An urgent message from Nigel Quinton, Parliamentary candidate

Three weeks to make a difference - donate now and have your donation doubled!

Nigel QuintonWith just three weeks until the most cynically-timed election in living memory, when Mrs May expects to gain a landslide victory and cement her Farage-esque Hard Brexit policies, now is the time to dig deep and help our campaign.

Two months ago we asked you to fund our County Council campaign and you responded brilliantly. And the results were fantastic; we won all three of our target divisions, including Barbara Gibson's spectacular gain from the Conservatives in Haldens, where we finished a very distant third in 2013. The Tories in Welwyn Hatfield were not very happy on election night and we now have more county councillors than they do within the Parliamentary seat, as one of theirs is split with Broxbourne.

However, campaigns need funding, and as Mrs May knows full well, our coffers are empty from the local election campaigns. Wouldn't it be lovely to have the well-heeled support that the Tories always have? Did you know that their Mayoral candidate in the West Midlands spent £1million on his campaign? All perfectly legal, but hardly a level playing field!

So please, if you possibly can, donate NOW! For the next ten days, four generous people have offered to match every pound that you donate, up to £2,000, making £4,000 in all, so don't delay donate NOW and your donation is automatically worth DOUBLE. Every donation helps and will be used to get our message across loud and clear.

£56 million investment in Hertfordshire schools

The Liberal Democrats have announced they will invest £55.8 million more in schools and colleges in Hertfordshire over the next parliament as local schools face serious cuts under Conservative plans.

The funding would reverse cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protect per pupil funding in real terms and ensure no school loses out from changes to funding arrangements.

£6.3 million of the £56 million funding would be spent on protecting the Pupil Premium, introduced by the Liberal Democrats to help the most disadvantaged children.

Nigel Quinton, LibDem Parliamentary Candidate in Welwyn Hatfield, said:

"In what is fast becoming a local and indeed national scandal, Headteachers across our area are being driven to write to parents alerting them to the state of school funding.

"We have seen letters from at least four of our local secondary schools pointing out that they simply won't be able to continue to offer the level of support for pupils that they would like. They report a 35-45% cut per pupil since 2012, despite costs rising due to unwanted changes in the courses for GCSE and A-levels forced on them by Mr Gove.

"Under the Conservatives, funding per pupil is set to see the biggest cuts in a generation, while billions of pounds are being spent on divisive plans to expand grammars and free schools.

"This extra £56M of funding in Hertfordshire would ensure no school and no child loses out."

Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said:

"A landslide for the Conservatives would allow Theresa May to take parents across the country for granted and cut our schools to the bone.

"We will reverse crippling Conservative cuts to school budgets and invest to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.

"Vote for the Liberal Democrats and you can change Britain's future."


Lib Dems penny for NHS would raise £126.6million extra for Hertfordshire

The Liberal Democrats have announced they would plug funding gaps for the NHS and social care by putting a penny on income tax, in their first major manifesto commitment of the election campaign.

The tax would raise an additional £126.6million for Hertforedshire, with £82million for the NHS and £44.6million for social care each year.

This is the party's flagship spending commitment and its first major policy announcement for the election. The Liberal Democrats manifesto will also set out a 'five-point recovery plan' for NHS and social care services in their manifesto.

At least 70% of Brits would happily pay an extra 1p in every pound if that money was guaranteed to go to the NHS, an ITV poll found last October (link).

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Welwyn Hatfield Nigel Quinton said:

"Having attended today my first briefing as a new County Councillor it is clear just how much the additional funding for social care especially is needed. Right now in Hertfordshire we are seeing urgent operations being cancelled and the elderly being denied the care they need, and beds being blocked due to the lack of community and social care available.

"The Liberal Democrats are prepared to be honest with people and say that to secure the future of the NHS we will all, especially those who can afford it most, need to chip in a little more.

"A penny in the pound would allow us to invest in improving local NHS services and ensuring the elderly receive the care they deserve.

