Fighting to Mend Broken HertsHertfordshire County Council has been in a Tory grip since 1999. During this time, the Council has become ever more remote from the real needs of the people they were elected to represent.

The Liberal Democrats believe that there are a number of key areas which need urgent attention to put right what's wrong, and meet the needs of residents across the County. These include Social Care, Health Care, Education, Highways and Transport

To find out more, read our "Six to Fix" Manifesto

Vote Liberal Democrat on 4th May 2017 for a better Hertfordshire


Crash site abandoned before work is started

The scene of an accident just before Xmas outside John Lewis has been abandoned with no further work planned, even before any restoration work is done.

LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan reported the damage on 23 December. Loose parts that came off the vehicle that crashed were removed, but that is all. Now Malcolm has received a report saying nothing remains to be done - no repair of the broken cycle racks, no repair to the smashed paving, no removal of the temporary protective fencing. It is both potentially dangerous, as well as an eyesore. The report from HCC highways says:

This is an update to the highway fault reported on 23/12/2016 3:29 PM
The reference number is: 201012452082

Fault type: Unlit sign knocked down or leaning
Location: Wigmores North,, Welwyn Garden City

We have inspected this location and the necessary works have been carried out. No further action is planned. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Malcolm says "You would think this is astonishing, however very little that comes out of highways surprises me. Doubtless they will say this is a mistake and apologise, but it happens so often. The people of Herts, who pay their wages, deserve so much better. How on earth can they say work is complete when it hasn't even started, 7 weeks after I reported it? Appalling."

Crash site outside John Lewis (Wigmores North), WGC [1] Crash site outside John Lewis (Wigmores North), WGC [1]

19/02/2017

Take the first step

Highways spending plummets to lowest figure for five years

Verge at junction of Downs Avenue and Lark RiseLocal 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".

Highways Investment 2017/18
How much money is allocated to the maintenance and improvement of carriageways and footways for next financial year?
Capital
[£k]
Revenue
[£k]
Total
[£k]
Carriageway Maintenance
Cat 4 Schemes 21370 - 21370
Cat 2 737 - 737
Cat 1 3430 268 3698
Total Carriageways 25537 268 25805
Footway Maintenance
Cat 4 Schemes 2700 - 2700
Cat 2 2149 - 2149
Cat 1 - 1105
Total Footways 5954 - 5954
Integrated Transport Projects (Improvements) 8165 532 8697
Historical Trends
What was the amount spent on the maintenance and improvement of carriageways and footways in the past 4 years?
2013/14
[£k]
2014/15
[£k]
2015/16
[£k]
2016/17
[£k]
Carriageways
Cat 4 Schemes 20585 20607 19290 18577
Cat 1 & 2 4793 4066 4082 4156
Total 25378 24673 23372 22733
Footways
Cat 4 Schemes 2500 2500 1728 2294
Cat 1 & 2 3458 2820 2826 2500
Total 5958 5320 4554 4794
Integrated Transport Projects (Improvements) 7888 7944 3724 2583

Notes:

  1. Budgets are for delivery of works and exclude design costs, overheads and other ancillary costs
  2. Figures for 2016/17 and 2017/18 are projections as Cat 1 and Cat 2 are responsive services
  3. The scale of the Integrated Transport Projects programme is very much dependent upon the amount of third party funding available
  4. Excludes Little Hadham Bypass

19/02/2017


Summary response to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Budget for 2017/2018

We asked the council to focus on reducing the following items:

1. £200k predicted loss at Humphrey's cafe at Campus West.

Unbelievable. This is open up to 12 hours a day and should be a license to print money, not to lose it. Copious amounts of wine are purchased by customers for some of the film nights.

2. 150k to resurface the Campus West car park.

Sounds like a gold-plated job. Have they had alternate quotes?

3. Replacing cars that have done 19,000 miles and 55,000 miles on the grounds they are around 5 years old.

An email from Ka Ng to Malcolm Cowan states mileages as:

  • Street warden vehicles: 129,095 miles and 55,758 miles respectively;
  • Courier vehicle 94,500 miles;
  • Superintendent vehicle 19,000 miles;

Following our enquiry, it is now stated the latter may be put back, but it is still in the budget papers as 2017/18.

4. High Ropes. Gross income unchanged at 15k, predicting a small loss overall.

This was to be the feature that would pay for Splashlands, which is years late and still on the drawing board.

