News Archive: 2016

Rural footpath streetlights switched back on after Paul intervenes

County Councillor Paul Zukowskyj has managed to get some streetlights on a rural footpath switched back on all night after receiving requests from local residents in Welham Green.

The footpath, which links northern Welham Green with South Hatfield, is heavily used by shiftworkers getting to and from work at Tesco's warehouse and other business locations in the area.

Shiftworkers using the route to get back and forth to work were having problems because the route was so dark. There were also partial obstructions that were difficult to see and navigate in the dark.


Give us a Xmas present please, says Malcolm Cowan

A call on Herts County Council to give residents a Xmas present of repaired road signs has been made by county councillor Malcolm Cowan. "All over the district we see signs knocked down but not repaired. It makes the area look very neglected as well as harder for motorists to navigate" he says.

"There is also a danger aspect - the signs may be just off the road but anyone losing control or having to swerve could face serious damage. The county council keeps saying they will be fixed, but when? The sign in Waterside has been down for around 2 years, the one in Osborn Way since April, as reported by the WHT at the time, now we have others in Broadwater Rd and Stanborough Rd.


LibDems call for rail fare freeze

News that rail fares are due to rise yet again, some by significantly more than inflation, just as some services are being reduced still further, has been met with dismay by the local Liberal Democrats.

Nigel Quinton, recently selected to be their candidate if there were to be a snap General Election, had this to say:

"It is ironic that Govia have sought to make light of the increase by highlighting improvements in their Delay Repay scheme. What passengers want is a service that does not have delays! Unfortunately, as a regular rail user myself, I am only too aware that delays are the norm not the exception.


Lib Dems eye local victories after stunning by-election win

The Liberal Democrats are aiming for big gains in Hertfordshire following the party's sensational victory in the Richmond Park by-election last week (Dec 1st).

Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney (pictured with party Leader, Tim Farron) overturned a 23,000 majority to win the Richmond Park seat with 49% of the vote, beating former Conservative Zac Goldsmith into second place, with Labour's candidate losing his deposit with just 3.7%.


Campaigners force stay of execution on gritting cuts after county foul up

Plans by Conservative controlled Hertfordshire County Council to cut 608 roads, including 57 that served primary or infant schools from its winter gritting routes in event of snow or very cold nights being forecast, have been postponed till next year.

These cuts had been voted through, against Liberal Democrat opposition. Lib Dem Cllr Tim Williams (second from right) delivered a petition from 662 residents signatures against these cuts and forced a new debate on the subject at the County Council's December Highways Panel


Parliament Week goes to school

On Friday, 18th November, to mark Parliament Week (a UK-wide programme of events and activities that inspire, engage and connect people with parliamentary democracy and processes), Year 12 and 13 students from the Onslow St Audrey's Secondary School and Bishop's Hatfield Girls' School had the opportunity to listen to several presentations about the Houses of Parliament and the importance of being 'civically active' and 'politically minded'.

One of the speakers was Michal Siewniak, former Lib Dem district cllr and a founder of the Welwyn Hatfield Polish Forum.


Rail User Groups highlight Short-comings of new rail timetable

Rail user groups covering all the Great Northern Mainline stations in Welwyn Hatfield - Welwyn North, WGC, Hatfield, Welham Green and Brookmans Park - have come together to register their concern over Govia Railway's draft timetable to start in 2018. Amongst the various concerns, the following issues were specifically highlighted in a recent press release:

Stopping of services from Hatfield, WGC and Welwyn North to Peterborough. 'Peterborough is now the main InterCity railhead for Herts, as well as being a destination in itself, yet we lose all trains there. Even worse, the connection time at Stevenage will be 8 minutes northbound and an astonishing 23 minutes southbound' said spokesman for the user groups Malcolm Cowan.


#LibDemFightback in Haldens by-election

Local LibDems are celebrating despite not winning in the Haldens by election, as they finished just 70 votes short of the successful Conservative candidate, and just 17 behind Labour, despite finishing a distant 4th in May.

Nigel Quinton, recently selected to be their candidate if there were to be a snap General Election, had this to say:

"Our candidate Anthony Dennis did really well to finish so close at his very first attempt to be elected. Anthony only got involved in politics this year and wants to improve the area he lives in. He is just the sort of person we need in politics, who really understands what is important for local people such as himself."


Council obstructs reporting blocked gulleys

Hertfordshire Liberal Democrat county councillors have challenged the Conservative administration at County Hall about its repeated failings over highways gulley cleansing.

At last week's County Council meeting, County Councillor Chris White (St Albans Central) highlighted the fact that he had already flagged up 20 entirely blocked gulleys in his division and was working on a further ten.