"This Conservative government has left our health and care services chronically underfunded - and while the crisis gets worse they just don't seem to care.

"We cannot continue asking the system to deliver more and more, without giving it the resources to do so."

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson and former health minister Norman Lamb said:

"The NHS was once the envy of the world and this pledge is the first step in restoring it to where it should be.

"A penny in the pound to save the NHS is money well spent in our view.

"But simply providing more money on its own is not enough and that's why this is just the first step in our plan to protect health and care services in the long-term."


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Lib Dems to give £770 boost to 17,170 pensioners in Welwyn Hatfield

17,170 pensioners living in Welwyn Hatfield will receive at least an extra £772 per year under Liberal Democrat manifesto plans to protect the 'triple lock' for state pensions.

Thanks to the triple lock guarantee, secured by the Liberal Democrats when they were in government, the basic state pension has risen in each year by whichever is the higher of earnings, prices or a rate of 2.5%. However, the Conservatives have refused to guarantee whether the triple lock will continue, raising fears it could be scrapped.

The Liberal Democrats have committed today to keeping the triple lock, meaning the state pension would be worth at least £137.15 a week by 2021, up from £122.30 in 2017, or an extra £772 a year.

This would be paid for in part by restricting perks such as the winter fuel allowance so they are no longer paid to the wealthiest pensioners.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Nigel Quinton said:

"Protecting the triple lock will mean an extra £772 a year by 2021 for the 17,170 people receiving the state pension in this constituency.

"The Liberal Democrats are making a clear commitment to older people in Welwyn Hatfield, unlike the Conservatives who have repeatedly refused to give this guarantee.

"The triple lock has succeeded in lifting thousands of pensioners out of poverty, but many are still struggling to get by.

"An important test of a civilised society is the way in which it cares for the elderly. This commitment will ensure older people are able to meet their basic needs and that their living standards will be protected, especially with prices set to rise in the coming years."


Great result for Welwyn Hatfield Lib Dems

Another fantastic Election Day for Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats saw them gain a third County seat, come within 50 votes of smashing the Conservative grip on Panshanger Ward in the By-Election, and beat Labour into third place overall, both in number of seats and in the popular vote.

Victorious Hertfordshire County Council Lib Dems Barbara Gibson, Paul Zukowskyj and Nigel Quinton


Another office to become housing - without planning consent

54 flats are to be created from an office building in the middle of the Peartree industrial area under the government's controversial policy of allowing conversion of offices without consent. Meanwhile the council does nothing to stop it.

Lib Dem councillor Rachel Basch, who sits on the council's Development Management committee objects.

"WGC of all places is supposed to be planned, with different zones for housing, offices, industrial etc. This flies in the face of that. I am not able to see the detail such as what it will look like, because it is thought to have deemed consent to convert. Nor am I or any other councillor allowed to comment, such as only planning 21 parking spaces for 54 flats. It is a totally unsuitable place for families, next to a warehouse and a plant hire company, for example, with no play or amenity space.

"And there will be no money towards education, traffic infrastructure, leisure or anything else. A licence to print money. And if it keeps going on, the council will have to create new employment areas in the Green Belt to make up for those lost in the town - what a nonsense" she says.

Yet the council could pass what is called an "Article 4" direction so that in future, consent would be needed from the council. "Yet again, they talk but don't act. The idea has been kicking around for several years - what we need is action now" says Rachel.


Local schools face staff cuts

In what is fast becoming a local and indeed national scandal, Headteachers across our area are being driven to write to parents alerting them to the state of school funding.

We have seen letters from at least four of our local secondary schools pointing out that they simply won't be able to continue to offer the level of support for pupils that they would like.

They report a 35-45% cut per pupil since 2012, despite costs rising due to unwanted changes in the courses for GCSE and A-levels forced on them by Mr Gove.

There is no doubt that, unless the Government increases funding, schools will face no choice but to reduce staff, and to increase class sizes - at a time when we all know we face a skills crisis in this country.

