Slower not Faster:
New Rail Timetable under Fire

Class 365 Networker Express in Great Northern liveryThe new rail timetable starting in May and just published has plenty of disadvantages for WGC and Hatfield travellers, says LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan.

"First, the so-called fast trains from Kings Cross will take a new record slow time of 35 minutes compared with 26 or 27 minutes at present; this is a massive slow down with no explanation. Ironically the poster in the cafe on platform 3 at WGC shows pre-war trains taking 23 minutes, so we will be 50% slower from May.

"Secondly, we are losing all trains to and from Peterborough from May. We knew this was coming and it has been widely criticised by the county and borough councils because it will make getting to InterCity trains more difficult and slower. It was supposed to be linked to having our trains go through London to the south via St Pancras, but this will not happen until December 2019, so for 18 months we are doubly disadvantaged.

"Thirdly, unlike now, departures from Kings Cross on Sundays will be at a very different time from other days - 2 minutes past the hour on Sundays, 21 and 51 minutes past the hour on other days. This is bound to cause confusion.

"Because the timetable has been released at the last possible moment allowed (timetables have to be published 3 months before they take effect), there is no chance to get it changed until December. I really did not expect such a bombshell from Govia" he added.


50 bags of litter picked up in Peartree and Handside!

Tamsin Jackson-Mynott, Michal Siewniak and members of the Focolare Community

Last Saturday (10th March), 30 young members of the Focolare Community took part in a mass-litter pick in Handside and Peartree. The young people were at the Focolare Centre for Unity for a weekend themed #BeyondAllBorders where they focused on how to make a positive difference to our environment.

Lib Dem Council Candidate for Peartree, Tamsin Jackson-Mynott and former LibDem Cllr Michal Siewniak arranged a series of litter-picking walks around Peartree and Handside where the young people gathered 50 bags of litter in just under two hours. The equipment was kindly provided by the council. Tamsin commented that the group did really make a difference, and with the build up of litter over time, they could have gone on for twice as long!

Conleth Burns, one of the young people at the weekend, said "it was brilliant to be outdoors and help make Peartree and Handside a more beautiful place!" He wished to say a special thank you to Tamsin, Michal and all the team at the Council who made the litter pick possible!

Focolare Litter PickersFocolare Litter Pickers
Bags of Rubbish from Peartree and HandsideBags of Rubbish


Welwyn Hatfield Lib Dems select next Parliamentary Challenger

Barbara Gibson, Lib Dem PPC for Welwyn HatfieldLiberal Democrat County Councillor Barbara Gibson has been selected to fight the next General Election for the Lib Dems. She was confirmed as the Party's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Welwyn Hatfield by local party members at a specially convened meeting on 28th February.

Barbara was elected as County Councillor for Haldens Division in Welwyn Garden City last May. A former university lecturer and business woman, Barbara is a relative newcomer to politics, joining the Liberal Democrats less than two years ago.

"To me, this feels like a natural extension of what I'm already doing here in Welwyn Hatfield," said Barbara. "All the issues that affect us locally are inextricably linked to national politics, from the huge cuts to local government funding, to the impact that a hard Brexit will have on our businesses, our jobs and our lives. I'm very grateful to have this opportunity to fight on behalf of Welwyn Hatfield residents to ensure our interests are represented properly."

Nigel Quinton, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate in the 2017 General Election, has offered his full support to Barbara: "Barbara has a special talent and will make a fantastic MP for Welwyn Hatfield - someone who truly listens to local people and will work hard to make their voices heard."

A native of Oklahoma, USA, Barbara has lived in the UK since 2002, and in Welwyn since 2005. She became a UK citizen in 2011. She holds a PhD in Intercultural Communication from Birkbeck, University of London.


