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?"

15/12/2017


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...

Read more...

30/11/2017


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.

28/11/2017


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."

27/11/2017


LibDems react to Philip Hammond's budget statement (and the small-print!)

Nigel QuintonToday Philip Hammond had an opportunity to help the British people; but he bottled it.

He could have given much needed money for the NHS, or for Social Care, or for local government which continues to bear the brunt of austerity politics. But that would have upset the hardliners in the Conservative Party, and of course he needs to save even more money to fund Brexit. That £3billion for the costs of Brexit in today's budget is just the tip of the iceberg, but even that could and should be being spent on vital public services.

And most of what he announced seems like smoke and mirrors to us. The stamp duty change will help barely 3500 people, and will likely lead to house price rises, benefitting the property owners, developers and estate agents, not those desperate to buy.

Read the full statement

22/11/2017


Reverse Advent Calendar

Reverse Advent Calendar

Try a different Advent calendar this year!

This year, Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats are supporting our local food banks through a "reverse advent calendar". It's a simple way to support those who need a little extra help during the festive period.

Just put aside a box and on each day of Advent add a food item. It's a great way to reflect the true spirit of Christmas giving. Some of our members will be involving the whole family in choosing items to donate.

Read More

16/11/2017


Does this look fixed?

Malcolm Cowan, LibDem councillor is furious with a response from the county council's highways service. He reported an upturned drain in Heather Rd WGC. The response he got was:

This is an update to the highway fault reported on 06/11/2017 2:20 PM
The reference number is: 201013199114
Fault type: Road and cycle lane
Location: Heather Road, Welwyn Garden City
We have inspected this location and the necessary works have been carried out. No further action is planned.

Ringway FailMalcolm says "As you can see from the 'after' photo, there are lumps of concrete lying around, and the drain has not been re-laid. This is dangerous. The fact the cone has been left there shows work has not been undertaken.

"This is at least the third time in the last couple of years this has happened with faults I have reported - no work done, but claim it is fixed. Probably payment will be made on the basis of the incorrect report.

"When will they learn? I go back and check; what a shame no-one from the contractor Ringway, or from the county council does, otherwise there would not be a problem. Shamefully, I understand the county council are about to extend Ringway's contract without going out to tender. What a farce."

20/11/2017


Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

12/11/2017

Dear Sir

If buses often come long in twos, so it seems do U-turns by our local council. So just days after the welcome U-turn on allowing food waste into the brown bins - where was the justification for banning it, and where is the justification for suddenly changing once the £35 subscriptions were banked, comes another far less welcome, this time on the WGC Estate Management Scheme (EMS). A scheme to help preserve the uniqueness of WGC and stop it being slowly turned into yet another town but increasingly difficult to use.

For years the council has complained about the complexity of EMS and the difficulties of enforcing even-handedly between leaseholders and freeholders. Finally they brought forward plans to replace almost all of the scheme by changing the planning rules, giving us a simple transparent way to help protect the design of the town and equality of enforcement. Everyone was signed up - all 3 political parties, the council's staff, outside heritage bodies. All systems should have been go. Many of us were even hoping it would open the door to make the protected area boundaries more sensible.

But then months of delay, as usual unexplained. Then bombshell, not only is the council sticking with the current EMS, it introduces charges for applications, so in many cases, you will pay twice, once for planning permission, once for EMS permission. Did someone say another stealth tax?

To add insult to injury, WGC councillors representing the areas affected were not consulted, nor the ones who had worked to come up with a better alternative. Just 4 cabinet members were needed to push it through last week, none representing WGC. No prior notice, no debate. And it would seem no budget to publicise and explain the scheme to residents. You really couldn't make it up. Don't the Tories realise what a jewel they have here in WGC and how easily it can be destroyed?

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Cowan

LibDem councillor, Peartree ward


LibDems step in where Council fears to tread

Last weekend Councillors Nigel Quinton and Malcolm Cowan, along with new activists Siobhán Elam, joined with local resident Clive Marlowe to clear up the area behind Howard House, for which nobody seems prepared to take responsibility.

Clive had contacted the team as the rubbish that was collecting was attracting rats, and the Council were saying "nothing to do with us"!

We were able to get the Council to agree to tackle the rat infestation, although as yet we do not know if this has been done, but as the Council deny all responsibility to clear the rubbish, saying it belongs to a company in receivership, we decided we had just better get our sleeves rolled up.

Commenting on the lack of Council response, Cllr Malcolm Cowan said:

"It should not be left to residents to do this just because the Council are unable to tackle the landlord - as the Borough Council they have a responsibility to look after our neighbourhood and ensure that rats are not encouraged to make their home amongst stinking piles of rubbish. I trust the area will not look like this in 2020 when the town celebrates its centenary and people come from all over to see it."

Town Centre LitterBefore we started
Town Centre LitterBefore we started
Malcolm hard at workMalcolm hard at work
The LibDem community litter team – Nigel, Siobhán and MalcolmThe LibDem community litter team - Nigel, Siobhán and Malcolm

06/11/2017


Inspector tells Council it is OK to plan for fewer homes, and that Local Plan is not sound

Local Liberal Democrats have welcomed comments from the government inspector who is conducting the current Examination in Public of the Council's Local Plan that it would be acceptable for the Council to plan to build fewer homes if it felt it was constrained by the Green Belt, and that a further Green Belt Review was required. "This is what we, and many others, have been telling the Council for a long time" says County Councillor Nigel Quinton.