Nigel Quinton with copies of letters from three local headteachers
Nigel Quinton with copies of letters from three local headteachers


Labour fails to select candidate in Welwyn Hatfield with just weeks until election

Nigel Quinton ()Labour has failed to select a candidate in Welwyn Hatfield with the general election just weeks away. The news is revealed on Labour's own website, and has been called out by the Liberal Democrats, who say that it shows Labour has "given up", even in some of its former strongholds.

There are over 340 constituencies Labour has still not selected for in England, whereas in contrast the Liberal Democrats have selected 92% of their candidates in England. Labour has not selected a single candidate in any of the eleven Hertfordshire constituencies. They have even resorted as recently as last Friday to advertising via Twitter.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Nigel Quinton said:

"It seems that Labour has simply given up on places like Welwyn Hatfield. On the doorstep their support is crumbling away and they are widely tipped to lose at least one if not both of their County seats in Welwyn Hatfield on May 4th."

Labour claimed to be prepared for a general election, but many of their approved candidates are simply refusing to run under Jeremy Corbyn's banner, and who can blame them? They see a leader who is ineffective and a party that is too divided to stand up for local people.

Says Nigel: "Every government needs to be held to account and the Liberal Democrats are rapidly emerging as the real voice of opposition to Mrs May's Hard Brexit, austerity government.

"If you want to ensure our country has a positive future, the Liberal Democrats are the only choice in Welwyn Hatfield."


Take the first step

Lib Dems: This is a chance for voters in Welwyn Hatfield to forge a better future for the country

Voters in Welwyn Hatfield should vote for the Liberal Democrats to change the direction of the country and ensure Britain has a decent alternative to the Conservatives' Hard Brexit, the party's local candidate Nigel Quinton has said today.

The Prime Minister has called a snap General Election to be held on the 8th June, which was approved by Parliament yesterday.

Liberal Democrat candidate Nigel Quinton commented:

"This election is a huge opportunity for voters in Welwyn Hatfield to change the direction of our country - and only the Liberal Democrats can offer a coherent and progressive alternative to the Conservatives' harsh policies on the NHS, on funding for schools, and on the environment.

"Many in this area may have voted to leave the EU (by just 1% more than the national average), but I'm not sure many of them voted for the extreme form of Brexit that Theresa May has imposed on us, and which Labour has backed. Whichever way you voted last June, if you want to protect our local economy by staying in the Single Market and ensure that the people have the final say, this is your chance.

"In the local elections on May 4th we expect to poll very well indeed and it will be clear that the Liberal Democrats are the clear challenger to the Conservatives here, while Jeremy Corbyn's hard Brexit supporting Labour party are in disarray.

"By the time we get to the General Election in seven weeks' time, I believe more and more will recognise that the Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit Government and the only party fighting for a Britain that is open, tolerant and united."

Read more about the Liberal Democrat vision for Britain...


Lib Dem candidate Nigel Quinton welcomes chance to fight for a better Britain

Nigel Quinton - Candidate for Welwyn HatfieldAs previously announced last September, Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats have local campaigner Nigel Quinton as the Liberal Democrat candidate for a snap general election. Now that Mrs May has announced her intention to hold an election on 8th June, and it looks as if Labour's turkeys will vote for Christmas, Nigel has this to say:

"First we have to call out the supreme cynicism of Mrs May calling this election now, driven entirely by considerations of party advantage. No commentator thinks that any of her stated reasons stand serious examination, and the hypocrisy of the woman who claimed to support Remain last year and is now wanting to fight as the Brexit champion is outrageous.

"However, as the fastest growing political party in the country, the Liberal Democrats welcome the challenge of campaigning against this government of unnecessary austerity who do not care for the disadvantaged or even the 'just about managing', but care only about securing political power at all costs.

