A new era for St Albans District Council: the Liberal Democrat plan

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:

The Environment

“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.

Housing

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.

Business

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

About Chris

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.

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…)

Lib Dems condemn local NHS over Nascot Lawn

At yesterdays meeting of Hertfordshire County Council parents from the NHS Nascot Lawn Respite Care home presented a petition with over 14,100 signatures seeking the commitment of the Country Council to do all in its power to ensure the continuing support and care even though the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group had announced withdrawing the £600k funding from October 31st which will force the centre to close.

The motion drafted by Councillor Mark Watkin and the Liberal Democrats and presented jointly with the Labour Group is attached as is Mark’s speech supporting the motion.

Mark condemned the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group for its heartless approach, and in particular its total failure to consult with parents or the County Council before making its decision. Mark was appalled that without carrying out fresh assessment the CCG had announced that only two of the over sixty children had medical needs. In fact at this moment no fresh assessments have been carried out.

Mark commented “This decision defies understanding. These children and their families face some of the greatest challenges that life can present. The fact that they can function and support their children through all adversity is very largely due to the respite they receive from the dedicated medical staff at Nascot Lawn. To suggest that they only have social issues is an insult. These families can not function without the support of Nascot Lawn.”

Following debate, the motion was amended by the Conservative majority to remove the the attack on the underfunding of the NHS, but then was passed unanimously.