He said: 'For some unknown reason, it is not possible to report these as highways faults. It is high time they could be reported on-line like any other problem.'


Hertfordshire Highways Contractor's Million Pound Fines

The figures were revealed following an investigation by Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst show that Herts County Council's main highways contractor, Ringway has been 'fined' or issued penalties that total £1,074,052 from October 2012 till April 2016. During that time Ringway has received £158m in council tax papers money to undertake road repairs, maintenance and road safety work.

Cllr Giles-Medhurst said "Fines or deductions of a million pounds for failing to carry out work is a lot of hard cash. This includes strict penalties for not dealing with emergency repairs in time. Frankly I am disappointed and staggered at the amounts involved here. Whist there have been some improvements in performance in the last year, Ringway was still fined over £275,000 in 2015/16."


Hertfordshire Council stops gritting more roads

Conservative-run Hertfordshire County Council has been accused of seeking to hide cuts to winter gritting routes from 245 affected schools.

Despite Liberal Democrat opposition the County Council decided on 12th September to remove 49km of roads from its pre snow winter gritting routes. This is affecting up to 245 schools meaning the roads those schools are on would only be gritted after prolonged snow fall and not before as they were last year.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst who opposed that move at the Highway Panel has since found out that the schools affected have still not been told. Stephen visited one affected school just before half term to be told they had no idea about the cut and were worried about the effect it would have them opening in the event of snow.


Response to Local Plan Consulation

The final consultation on the Welwyn Hatfield local plan has now closed and our Liberal Democrat group submitted comments which are available to view from the links on the right, or on the Welwyn Hatfield Planning Consultation Portal, but this is a summary of what we think of the draft plan.

Sadly our council has shown no vision in trying to meet the need for new housing, especially affordable housing. They have washed their hands of any leadership role, and rely on local landowners to bring sites forward. There has been scant regard for the required infrastructure, whether existing or future.


Nigel Quinton to fight next election for buoyant Lib Dems

As the party conference season draws to a close with both Labour and Conservatives talking about an early General Election, Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats have selected local campaigner Nigel Quinton as the Liberal Democrat candidate in any snap election.

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


Anthony Dennis - a strong voice for Haldens

A by-election has been called for Haldens ward on Thursday 17th November 2016. The local party is delighted that Anthony is standing as our candidate. We have seen his commitment, drive and passion for change since joining the party and know that he will make a fantastic Councillor for the local people in Haldens.

These are Anthony's words on what issues he would like to tackle as a Councillor:

"As a resident of the Haldens area there are many things I really value about living here. A really important one for me is all the green space and amenities we have literally on our doorsteps. I would want us all to work together to protect these green spaces and the unique character of Welwyn Garden City. I am also keen to work hard to fight to safeguard public services, and wherever possible enhance them, to make Haldens an even better place for us all.


County council hopes for mild winter as gritting routes to schools are abandoned

Recently released maps show the extent to which Herts County Council has shrunk its snow gritting routes. 'All the primary schools in Handside and Peartree - Applecroft, Our Lady, Holwell and Peartree schools - have come off the 'precautionary' routes, where salting and gritting takes place before frost or snow is forecast' says local LibDem county councillor Malcolm Cowan.

Now they will only be treated after the frost or snow, provided of course that the vehicles can get through.

Roads dropped from the 'precautionary' salting routes include not only Holwell Road, Woodhall Lane and most of Peartree Lane, but also High Oaks Road, at the bottom of which a new zebra crossing is being installed to protect children, Brockswood Lane, Mill Green Road and parts of Guessens Road and Handside Lane. The status of Applecroft Rd is unclear, having been omitted from the map of routes, but Malcolm has been assured its status has not changed.


Peartree Health MOT event

Families were invited to attend a FREE health and wellbeing event in Welwyn Garden City which took place on Wednesday 26th October 2016 between 10 am - 3 pm.It was held at Peartree Pomegranate Cafe, Woodhall Lane.

The event was initiated by the Welwyn Garden City Children's Centre Group and has been organised in partnership with many local agencies including: AGE UK, Mind in Mid Herts, Herts Sport Partnership, Herts Aid, Resolve, Butterflies, Gosling Park and many more. It was held to help local people from all communities get support and advice on health issues and enjoying a healthy lifestyle, in a friendly, welcoming environment.


76th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

On the 15th September we were celebrating the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, which united British and Polish pilots in the common struggle against the ominous Nazi threat. The fierce aerial battle between the RAF and the German Luftwaffe was crucial to the Allied triumph over the Third Reich. During those events Polish pilots established an unparalleled reputation for courage, commitment and extraordinary effectiveness in combat.

