News Archive: 2017

Lecture at the Polish University in Lublin

Former 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.


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.

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."


Heartless Tories ignore facts

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.


End of Finesse not a surprise say LibDems

Papers 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.


Councillors to probe rat issues

Liberal 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.


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

Today 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.


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 council said: "We have inspected this location and the necessary works have been carried out. No further action is planned."


EMS U-Turn - Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

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.


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"!


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.


New plan for Shredded Wheat site cautiously welcomed by LibDems

The 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.


Wetherspoons goof again

The 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.


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.


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.


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.


Welhat waste and litter problems escalate

Local Liberal Democrats are angry about the local council's failure to empty recycling banks and are demanding improvements.

The large paper, plastic, glass and can banks have been full and overflowing for around a fortnight and are not being emptied. The council have admitted the company they use has just one lorry which is off the road. "It is astonishing that the council is dependent on such a small operation - did they know about this when the contract was signed, and why is there no backup?" asked LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan. "This seems to be taking cost-cutting to ludicrous lengths. The photos attached show the situation at several bins across WGC.


New rail timetable under fire

Local rail operator Govia's draft timetable for next year is under fire from Liberal Democrat borough councillor Malcolm Cowan.

"In the previous round of consultation I pointed out how badly WGC and Hatfield would be faring compared with other less-used stations, and I am pleased that the borough council endorsed most of my comments, but nothing has changed. We now have real draft timetables and it is clear Govia have taken no notice.


Splashlands Correction

With respect to the article last week about the ongoing delays with developing Splashlands, it is incorrect to state that I am a member of the Splashlands Procurement Board, though I did go to one of its meeting a couple of years back. What strikes me is the lack of progress since then - more meetings with 'providers' but not even a report to consider, so arguably the council have gone backwards.

The people of WGC and elsewhere in the district want to see conclusions and actions, not just words. Surely after nearly 20 years we have waited long enough.


No progress on Splashlands as meeting is ended after 14 minutes

Liberal Democrats are frustrated at the lack of progress on a new Splashlands after a long-awaited meeting was ended after 14 minutes with no report to consider.

"We have waited years for something to replace the long-lost swimming pool at Stanborough and we keep getting promises" said group leader, councillor Malcolm Cowan. "It is 2 years since I went to a meeting to narrow down future features to accompany the childrens' splash area, but it appears no progress has been made. Last week, the Splashlands Procurement Board met, but the meeting was ended without a report to consider; it is now postponed, probably to late September.


Nigel Quinton backs Welwyn and Hatfield's community pharmacies

Nigel Quinton, the Liberal Democrats candidate for Welwyn and Hatfield, pledged his support for Johns and Kelynack Pharmacy and other pharmacies in Welwyn and Hatfield following an election campaign visit.

Nigel met pharmacist Sarah Gaynor and her team to see how community pharmacies are easing the pressure on the NHS by freeing up time for GPs and Accident and Emergency departments. Johns and Kelynack Pharmacy provides advice and support for local patients to help them to get the most benefit from their medicines and to lead healthy lives. It also offers services for people with long-term conditions, including ordering repeat prescriptions, medication reviews and free medicine deliveries.


£56 million investment in Hertfordshire schools

The Liberal Democrats have announced they will invest £55.8 million more in schools and colleges in Hertfordshire over the next parliament as local schools face serious cuts under Conservative plans.

The funding would reverse cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protect per pupil funding in real terms and ensure no school loses out from changes to funding arrangements.


Lib Dems penny for NHS would raise £126.6million extra for Hertfordshire

The Liberal Democrats have announced they would plug funding gaps for the NHS and social care by putting a penny on income tax, in their first major manifesto commitment of the election campaign.

The tax would raise an additional £126.6million for Hertforedshire, with £82million for the NHS and £44.6million for social care each year.


Lib Dems to give £770 boost to 17,170 pensioners in Welwyn Hatfield

17,170 pensioners living in Welwyn Hatfield will receive at least an extra £772 per year under Liberal Democrat manifesto plans to protect the 'triple lock' for state pensions.

Thanks to the triple lock guarantee, secured by the Liberal Democrats when they were in government, the basic state pension has risen in each year by whichever is the higher of earnings, prices or a rate of 2.5%. However, the Conservatives have refused to guarantee whether the triple lock will continue, raising fears it could be scrapped.