The comments follow the second round of hearings into the soundness of the Local Plan, which covered the calculation of housing need, the overall settlement strategy and the Green Belt. The inspector had begun the week by telling the Council that he did not view the plan as 'sound' in its current form, and he ended the week by confirming that this was still his view, although he felt it could be made sound if the Council did additional work or made amendments.

Councillors Nigel Quinton and Malcolm Cowan both participated in the hearings on behalf of the Welwyn Hatfield LibDem party, who have submitted a considerable number of comments to the various consultations on the Plan over past years.

Commenting on the week's discussions, County Councillor Nigel Quinton said:

"We put forward a number of points for the Inspector to consider, some technical, some matters of principle. In particular we argued that the Plan should focus much more on the very real need for more affordable homes, that the Green Belt should be better protected, and that the Council should be looking to meet its future housing needs by working with its neighbouring Councils to build a new garden city outside the Borough."

Borough Councillor Malcolm Cowan added:

"It was refreshing to hear the Inspector echo our view that the Council did not have to accept that all the homes should be built within the Borough, and that it is perfectly acceptable to argue that more of the Green Belt should remain protected than the council advocated. The Inspector has several times questioned the Council as to why it had not done more to pursue the idea of a new garden city outside of the Borough, and to date we have not heard a convincing reply - clearly the Council should have listened to us before."

31/10/2017


Recycling plummets following brown bin charge

Brown Bin Tax #FailCouncillors were shocked to learn that the recycling rate in Welwyn Hatfield has dropped from 54% last year to 46% this year.

Even worse, the target the council sets itself has dropped even further - from 53% to 42%.

Asked why, the council replied: "The brown bin tax".

Helen Quenet, LibDem councillor, says "This is truly shocking, but all so predictable. When the Brown Bin Tax was being discussed last year, I said it was common sense that not allowing food waste in the brown bins would reduce recycling levels, not just because of food not being included but also because of plastics/containers not being recycled.

"The reasoning behind this was that with us being told to wrap food before it was sent to landfill in the black bins, most people would simply take the option of leaving messy food in containers. Often previously, these containers would have been recycled, as people added the food to the brown bin and washed the containers for recycling. At the time the response of the Conservatives was that this wasn't an issue as people knew how to recycle properly.

"That in 2017 we are going backwards on recycling levels is just unacceptable."

23/10/2017


New plan for Shredded Wheat site cautiously welcomed by LibDems

Shredded Wheat Factory WGCThe new owners of the Shredded Wheat site in WGC unveiled plans to borough councillors last Monday. The plans increase the number of homes planned from 850 to 1471; this allows for 30% of all the homes to be social housing, working in partnership with a Housing Association, a key demand of the LibDems when the previous Spenhill plans were approved earlier in the year.

"This is a phenomenal number of homes, and we are concerned about the density and building heights proposed, but the very welcome increase in social housing proposed should allow for at least one Green Belt site to be removed from the Local Plan" said LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan.

"I was pleased to hear them say they have more ambitious plans to enhance the rusting rail footbridge. They also said they thought Spenhill had 'hoodwinked' the council over this, with around 6 times the amount of money needed than Spenhill and the council had agreed."

County councillor for the area, Nigel Quinton, said "Malcolm and I have already had a tour of the site with the developers, and they have done more in a week to safeguard the site than Spenhill did in all their time here. We will continue to critically review their plans bur are hopeful there will at last be a happy ending for WGC.

"I am especially pleased that this will allow a significant number of affordable homes to be built - one of the chief failings of the Local Plan currently under Inspection is that the Council only expects to build 160 'affordable' homes per year, whereas its own needs assessment says we need to build over 800 a year for the next five years to make up the current shortfall. Of course, we have to make sure these are affordable in practice, and a significant number must be for social rent. Hopefully Mrs May's announcement earlier this week of more money for Council houses might actually be delivered!"

06/10/2017


Wetherspoons goof again

22 ParkwayThe unauthorised and possibly illegal new sign advertising yet another planning application for a pub at 22 Parkway WGC is already drawing criticism.

Wetherspoons did themselves no favours with their 2 previous planning applications - they failed to engage in any way with the public and its representatives, failed to talk to the planners and put in applications so poor they were unanimously rejected both times.

"Have they learned? - it seems not" says Libdem councillor Malcolm Cowan. "Not only does the building look an eyesore under Wetherspoons management, they have plonked up a sign that itself appears to need planning permission and hasn't got it. And they didn't even bother to cut the very long grass surrounding the sign"

If I was Tim Martin - owner of Wetherspoons - I would be putting people out of the door for their incompetence. But the Tories running the council need to have along hard look at themselves - surely the state of the building demands action, not just a few words? Surely no private homeowner would be allowed to let their building become such as eyesore, situated in the heart of the Conservation Area?

02/10/2017