On the 15th of September, the organisation Hurricane of Hearts (HoH) has ensured that at Polish stores, service establishments and institutions across London - we will be able to find stickers with a white and red chequered pattern. This sign is a timeless symbol of Polish pilots who fought in the ranks of the RAF to defend the borders of their ally, Britain.


WGC fire station saved - for now

The recent demand from Herts County Council for the site of the WGC fire station in Bridge Rd East to be designated for housing has now been rejected by the borough council. The county council's previous hope was that both WGC and Hatfield fire stations would become housing sites, forcing both stations to close and one new fire station to replace them.

Malcolm Cowan. LibDem county councillor had opposed these plans as they would reduce the ability of the fire crews to get quickly to key sites such as the WGC industrial areas, and eastern WGC.


More Control over Hertfordshire Buses?

Time for Hertfordshire to benefit from London-style bus operating

Sandy Walkington, Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson on the county council, gained unanimous all-party support when he proposed a motion that the county council seize the bus franchising opportunities offered by the Bus Services Bill.

"Currently in Hertfordshire the county council has almost no power over bus services apart from the ability to subsidise certain routes. Much of the county is a bus desert. In other parts, it can be like the Wild West. Those of us outside London have always looked enviously at the way London is allowed to run bus services," Sandy said. "The Bus Services Bill currently going through Parliament now offers the potential for a London approach in Hertfordshire.


Time for Govia to go Figure

Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst has welcomed the county council's letter to new Rail Minister Paul Maynard MP calling on him to get a grip on the appalling rail services offered to Hertfordshire commuters by Govia Thameslink on the St Albans and Welwyn-Stevenage routes.

"This letter was prompted by LibDem questions at County Hall," Stephen said. "Enough must be enough for our hard-pressed commuters. And the same company's disastrous performance on its Southern franchise leading to huge cuts in scheduled services has had a knock-on effect for Watford through to Tring as well."

LibDem transport spokesperson Sandy Walkington added, "Govia needs to go figure what running a passenger railway is about, or it's time for the Government to step in and remove the franchise."


County Council Unites Round Lib Dem Motion Condemning Hate Crime

Unity broke out at the most recent County Council meeting as a Lib Dem motion condemning racist attacks and hate crime was seconded by the Conservatives and Labour spoke strongly in favour.

Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst called on the council to publicly condemn all acts of racism and hatred and to ensure that local bodies and programmes have the support and resources to tackle the issue. The motion received unanimous support.

The Conservatives seconded the motion and the Labour Group Leader spoke in support of it. All county councillors present voted in favour of it.


Peartree Fun Day

Our huge efforts paid off! Our annual Peartree Fun Day was, without a doubt, probably the best so far.

At least 800 people came to the Woodhall Community Centre to enjoy a rich variety of games, stalls, entertainment and sports demonstrations.

Former borough councillor Michal Siewniak, the principal organiser, said: "We have planned and delivered one of the best, if not the best, Peartree Fun Days ever. The place was truly buzzing. People had so much to do, inside and outside. Mobile stadium, Irish School of Dancing, Holwell and Our Lady's Primary Schools, raffle prizes, fencing and martial art demonstration meant that the event had so much to offer.


Borough Council shows what Garbage in, Garbage Out really means

On Monday 4th July, newly elected Cllr Helen Quenet attended her first Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

As someone used to working with statistics, after 16 years of client work in the NHS and also as a local secondary school governor of 6 years standing, she was very surprised that the reports given to Councillors are far below the standard she would have expected.

One interesting revelation came from comparing the Council report for missed bin collections in Q4 with the report provided by SERCO. SERCO admit to missing 3050 bins in January 15/16 "due to a shortage of drivers and vehicle breakdowns". In Performance Indicator 20 from the EOSC report, the number of missed bins during Q4 is reported as 618, however, this figure is only the sum of "customer reported" bins for Q4. If the number of bins that SERCO themselves report having missed (Fig 4 Serco Report) is added in, the total is a stunning 4238 (nearly 7 times the figure given to Councillors in the EOSC report).


Lib Dems call for County to think again about cuts to homelessness support

The Liberal Democrats at Tuesday's County Council meeting called for the Conservative administration to think again about its proposals to cut support for people with homelessness problems.

Lib Dem spokesperson County Councillor Ron Tindall said: 'The homeless in our society are not voters, they often exist in the twilight of our communities, isolated, and often difficult to reach.

'But it is a measure of a civilised society how we care for those less fortunate than ourselves. Many have mental health issues or learning difficulties and I do find it disappointing that shortly before the homeless motion was debated, the council passed unanimously a motion on the need to give greater attention to mental health.