5. Routine maintenance budget same as current year despite predictions they would be underspent by £130k.

We would use the money saved to:

  • Increase planning and enforcement staff. A WHT report last year described how their workload is excessive and they are paid less than neighbouring councils, hence many do not stay long.
  • An additional anti-social behaviour officer to help deal with the persistent problems in Woodhall and around.
  • A larger tree pruning budget, so the council's trees are kept to an appropriate size.
  • More parking spaces in residential areas

We criticised the unreliability of virtually new equipment in the council chamber and lack of the promised streaming.

16/02/2017

Boundary House: 'The worst of Victorian era housing in a mid-20th century building'

Many TV viewers will have been shocked to see the conditions being endured by single-person households at Boundary House WGC, exposed in a Newsnight feature last week on Britain's housing crisis.

What was shown were several examples of a single room - a "studio flat" in estate agent language - being home to a mother and two children - a room being kitchen, living room and bedroom to 3 people! The entire block is privately owned but the families have been moved there from the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

"I assumed this would be deemed over-crowding, but it is not" said Liberal Democrat councillor Malcolm Cowan. "In WGC, a town designed for healthy living, as the pre-war slogan went - this looks positively Dickensian. Worse was the apparent lack of care or involvement by the London borough which has sent some of its residents here. A basically sound 1950s building, formerly a nurse's home, has been allowed to deteriorate by a Labour council who seem to have washed their hands of their residents, even though they are still responsible and who ultimately should be rehousing them. Welwyn Hatfield council will have to look after the environmental health issues that are being ignored at present".

"The latest government White paper on the future of housing should be used to demand a minimum humane standard of accommodation that will ensure that residents can live in safety and with dignity" he concluded.

14/02/2017


On the verge of disintegration

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

22/01/2017

Dear Sir

One of your correspondents last week complained about the state of the grass verges in our towns and the lack of action by the councils to reduce the damage done. I totally agree; the verges are part of the planned landscape, part of what makes WGC and Hatfield so different from most other towns.

Other Councils in Hertfordshire are far better at this than our own. Stevenage are gradually extending bans on verge and footpath parking across the town, and ticketing offenders; St Albans have notices up in nearby Colney Heath about this. If they can do it, why not here?

The current by-law in Welwyn Hatfield about verge parking is unenforceable. Requests by several county councillors, including myself, for the Borough Council to draw up an effective policy have been rebuffed, except for an order for a small part of Handside, which will come into effect in a few weeks time.

There are certainly some roads where a complete ban would be too much, given the lack of parking, and these could be exempted, until the council provides more parking.

The point made by your correspondent about forcing pedestrians to walk in the road is correct. I have twice recently had replies from WHBC officers saying they would not take action over vehicles causing this and pedestrian should walk in the road; thankfully, the police take a firmer view.

Finally, I have used part of my locality budget to restore some verges and protect some more, but it cannot be down to individual Councillors to act alone. We need a town-wide approach.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Cowan

LibDem county and borough councillor

20/01/2017

Mooted religious free school plan stopped

Malcolm CowanPlans for a free school in the Peartree area, to be run by the Salvation for the Nations church, have been terminated by the government. In a letter to Herts County Council, they explain that they felt the trust were not able to meet the rigorous criteria it sets for free schools. They say that their priority is to ensure that they only establish schools where it is clear that the educational provision will be strong and where this best represents the use of public funds.

Commenting, local county and borough councillor Malcolm Cowan said: "This brings to an end a very long period of uncertainty. As far as we know, the church did not acquire a site for a school. At no point was I contacted to be asked to support this scheme, either by the church or by any Peartree residents. There is also the question of educational expertise. I could not find any reference to any track record of educational experience on the church's website - there was a worry for me that any children attending would have been guinea pigs, however well intentioned the church was."

"Now, I trust the county council will push ahead to design an expanded Peartree school large enough to take in children from all the housing being built and being planned nearby."

20/01/2017


Welwyn Hatfield Brown Bins: TAXED!

Brown Bin TaxedWelwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) has pushed through plans to introduce an annual charge of £35 for garden waste collection, in the face of strong opposition from local residents.

The charges, which will come into effect in April this year, have been met with anger and two petitions calling on the Council were presented prior to the meeting. In total, these petitions drew more than 2,750 signatures. The Tory-led Council was determined to push ahead, however, and the plan was approved a special meeting on Monday 9th January 2017.

