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


Christmas decorations
Christmas Makes for both adults and children

Come and make some of the things you see here...

  • Tree Decorations
  • Mobiles
  • Christmas Wreaths
  • Table Decorations
  • Danish Decorations - a specialty!

Free event (but donations towards materials much appreciated).

Tea and coffee provided

All welcome

Please email Lynda if you are coming.

WHEN

November 25, 2017 at 3:30pm - 5:30pm

WHERE

The Cockaigne
69 The Ryde
Hatfield AL9 5DN

Google map and directions

CONTACT

Lynda Cowan - lynda.cowan@virgin.net


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


Government threatens even higher housing target for Welwyn Hatfield

Just as Welwyn Hatfield faces an Examination in Public into its flawed Local Plan, the government has now announced another vacuous target for house building. The Tories' previous stated aim was to see 200,000 homes built per year, they now want this to be 250,000. Last year (2016/17) only 147,000 were built.

The impact on Welwyn Hatfield is likely to be that instead of needing 800 homes per year across the Borough, we need 877 per year. This in an area where 79% of the land is Green Belt, which the government wants protected into the future. Yet next-door Hertsmere, which has exactly the same proportion of Green Belt land as Welwyn Hatfield, is given a 38% cut in its allocation.

The justification for the increase - compared to the massive cut in nearby Hertsmere - is the high house prices here. Malcolm Cowan, Welwyn Hatfield LibDem group leader says "But absolutely nothing is proposed to help build more affordable homes here - no extra powers, and no money. What we would get would be more 'luxury' homes dragging people in from other parts of the south-east, as more sprawl eats into our precious countryside."

County councillor Nigel Quinton says "We need a joined up approach to building the truly affordable homes we need, and building fully functioning communities, not just more and more executive homes and massive profits for the developers. We have long called for a new garden city in Hertfordshire rather than stretching our existing towns to breaking point. It is time our Council and the Tory government actually addressed the needs of our communities, and stopped pandering to the big developers."

20/09/2017


Police and Crime Commissioner's grab for fire service slammed from all sides

The attempt by Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd to also take over fire services in Herts has met all party opposition as Herts County Council voted unanimously against, despite David Lloyd having been the Conservative ruling group's deputy leader until recently.

Welwyn Hatfield council, also under Tory control, saw its cabinet vote against, as did the all-party Social Overview Committee.

"This is an unprecedented snub for the PCC. Clearly councillors have made a decision on the facts of the case, which was very weak, and I totally welcome that" said local LibDem leader Malcolm Cowan.

"I imagine councillors were also worried about the same cuts being visited on the fire service that the police have suffered. I know David wanted to close down both WGC and Hatfield fire stations; thankfully that threat has subsided as Welwyn Hatfield council voted to stop the sites being zoned for housing.

"What is important now is for the government to respect and act upon the clearly expressed views of local representatives, rather than the county's MPs, who couldn't wait to rubber-stamp David Lloyd's power grab."

Barbara Gibson, County Councillor for Haldens Division, and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Community Safety, commented: "In spite of the unsupported claims of David Lloyd, the evidence does not show that moving the fire service would result in ANY benefits, financial or otherwise. In my view this proposal is not in the interests of public safety."

11/09/2017


3.6% fare rise gets short shrift

The planned 3.6% rise in fares next January has got a strong reaction from local Liberal Democrats.

LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan says:

"Here in Welwyn Hatfield, we will be paying more for less. This line has always featured as one of the most expensive in Britain, a country which has among the highest fares in the world. Currently the operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is being rated the worst in Britain, and from next year, our service is going to get slower, will be less frequent from some stations (Brookmans Park and Welham Green, less convenient (ending of trains to Peterborough) and in many cases the trains will have fewer seats than now.

"Meanwhile the motorway is almost at a standstill every day, just a mile from a rail line that could and should be carrying many of the commuters if the service was better and cheaper.

"Frankly, we should be getting a reduction, not an increase, at least until a proper service is restored.

I am launching a petition against these raises and poorer service, at stop the rail fare rise."

Stop the Rail Fare Rises

We, as citizens of Welwyn Hatfield, are opposed to yet another fare rise in 2018, against a background of poor service and a worse future timetable.

We call on HM government to exempt users of Great Northern from the rise because of the low levels of punctuality and customer satisfaction compared with other lines.

We call on GTR to reverse its planned cuts to local services, reinstate trains to Peterborough, and increase train frequency.

Sign the petition NOW, at stoptherailfarerise.org.uk

23/08/2017


History repeats itself, first time as tragedy, second time as farce

History is repeating itself very quickly as yet again, many of the district's recycling bins are overflowing. Only a couple of weeks after LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan highlighted the problem, both through the WHT and at a council meeting, the council's promises to fix the issue have turned to dust.

As of last week, almost every paper bin was full or overflowing, and also many of the plastics bins.

"If Serco can't manage emptying them, it's time the job was taken away and given to someone else" said Malcolm. "It a pretty basic service, but yet again they have been found wanting. We know the contract the Tories signed up to doesn't allow for any penalties, which is bonkers, at least we should take the work away. And are the Tories still sure they are worth the 66% pay raise they gave themselves earlier in the year?"

Someone famously said "History repeats itself, first time as tragedy, second time as farce". Maybe they foresaw Welwyn Hatfield council's failures.

Overflowing Recycling Bins: Hilltop [Aug 2017]Hilltop
Overflowing Recycling Bins: Waitrose [Aug 2017]Waitrose
Overflowing Recycling Bins: Church Road [Aug 2017]Church Road
Overflowing Recycling Bins: Woodhall [Aug 2017]Woodhall

20/08/2017