposition Spokesperson for Children’s Services, and in whose Division Nascot Lawn is located, commented: “I am so saddened and angry by the failure of the CCG to look for a viable way forward. We know that they are facing a massive financial challenge, but simply pulling the financial plug and hoping that others will provide the solution is disgraceful. The county council must now sit down with the CCG and the families with one aim only – to find a solution that will deliver the respite care that these families need and deserve.”

Councillor Peter Taylor, Deputy Mayor of Watford, commented: “I am so upset for the families who will be affected by this decision. They have fought an amazing campaign to save this much-loved centre and remained incredibly positive throughout. It is now vital that all sides work together to support the children and families who currently use Nascot Lawn.”