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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.”


Note from County Council about closure of Sandpit Lane

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

The first part of this scheme is on-going under traffic signals, however, the works requiring road closures will take place on Monday 13th February and are programmed to take approximately 5 Days to complete.  Given the likelihood of danger to the public whilst the works are being undertaken, it will be necessary to close Sandpit Lane.

The works have been carefully phased and will be split into two separate closures, given the location of each site along Sandpit Lane:

Closure 1: Road Closure of Sandpit Lane between Jct. Marshalswick Lane Jct. House Lane: 9:30am – 4pm to carry out Drainage Investigation, Verge / Tree Works.

Closure 2: Road closure of Sandpit Lane between Jct. B651 Sandridge Road Jct. Marshalswick Lane: 8:00pm – 5:00am to carry out Carriageway Surfacing, drainage and Road Marking works.

Update on Clarence Park steps and ramp

A routine safety inspection was conducted on the ramp and steps structure on 03 February. During the inspection it was noted that the current deterioration of the timber sections is such that structure is now deemed unsafe. The deterioration has accelerated since the last inspection in December. Owing to the extent of the deterioration observed it was recommended that the structure should be closed immediately on the grounds of health and safety until remedial measures are put in place

This morning officers met with Cllr Alun Davies and Clarence Ward Councillors Chris White and Ellie Hudspith at the site. As a result officers are currently obtaining price quotations to carry out repairs to sections of the steps to enable its reopening at the earliest possible convenience.

With a design for the construction of a replacement structure in steel now in place officers will also investigate the option of replacing the existing steps only (in steel) in the short term whilst options are considered for permanent solution.

A quotation will be communicated back to councillors by the end of next week so that a way forward can be agreed.

Living in la la land

Claims by Govia and Network Rail bosses that they are working very hard to improve services, have been slammed by Liberal Democrats as a product of “living in la la land”.

The claims were made at a special council “Question time on rail services” on Thursday 2 February, where passenger groups including the community campaign group “Train Suffererjettes”, the Association of Public Transport Users and a rail user with disabilities, set out the daily challenges faced by passengers.

Daisy Cooper, the St Albans Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate who is campaigning to become the next MP for St Albans said: “It is extraordinary that rail bosses tried to persuade councillors and the public that services are improving when their own reports and local people’s real-life experiences show the complete opposite.

“Their own reports say that St Albans station has potential safety risks from over-crowding during peak hours; that only 48% of trains arrive on time; that delays from incidents are getting longer; and that the poor information on disrupted St Albans services has been due to Govia’s operations centre being all-consumed by the ongoing Southern Rail crisis. On every indicator that matters to passengers – cost, reliability, and comfort – train bosses are failing, and to suggest otherwise is the stuff of la la land.”

Cllr Robert Donald who quizzed the rail bosses on remediation plans said: “We are dealing with unparalleled levels of anger and frustration from long suffering commuters yet the rail management teams seem unable to learn from previous incidents and give passengers any confidence at all in their ability to improve services. They don’t even seem to have the outline bones of a plan to meet their contractual obligations by any particular date let alone a detailed improvement programme.”

Cllr Ellie Hudspith said: “Following our questioning, train bosses have now admitted that passengers will likely not see any improvement in rail services until the works at London Bridge are completed in January 2018, yet passenger fares continue to rise – it’s a scandal.” Continue reading

Lib Dems ask for explanation for ‘staggering’ ambulance waiting times

Liberal Democrats have asked for an urgent explanation for the staggeringly high ambulance waiting times at Watford General – which are, by a long way, the worst across six counties.

Liberal Democrat county Health spokesperson Chris White said: ‘Figures show that more than 1000 working hours were lost while ambulances queued at this hospital – in contrast to just 200 at Luton and Dunstable, itself bad enough.

‘Watford General was the worst in the entire region (which includes the six counties of Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk). In total around one eighth of the delays were at Watford.

‘The 1000 hours mean patients waiting in ambulances and not getting treatment. The situation is clearly critical and we need to hear from both the hospital and the ambulance trust why this is happening and what they are doing about it.’

Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate campaigning to become the next MP for St Albans, added:

‘St Albans district patients need urgent answers from Watford General’s hospital management as to whether staff shortages, additional patient pressures, or Conservative cuts – such as the recently scrapped £8.5 million grant for home care – or something else are to blame for these staggeringly high ambulance waiting times.

‘Front-line NHS staff do an amazing job under difficult circumstances but and may need additional support to help bring these waiting times down. We need to know that there is a plan.’

Ambulance waiting time table here: hhhl-december-2016

District Council statement on Clarence park steps

We have been trying (so far without success) to replace the ramp and steps at Clarence Park. Sadly we have been very badly let down by our contractor and our agent and this will impact on our future choices of expert. We are still trying to resolve the issue but it is proving very difficult.

The structure has for some years now been in a state of decay and has been declining. You may recall that we spent thousands of pounds stabilising it 3-4 years ago. We have recently been undertaking regular inspections in an attempt to keep open the ramp and steps for as long as possible. Paul Gallagher carried out an inspection this morning and found significant areas of concern. As a result we had to close the structure immediately. It was not therefore possible to give any advance warning.

Although we have been carrying out spot repairs we have now reached the stage where economic repair is no longer viable. Paul has estimated that between £3K and £5K will need to be spent to deal with the current problem but that will not guarantee the safety of the structure. It is also possible that these costs will increase if we uncover further areas of rot. For your information, yesterday we had a report that someone had put her foot through the bottom platform of the ramp & steps. We don’t believe she was hurt but we haven’t heard directly from her so we don’t have all the details.

As the senior officer responsible for health and safety I cannot knowingly allow an unsafe situation to exist. Therefore it will be necessary for the structure to remain closed until we find a solution, either in the short or long term.

Emergency closure of Victoria Street

Message from the County Council

I am writing to notify you of the forthcoming Highways Maintenance works due to take place on B691 Victoria Street, St Albans.

Due to the sudden deterioration of the carriageway surface nearby the Station, it has been decided that these works will need to be completed as soon as possible, to prevent failure of the carriageway besides major disruption to the local area and road users alike.

In addition to this, there have been longstanding issues concerning the signal timings in this area, resulting in significant delays on a regular basis.  In view of that, the Traffic Loops in this area must be reinstalled to improve its performance and will be carried out under the road closure to avoid further disruption at a later date.

The works are due to commence on Monday 13th February and are programmed to take approximately 5 Days to complete.  Given the likelihood of danger to the public whilst the works are being undertaken, it will be necessary to close Victoria Street between the junctions of Marlborough Road / Upper Marlborough Road and Station Way.

There is likely to be congestion in the area whilst the road closure is in place, however,  the works have been carefully phased and sequenced to mitigate delays.  Activities will take place between 09:30 – 15:30  and the highway will be clear at all other times.