Have your say on Parking

Click to complete surveyWhen we speak to people on the doorstep, parking is an issue that often comes up and it is clear that in large parts of Welwyn Hatfield, there is insufficient parking provision for today's car-owning society. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has started a consultation on parking in the area to try to gain a better insight into specific parking issues that residents have. They have launched an on line survey where you can let them know specifically what problems you are experiencing with parking in your street. It's a simple survey that only takes a few minutes to complete so please do take the time to fill it and the Council know your views.


Address to the full budget meeting of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council

Helen Quenet, Monday 5th February 2018

QuoteThank you Madam Deputy Mayor.

The approach of the end of the financial year, is a good time to review any organisation. To look at what has gone well, and what needs to be improved upon. Here are four things in which we should aspire to do better in 2018/19.

Issue 1: Better internal communication

For example, the cross-party, Rat Scrutiny Committee was unaware until an article was published in the Welwyn Hatfield Times this week, that there is a major (£16,000) rat reduction initiative underway in Hatfield. If we are to scrutinise effectively we need to know what is already happening, otherwise we waste time.

Issue 2: Hatfield Nightshelter

This has been a fantastic initiative, with many really positive changes made to the lives of people in our homeless community. Massive credit needs to be give to Lynne Sparks for her work to make this initiative a success. But the Nightshelter closes in March, so now is the time for a full and honest review.



Unhappy New Year for Rail Travellers

Class 365 Networker Express in Great Northern liveryThe start of the New Year has yet again brought fare rises well above wage growth as the Tory government see rail users as easy target. LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan says "While the private rail companies force passengers to endure over-crowding day after day, their chiefs pocket millions in pay and bonuses".

Great Northern users have seen delays time after time - the official figures show 24% of all trains on Great Northern are officially late i.e. more than 5 minutes late - nearly twice the rate on nearby Thameslink trains. But, as the poster on the footbridge at WGC station shows, the proportion actually arriving on time is much lower - just 31% arrived on time at Kings Cross last month, and 40% at Cambridge; and this does allow for the trains that skip Hatfield and WGC to catch up time, leaving passengers stranded.

"At minimum we should get a fares freeze, on a value for money basis there should be a reduction" said Malcolm.


Lecture at the Polish University in Lublin

Michal Siewniak and Assistant Professor Katarzyna Radzik - Maruszak at Lublin University with StudentsFormer Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrat councillor, Michal Siewniak, was contacted few months ago by Assistant Professor Katarzyna Radzik - Maruszak, from a University in Lublin, Poland. Mrs. Katarzyna Radzik - Maruszak is writing her dissertation on Local Government (LG) in the UK and she wanted to talk to current and former councillors from Hertfordshire.

She was really pleased that some Polish people (still not enough!) are keen to be part of the democratic process. Being part of public life is so important and it shows that EU nationals contribute in many different ways, also by becoming a 'civic voice' for their residents. Following a visit to the UK, Mrs Katarzyna Radzik - Maruszak invited Michal on a return visit to meet her students who study politics at UMCS in Lublin in the South East of Poland.

Michal Siewniak said: "I was delighted to come to Poland and give a lecture on the subject of Local Government in the UK which took place on Wednesday, 13 December. It went really well! I had an opportunity to talk to a superb group of students (35) who were very eager to learn more about the political process in the UK, Welwyn Hatfield, canvassing, Liberal Democrats and my experience (as a Polish migrant) of standing and winning a seat.



Welhat LibDems celebrate Handside Landslide

Yesterday Siobhán Elam was elected as the new Liberal Democrat Councillor in Handside Ward with 52.4% of the vote, taking over from Rachel Basch who had had to resign having been promoted into a politically restricted role in the Civil Service.

Newly elected Handside Councillor Siobhán Elam and the winning team at the count

Siobhán, who only joined the party this year and has not been involved in politics before, said: "I'm delighted to have been elected tonight to serve the people of Handside. I am looking forward to doing everything within my power to make sure that I do justice to the confidence that people have placed in me. It is such an honour to represent my neighbours in this way and I want to thank everyone who has made this possible."