During the meeting, Malcolm Cowan, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Peartree, expressed concern over the way that the plans had been handled from start to finish. He highlighted that the proposals had not first been put before the Environment Scrutiny committee and neither had they been discussed with the Herts Waste Partnership, contrary to the protocols that WHBC have signed up to. He went on to argue that the consultation on this measure was profoundly flawed, that the council had attempted to stifle alternative views and that residents' concerns had been completely ignored. Finally, he pointed out that the measures had not been fully or accurately costed and that the Council had not given due consideration to the practicalities of implementing the scheme.

Despite the clear concerns of many Councillors and in the face of strong public opposition, the measures were forced through, with 28 of the 46 Councillors present backing the plan. Every single Conservative councillor present voted in favour of the plans.

Speaking after the meeting, Malcolm Cowan said that he was saddened to see the Tories whip this measure through, despite strong opposition from their constituents.

The average Council Tax levied by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council on a Band D property is £196, so this charge of £35 represents an eye-watering 18% increase.

10/01/2017


Rural footpath streetlights switched back on after Paul intervenes

Night LightCounty Councillor Paul Zukowskyj has managed to get some streetlights on a rural footpath switched back on all night after receiving requests from local residents in Welham Green.

The footpath, which links northern Welham Green with South Hatfield, is heavily used by shiftworkers getting to and from work at Tesco's warehouse and other business locations in the area.

Shiftworkers using the route to get back and forth to work were having problems because the route was so dark. There were also partial obstructions that were difficult to see and navigate in the dark.

The route, which is actually part of National Cycle Route 12, is also heavily used by cyclists.

Paul commented "residents approached me because they'd asked if the hours when the lights were off could be modified or if the odd post could be reset to all night lighting, but had been given HCC's stock response of 'no'.

"When I asked initially, they also told me 'no', but after digging out the actual agreed policy, I found a loophole that suggested there may be hope.

I've now been informed that due to the loophole and that the request had come from me as the local County Councillor, the lights will be returned to All Night Illuminated as soon as feasible."

22/12/2016


Give us a Xmas present please, says Malcolm Cowan

A call on Herts County Council to give residents a Xmas present of repaired road signs has been made by county councillor Malcolm Cowan. "All over the district we see signs knocked down but not repaired. It makes the area look very neglected as well as harder for motorists to navigate" he says.

"There is also a danger aspect - the signs may be just off the road but anyone losing control or having to swerve could face serious damage. The county council keeps saying they will be fixed, but when? The sign in Waterside has been down for around 2 years, the one in Osborn Way since April, as reported by the WHT at the time, now we have others in Broadwater Rd and Stanborough Rd.

My colleague Paul Zukowskyj is experiencing 3 year delay in getting signs in Hatfield fixed. I have a sign in Hydeway that was removed and the hole filled in, so I don't expect that to come back any time soon.

"Ringway, the main highways contractor, are getting away with murder by not fixing them and the Tory-run county council are letting them", Malcolm added.

Bent sign on Stanborough Road

Bent sign on Stanborough Road

Bent sign on Waterside ()

Bent sign on Waterside

Flattened sign on Osborne Way

Flattened sign on Osborne Way

Bent sign on Parkway

Bent sign on Parkway

18/12/2016


Lib Dems eye local victories after stunning by-election win

A Triumphant Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) with Tim Farron outside the Palace of Westminster 05/12/2016The Liberal Democrats are aiming for big gains in Hertfordshire following the party's sensational victory in the Richmond Park by-election last week (Dec 1st).

Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney (pictured with party Leader, Tim Farron) overturned a 23,000 majority to win the Richmond Park seat with 49% of the vote, beating former Conservative Zac Goldsmith into second place, with Labour's candidate losing his deposit with just 3.7%.

St Albans and Watford constituencies would both fall to the Liberal Democrats if this swing were repeated at a general election. Even Grant Shapps' majority could be at risk here in Welwyn Hatfield!

Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson Nigel Quinton said:

"The result in Richmond Park shows that the Liberal Democrats are back in business and can win seats right across the country.

We've been winning local by-elections up and down the country, including here in Hertfordshire, and came close in Haldens just two weeks ago when our vote increased from 12% to 30%. We've seen over 30,000 new members join the party, and now we've won a Parliamentary seat on a huge swing.

Liberal values are needed in politics more than ever, and it's the Liberal Democrats who are now best placed to take on the Conservative Brexit Government and fight for an open, tolerant and united country."

05/12/2016

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National March to Parliament March 2017

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