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Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats are standing 18 candidates in wards across the Borough in the Local Elections on May 3rd. Visit our Candidates page to find out more.

Vote for a positive change in Welwyn Hatfield on May 3rd 2018

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Tories "Dumb-down" Building Control


At the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council meeting on Monday 9th April, the Conservative controlled Council finalised their decision to transfer their statutory building control functions to Three Rivers District Council, in the face of strenuous opposition from both the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties. Three Rivers District Council will now carry on this function on WHBC's behalf.

One excerpt of the document under consideration read as follows:

"the original proposal of retaining a qualified building surveyor… to carry out 'sign-offs' and other competent functions has been revised. Instead it is now proposed to employ a non building control qualified individual to carry out such 'sign offs' but with a series of effective checks and balances to ensure quality control is maintained."

Liberal Democrat Councillor, Siobhan Elam, strongly believes this decision to be a mistake. "This is simply not acceptable. The point of a supervisor is that they should know more than the person they are overseeing, not less. They should know the job in question inside out. We have all seen in other national organisations how the introduction of less qualified supervisors has led to a reduction in standards. You cannot effectively supervise work by ticking boxes. Despite the soothing noises made by Conservative councillors that this has been done elsewhere and all will be well, this is another example of the eroding of proper standards in the name of efficiency and cost cutting. In the arena of building control, where people's lives are potentially at risk, and where we have the awful example of Grenfell Tower before us, this should never be contemplated. I urge the Council to think again."


Why vote Lib Dem on May 3rd?

The Tories have been in control of Welwyn Hatfield since 2002. You only have to look around you to see failure after failure. Change is long overdue and the Liberal Democrats can deliver that change.

If you want a council that listens to you and acts in the best interests of Welwyn Hatfleld, vote Liberal Democrat in the local elections on May 3rd 2018.


Council says walk more, drive less - unless you plan to shop at Aldi

How exactly does a Council for a Garden City, that claims to want us all to drive less, allow a major new supermarket to open that has no pedestrian access? How does the County Council's Highways department, which bears the responsibility for reviewing access and travel plans and raising any problems, also fail to notice?

The new Aldi store in Welwyn Garden City opened recently to great fanfare, but residents arriving on foot immediately realised there is no safe way into the site for pedestrians. Customers on foot, wheelchair or mobility scooter are forced to brave the two lanes of traffic entering and exiting the car park.

Lib Dem Councillors responded quickly to concerns raised by residents, speaking with Aldi management and querying both Councils to determine how such a serious oversight could occur. Cllr Malcolm Cowan is leading the push for enforcement action be taken by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to remedy the situation immediately.

The planning application, approved in September 2016, includes a drawing that shows a footway that does not exist - Aldi have failed to provide it, indeed have fenced off where it should be. Other documents submitted, however, do not mention the footway, and the officer's report fails to address pedestrian access at all. The Herts Highways' initial response seemed to rely on access via the vehicular access or the pub.

The entrance to the footway shown on Aldi’s planning applicationThe entrance to the footway shown on Aldi's planning application
Sign at entrance to the pub car park which shares vehicle access with AldiSign at entrance to the pub car park which shares vehicle access with Aldi

The pub does, indeed, have a separate gated pedestrian entrance, but it does not give access to the Aldi car park, and is currently roped off to prevent use.

This is a case of triple failure:

  • Aldi's plans showed a footway, but they failed to provide it;
  • The County should have picked up on that, but they either missed it completely or simply disregarded the safety of pedestrians; and
  • the Borough Council ultimately approved the application, and allowed the store to open without the footway shown in their plan drawing.

Hopefully it will be remedied before any mishaps occur. But both Councils need to examine their policies and practises to ensure that future planning applications put pedestrians higher on the priority list.

County Cllr Dr Barbara Gibson
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Public Health & Community Safety


Full of Holes

Experienced Liberal Democrat councillor, Malcolm Cowan, writes to the Welwyn Hatfield Times to point out that not only are our roads and paths falling apart and full of holes, so too are the tired excuses offered by the Conservatives for their failure to address these widespread problems. These are failings that could potentially put lives at risk.

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times


Dear Sir

Having served 12 years until last May as a LibDem county councillor, specialising in highways issues, I have been following closely the efforts of the local Conservatives to say by implication that potholes only occur in LibDem-held areas and it is in any case the county councillor's fault.

Of course anyone who drives far will see potholes all over Herts and in other counties as well. And there are plenty on the motorways which are run at arms length by the government. So no monopoly of fault.

It is of course totally cynical for a ruling party (the Conservatives) to blame the opposition for anything when it is the budgets, control systems and contractor chosen by the ruling group that dictate performance.

The end of every winter nearly always brings an explosion of potholes, caused by rapid freezing and thawing and we have just had some very cold spells this winter. Or do the Conservatives wish to blame opposition parties for the weather? Add in inadequate maintenance and an almost total lack of supervision of much highways work; and who is responsible for that?

In the case of the highways service, the problems go far beyond potholes - look at the widespread areas of road and footpath flooding every time it rains. Most of the flooded areas were reported as a problem up to 10 years ago, but the highways contractor told me "they are not a priority for us", in other words don't expect any action.

At a slightly smaller level, look at how many zebra crossings and mini-roundabouts have almost lost their markings, bringing a safety risk.

I left the county council very frustrated at the lack of money and poor supervision of the contractors. The chickens have come home to roost this winter and it is those in control who must take the blame, not try to pass it on to those in opposition trying hard to improve things.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Cowan

LibDem councillor

Addendum: There is now a guide on what to do if you see or hit a pothole on the Fix That Hole! page on this site


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?"