The Conservatives, who in 2016 won two out of the three seats in Handside, and a significantly higher overall vote share, had complained that the election should not have been called and the seat left vacant until May. Commenting on this, Liberal Democrat Group leader Malcolm Cowan had this to say: "This was an election the Conservatives increasingly showed they didn't want to happen and we can now see why - despite the massive resources they brought in, Handside has spoken loud and clear. On these figures the Conservatives will be out of power in May and the Liberal Democrats will be leading the charge. Labour put in a big effort too, and their vote dropped even lower than it was in 2016."

County Councillor Nigel Quinton, who won the Handside & Peartree seat with 48% of the vote in May also commented: "It will be marvellous working with Siobhán who has shown herself to be a brilliant candidate and I am sure will be a great councillor for Handside. It was though rather sad to see the Conservative Councillors, and their MP, complaining about the cost of the by-election - actually about 8p per Borough resident; wasn't it the Conservative party that spent £113 million of tax-payers money on an unnecessary and cynical General Election in June?"


Heartless Tories ignore facts

Hertfordshire Lib Dems Press Release

"Conservatives heartless to ignore facts", say Lib Dems over decision to close Cuffley Camp outdoor centre.

In spite of a last-minute bid by the Liberal Democrat opposition on Hertfordshire County Council to save Cuffley Camp, the fate of the outdoor centre looks to have been sealed after Conservatives councillors refuse to reconsider their decision to close it.

The future use of Cuffley Camp was cut short by the nine Conservative councillors of the council's Cabinet, who agreed earlier in the month that the council should pay an undisclosed sum of money to withdraw from its lease agreements, leaving the tax-payer with a hefty bill reported to be over a million pounds.

A intervention by Liberal Democrat councillors secured a review of this decision, forcing a special meeting of the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee, held yesterday. Leader of the Opposition Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst argued that the Cabinet had failed in its duty to give full and proper consideration to the facts of the decision...



End of Finesse not a surprise say LibDems

Hatfield Swim CentrePapers to next week's Cabinet meeting show that Finesse, a company wholly-owned by the council, who run various leisure facilities in the borough - Hatfield Swim Centre and Leisure Centre, Stanborough Park, KGV playing fields, Panshanger golf course, Moneyhole and Digswell playing fields - are handing over the running to Greenwich Leisure, who recently took over the Gosling facilities.

There has been rising discontent about Finesse's performance, both administrative and financial, among the public and councillors. This change is long overdue. Having several Conservative councillors on their board does not seem to have improved them" said LibDem group leader Malcolm Cowan. "When they were set up, they did not get to manage all the leisure facilities - Gosling, Campus West and Birchwood were all kept in other hands, so they failed to get economies of scale. And as time went on, the other leisure owners were keen to keep their facilities out of Finesse's hands. So they were in no position to go elsewhere to take on other districts leisure contracts.

"We have to hope the contracts allow the council to have a say in how the sites are run, and are not sacrificed to the greater glory of Greenwich, who are a massive operation" he added.


Councillors to probe rat issues

RatLiberal Democrat Councillors on Welwyn Hatfield Borough warmly welcome the agreement of the other parties to a Scrutiny being held into the numerous problems with rats across the Borough. The request for the scrutiny was tabled by the Liberal Democrats.

LibDem Cllr Helen Quenet who will sit on the scrutiny group said "I tabled a Freedom of Information request recently, which showed that 443 council-subsidised rodent treatments had been carried out across the Borough during the year from Sept 2016, however this figure underestimates the size of the problem as many people will have rodent infestations treated privately. It is clearly a major problem.

"During my time as a Councillor I have become very aware both of specific areas which seem to have disproportionate rat activity and individual cases where the presence of rats has caused great distress to residents. A scrutiny like this, gives all the parties a chance to examine an issue in depth and to research successful initiatives carried out in other areas of the country and indeed world. Such cross party working to my mind is the most constructive way forward in many areas of the Borough's work."