"We need a government that works with the EU to secure the best possible solution, that reflects the desire of many in this country for a different relationship, but maintains membership of the Single Market, maintains membership of Euratom, the Erasmus educational links, Europol, and other European institutions that the government has no mandate to rip us apart from."

Nigel has a strong record of fighting for local people having served as a local Borough Councillor and he has campaigned on a number of local issues, including taking on a leading role in the Hospital SOS campaign as well as being involved in the fight against the Hatfield Incinerator.

The Liberal Democrats are in buoyant mood following a run of consistent by-election successes across the country. Membership has doubled since 2015 and now stands just below 90,000.

Read more about the Liberal Democrat vision for Britain...


Local Plan Forced Through by Tory Majority

Local Conservatives voted en masse to support the submission of their flawed Local Plan to Government inspectors at last week's Council Meeting. All opposition Councillors, Labour and LibDem, opposed the action, citing continued dissatisfaction with the lack of vision, and the lack of proper consultation by the Conservative elite.

Two questions from residents were heard, one from Will Davis of Panshanger People noting the huge number of submissions to the consultations that have been ignored by the Council, and one from Tom Darwall-Smith about the lack of due process in respect of the Symondshyde proposal. Both were treated to dismissive comments by the Executive Member Cllr Mandy Perkins that failed to answer the substantive points raised.

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Malcolm Cowan highlighted the lack of consideration of any alternatives by the Council, especially the proposal 10 years ago that we work with other Planning Authorities to build a new garden city in the north of Hertfordshire - "of course now they say there is insufficient time to do this, but what have they been doing for the last decade?" said Malcolm.

Commenting after the meeting Parliamentary candidate Nigel Quinton said:

"What I found most galling was the statement by one of the Tory Councillors that this was a challenge they did not want to have, that difficult decisions were required. What a terrible admission of failure!

"Having the opportunity to shape the future of our area is a privilege that many of us would love to lead. Sadly leadership in this sorry process has been totally lacking - just bullying by the Tory elite who have no time for anyone else's point of view.

"By failing to consult, to listen, to cooperate, and by relying completely on the developers and landowners to shape the alternatives, they have brought forward a plan that risks swamping our existing towns, whilst doing nothing for local infrastructure or preserving our environment.

"If they don't have the stomach for this they should resign and let someone else take over."


Campus West losses probe without the people who highlighted it

Welwyn Hatfield council have finally started a probe into the losses at Campus West, highlighted by the Liberal Democrats at budget time - but guess what, everyone but the Liberal Democrats are invited.

"One of our councillors asked if there was to be any investigation into the losses, and was told one had been set up, but hey guess what, we are not invited" said group leader Malcolm Cowan. They even had the cheek to call it "all-party' when it is just Tory and Labour."

LibDems spotlighted the continuing £200,000 per year loss at Humphreys café, and a further unallocated loss of around £1m.

"One might imagine they want to avoid further embarrassment by keeping us out. Just not good enough" added Malcolm. "A bit like putting on Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark".


Pressure from Libdems leads to increase Affordable Homes on Shredded Wheat site

Libdems vow to hold the Council and Spenhill to account on Phase 2

Nigel Quinton and Malcolm Cowan in front of Shredded Wheat development siteLast Thursday, 30th April, Welwyn Hatfield Council gave approval to Spenhill (the property arm of Tesco) to develop the old Shredded Wheat site next to the train station. In many ways this is a cause for celebration - the scheme is for high quality urban architecture in a strategic position in the town centre that will provide 850 new homes and will extend the retail and evening economies into Peartree Ward. The developer will also fund £4M of highways work and £3.5M towards educational needs, mostly towards a new, larger, Peartree School, which we very much welcome.

However, in one very important respect the scheme is hopelessly deficient. Only 50 of the 850 homes (less than 6%) are to be affordable homes, despite the Council's own policy that at least 30% of homes in this development should be affordable. That it was as many as 50 is only because pressure in the past week from our comments in the press has forced the issue. Only in the eleventh hour, on the day before approval, was the number of affordable homes increased from 35 to 50.