Lib Dems sound alarm bells over day care changes

Liberal Democrats have expressed concern about the County Council's plans to cut day services for some groups in the county, on which it has begun consulting.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Adult Care Services County Councillor Ron Tindall comments:

'I urge all users and carers to respond to this consultation and demonstrate the overwhelming need for day services to improve, not be cut. We know that Government cuts have forced the County Council to look at where to spend their diminishing resources, but we call upon the Council to fund day care services fully from the millions they are tucking away for a rainy day: Conservative councillors need to wake up - it is already raining.


Yellow or cream - highways staff don't know the difference

When Wigmores North was resurfaced a few weeks ago, highways contractors laid new yellow lines that should have been a slightly lighter shade known as primrose, because it is a Conservation Area. Called back, they then painted them almost white, and have stated several times since that they can't see the difference between this and yellow.

So because they are not yellow, the borough council has had to stop handing out any tickets for parking offences there because motorists could reasonably say they are not yellow parking lines.

'You don't know whether to laugh or cry' said Liberal Democrat county councillor Malcolm Cowan. 'The amount of money wasted and the inability to see how different cream is from yellow, you wonder if they should be let out on the streets alone.'


The life after Brexit - what next for the EU migrants?

So…The British people have voted. It was close however the message is clear - 'we want our country back, we want to control our borders, we will be better off outside the EU'.

I found out about the result on sunny morning in Rome where I was attending an interesting meeting of people who are involved in public and civic life. As you can imagine, I was inundated with questions from people from Italy, Spain, Argentina, Slovenia or even South Korea.

As an EU migrant, someone who doesn't hold the British citizenship, I have been part of the referendum debate for quite some time. I couldn't vote, but I was very keen to get the reasons behind staying across.


Shamefully incompetent Serco strike again

On Tuesday 14th June, Serco operatives working for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council collected black bins from Chelwood Avenue and surrounding streets as scheduled.

The very same morning, Serco operatives also working for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council cut the grass verges.

So what's the problem? Apparently, the grass cutting operatives are unable to move the bins placed on the grass verges by residents for collection as demanded by council policy, so they simply cut around them, leaving 6" tall patches of grass uncut.


Is fixing Roads 'less important' than topping up reserves?

Conservative-led County Council decided on Thursday, 13th June, to spend £4.2m left over from 2015/16 on topping up reserves instead of using it to fix our roads and preventing flooding.

Recently areas around Hertfordshire have suffered flash flooding again, causing even more misery of residents.

Lib Dems and Labour representatives on the Resources and Performance Cabinet Panel asked why flooding and poor roads maintenance were not being funded, but the ruling Conservatives decided to put every penny into reserves instead.


Lib Dem success in local elections

The Liberal Democrats have made a net gain of 12 councillors across Hertfordshire in the local elections. The highlight being Watford where the party took back seven seats from Labour and the Conservative.

David Davies, chair of Hertfordshire Liberal Democrats said "I welcome the news that as a party the Liberal Democrats are fighting back and winning for local residents across the County. We were the only party to make net gains in Herts. showing we are winning back voters in our towns and villages."


Hertfordshire Police Commissioner Election Result

The result of the Hertfordshire was as follows

1st Choice Vote

  1. Conservative 42% down 4%
  2. Labour 27% down 2%
  3. Liberal Democrats 16% up 2%
  4. UKIP 14% up 3%

Turnout 29%


Chris White Plans to Tackle Crimes Against Women

Older Women Feel Unsafe Walking Alone

The Office of National Statistics Crime Survey for England and Wales from March 2015 suggests that more than one in five women in the oldest age category (75+) said they felt very unsafe walking alone in the dark.

Younger Women have faced harassment

A YouGov survey of 1,650 British adults reported that as high as 85% of women under 25 had been harassed sexually in public spaces.


Restore Democratic Control to Police Commissioner Role

Chris White the Liberal Democrat candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner has said that if he is elected he will restore democratic control over the role. Currently meetings are mostly behind closed doors or in front of a pointless panel that has no real power.

Chris said "If I am elected there will be a committee of councillors from across the county invited to challenge my proposals and to agree, amend or oppose them. This will meet in public and its meetings will be available on webcam online."


Three Reasons to Vote for Liberal Democrat Chris White as the Next Police & Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire

Sound Finance, Solid Experience - Chris White, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner in Hertfordshire

Chris White is Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on St Albans Council and has been a Hertfordshire county councillor since 1993. He has built a reputation as a formidable campaigner.