The developer was allowed to get away with this by convincing the Council that the scheme was 'not viable' if affordable housing was included. The committee accepted the advice of officers on this point, despite it being pointed out that the advice from the Council's own advisors, Colliers International, was that the scheme was viable with or without affordable housing. In fact the scheme is forecast to generate profits of at least £86M, and probably a lot more.

Nigel Quinton, who is standing for election in the County Division that includes the site, and who spoke to the committee last night to stress the case for more affordable housing, had this to say:

"Whilst I very much want this development to go ahead, it absolutely has to include 30% affordable homes, and I am disappointed that the Council has given in on this point when the case on viability has not been made. The additional 15 affordable homes announced at the meeting are welcome, but are not enough.

"The silver lining, and one that the Council and committee are clearly clinging to, is that the scheme has two phases, the first is for 350 homes, the second for 500, and Spenhill still need final approval for the second. At that stage they have to demonstrate the lack of viability all over again. If they cannot, then we believe that they would have to make the affordable component up to the full 30% of the total.

"We intend to make sure Spenhill, and the Council, do not shun their responsibility to provide the affordable homes our town so desperately needs.

"There are other issues that we will continue to press the Council to address - the lack of communication with Network Rail about the rail bridge and the potential impact of the new restaurants and bars on the remainder of the Town Centre economy. Also, while we welcome the inclusion of some community and leisure facilities in the scheme it is some way short of the Swimming Pool we had campaigned for and which was included in the Planning Guidance and which the Town still lacks - this site has the capacity to deliver huge profits for the developer, and the Council should be ensuring a greater amount of benefit to the community."


Terms of Shredded Wheat site deal come under fire

Shredded Wheat Factory WGCLeading Liberal Democrats are asking whether our Council was lost in action during the negotiations of the "deal" to develop the Shredded Wheat site.

Shockingly, despite a projected £86M profit, developers Spenhill are being told they only have to provide 35 units of affordable housing - just 4% of the total 850 being built. It is the stated policy of the Council that 30% of all new homes should be affordable. And the profits could well be much higher as the Council has failed to scrutinise the cost estimates.

"This has been a matter of contention between Spenhill and the council for a long period, but clearly the council has blinked first" said Cllr Malcolm Cowan, the Libdem group leader and councillor for Peartree Ward. "To lose up to 300 social homes is a major loss that cannot be put right later. The council's advisors have said the development is expected to yield at least £86 million profit overall, a huge sum. We suspect/believe that profits will be far greater, and the council's own report says the costs quoted appear high. The project should be contributing far more to our local economy."

The £2.4m contribution to a new Peartree school on a new site is again far short of what the county council need and will add to pressure on council tax bills. The NHS advice that the new housing will generate additional costs to the local NHS of £2.6M per year, but the developer are only offering a paltry sum of £450,000 towards health projects that are already completed or under way, so nothing for new services.

"There is also no guarantee that the footbridge to the rail station will be upgraded, which we have campaigned about for as long as I can remember. Spenhill are allocating £150,000 to this work, but there does not appear to be any agreement with Network Rail, who own the bridge, to actually carry out the work and in the timeframe needed."

Nigel Quinton, LibDem parliamentary candidate, says "We welcome the proposed development in its concept, and there is no doubt that it will enhance the town centre. But, there is also no doubt in my mind that the developer is taking our Council for a ride. It should be bringing forward a scheme in partnership with a social landlord or housing association and make a far greater financial contribution to the health services and other infrastructure required."

"Many will ask why it has taken the developer and the Council so long to bring this forward when the masterplanning for this site was done when I was a councillor 10 years ago. Those of you with long memories might recall that the masterplan included a swimming pool as part of the leisure facilities, a need which Sport England have also raised in their comments on the plan - WGC remains one of the largest towns in South East England without its own pool."


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.


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.


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