1. Chris is a local and experienced councillor who was a member of the Police Authority for seven years


Bus cuts letter

Dear Sir

Anyone who thought the round of bus cuts brought about by yet another cut in financial support by the county council in February was now complete has had a rude awaking. Users in Codicote are up in arms about cuts there, and now the 366 from Hatfield and WGC to Luton is being abandoned on Saturdays, apart from a start of day and end of day journey.

Despite the county council constantly saying cross-county routes need to be improved, they are allowing this cross-county route to wither and die. Never mind that Luton is bigger than any town in Herts, nor that it has a major airport, nor that it has a well-supported football team drawing thousands, it is not important enough for a service from mid-Herts.


Conservatives cut local highways budgets

The Conservatives running Herts County Council pushed through a cut of over 11% from the local highways budget of £90,000. This £90,000 was allocated to County Councillors to get local roads and pavements resurfaced that the County would not otherwise do. It's now been cut.

The cut was voted through at a County Cabinet meeting on Monday, at which no opposition members are allowed to speak. No mention was made of this cut in this year's County Council budget that the Conservatives voted through.


Closure of rail ticket offices rejected by passenger watchdogs

The plans by local train operator Govia for closing ticket offices outside the morning rush hour and relying on 'Station Hosts' has been rejected by both rail watchdogs, London Travelwatch, whose brief covers London and its surrounds out to Hitchin, and Transport Focus, which covers the rest of the Govia network.

London Travelwatch received over 8000 responses including almost 150 from WGC and Hatfield. They concluded 'In the light of the uncertainty and the additional feedback we have received, the Board felt that it was not able to support the proposals at the moment. It suggests GTR should develop a more considered proposal which could be piloted at a few carefully chosen stations.'


Chris White pledges 'No' to fire service merger

Chris White has made a firm pledge to oppose any attempts to merge the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service with the Police Service.

Chris said: 'It is high time we had evidence-based politics in this country - not centrally imposed dogma. The Fire Service is fine where it is - part of the County Council where it prevents and fights fires and undertakes rescues with consummate skill. Anyone who saw the magnificent performance at Buncefield a few years ago knows this.


Liberal Democrats say local people have lost patience with Herts County Council over highways

The Liberal Democrat group in Hertfordshire has submitted a motion to next week's County Council meeting condemning the record of the highway contractors employed by the Council since 2012.

Councillors state that there is a catalogue of issues which have caused irritation right across the county and are calling for a review of their record on the £40 million a year contract.

Cllr Malcolm Cowan who is seconding the motion said: 'We are so fed up with the performance of the highways contractors - Ringway and others.


Contractor to be paid twice to clean up our roads

Herts County Council are set to agree an emergency £3m programme to tidy up the sides of the county's highways - measures such as cleaning road signs , cutting back vegetation that obscures the signs, repainting white lines and clearing drains. But Liberal Democrat county councillor Malcolm Cowan says these ae things the contractor should be doing anyway. 'Many of these are things local residents tell me are annoying them. Not repainting white lines is a safety issue, for example.

'I discovered there are no penalties for not doing these things, so surprise, surprise, they get ignored, under a maintenance regime that gives the contractor enormous scope to pick and choose what they actually do'.


Rail company ticket office closure concern letter

Dear Sir

The recent announcement by our rail company that they plan to close ticket offices at the stations such as WGC and Hatfield is worrying.

It is of course welcome that they hope to have staff available all the time the station is open, but the lengthy queues at our booking offices show that they provide a vital service which machines do not always do.

There are a host of tickets you can currently only buy at a booking office, such as:

  • tickets for after tomorrow
  • tickets for journeys from other than the purchasing station
  • add-on tickets
  • advance purchase tickets and reservations
  • and others such as the little-known 50% off local journeys if you have a Herts or Beds bus pass


Breakthrough bus shelter open for business

WGC's, if not Hertfordshire's most innovative bus shelter was finally open for passengers recently.

Situated near Sainsbury's in Church Road, WGC, it was the brainchild of local LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan.

'I saw the large ornamental frame near the bus stop which I got put in a couple of years ago, and realised its flat top made it ideal to take a plastic sheet as cover and turn it into a bus shelter, at a fraction of the cost of a normal shelter, and with no visible impact.


Peartree cooking project

In March 2015, Peartree cllrs were able to access the remaining community chest funding to deliver some projects which could benefit the local community. Even though the scheme has not been re-ntroduced this year, we have managed to run a number of fantastic initiatives which helped us to engage effectively with our residents.

We recognised and still recognise that one of the biggest challenges for us, local providers and agencies, is to address the health inequality. Peartree experiences a number of issues which include: shorter life expectancy, childhood obesity, and a low level of physical activity.