Another office to become housing - without planning consent

54 flats are to be created from an office building in the middle of the Peartree industrial area under the government's controversial policy of allowing conversion of offices without consent. Meanwhile the council does nothing to stop it.

LibDem councillor Rachel Basch, who sits on the council's Development Management committee objects.


Great result for Welwyn Hatfield LibDems

Another fantastic Election Day for Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats saw them gain a third County seat, come within 50 votes of smashing the Conservative grip on Panshanger Ward in the By-Election, and beat Labour into third place overall, both in number of seats and in the popular vote.

The three happy candidates were Paul Zukowskyj in Hatfield South, who successfully defended the seat he first won in 2009, gaining over 50% of the votes; Nigel Quinton, who gained 48% of the votes taking over as County Councillor for Handside & Peartree from Malcolm Cowan; and Barbara Gibson, standing in her first ever election, who stormed through from third place to win Haldens from the Conservative incumbent by 98 votes with 37% of the votes.


Local schools face staff cuts

In what is fast becoming a local and indeed national scandal, Headteachers across our area are being driven to write to parents alerting them to the state of school funding.

We have seen letters from at least four of our local secondary schools pointing out that they simply won't be able to continue to offer the level of support for pupils that they would like.


County Council to start probe into floods - of last June

"Hold the front page. Just 10 months after the floods of 23 June last year, Herts County Council is to start to investigate what happened and what should be done. It would be laughable if it was not so serious for the many people whose homes and property were damaged" said LibDem county councillor Malcolm Cowan.

"Everyone expects insurance companies to swing into action after events like this, and move to give their customers the compensation they are due. The county council has a duty as Lead Flood Authority for the county to investigate flooding and see what can be done in future to prevent repeat incidents. To expect residents to remember exactly what happened nearly a year on is unrealistic. In the case of one of my neighbours, he has moved house, so that is one witness down already".


Labour fails to select candidate in Welwyn Hatfield with just weeks until election

Labour has failed to select a candidate in Welwyn Hatfield with the general election just weeks away. The news is revealed on Labour's own website, and has been called out by the Liberal Democrats, who say that it shows Labour has "given up", even in some of its former strongholds.

There are over 340 constituencies Labour has still not selected for in England, whereas in contrast the Liberal Democrats have selected 92% of their candidates in England. Labour has not selected a single candidate in any of the eleven Hertfordshire constituencies. They have even resorted as recently as last Friday to advertising via Twitter.


Lib Dems: This is a chance for voters in Welwyn Hatfield to forge a better future for the country

Voters in Welwyn Hatfield should vote for the Liberal Democrats to change the direction of the country and ensure Britain has a decent alternative to the Conservatives' Hard Brexit, the party's local candidate Nigel Quinton has said today.

The Prime Minister has called a snap General Election to be held on the 8th June, which was approved by Parliament yesterday.


Lib Dem candidate Nigel Quinton welcomes chance to fight for a better Britain

As previously announced last September, Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats have local campaigner Nigel Quinton as the Liberal Democrat candidate for a snap general election. Now that Mrs May has announced her intention to hold an election on 8th June, and it looks as if Labour's turkeys will vote for Christmas, Nigel has this to say:

"First we have to call out the supreme cynicism of Mrs May calling this election now, driven entirely by considerations of party advantage. No commentator thinks that any of her stated reasons stand serious examination, and the hypocrisy of the woman who claimed to support Remain last year and is now wanting to fight as the Brexit champion is outrageous."


Local Plan Forced Through by Tory Majority

Local Conservatives voted en masse to support the submission of their flawed Local Plan to Government inspectors at last week's Council Meeting. All opposition Councillors, Labour and LibDem, opposed the action, citing continued dissatisfaction with the lack of vision, and the lack of proper consultation by the Conservative elite.

Two questions from residents were heard, one from Will Davis of Panshanger People noting the huge number of submissions to the consultations that have been ignored by the Council, and one from Tom Darwall-Smith about the lack of due process in respect of the Symondshyde proposal. Both were treated to dismissive comments by the Executive Member Cllr Mandy Perkins that failed to answer the substantive points raised.


Lib Dem Councillors excluded from probe into Campus West losses

Welwyn Hatfield council have finally started a probe into the losses at Campus West, highlighted by the Liberal Democrats at budget time - but guess what, everyone but the Liberal Democrats are invited.

"One of our councillors asked if there was to be any investigation into the losses, and was told one had been set up, but hey guess what, we are not invited" said group leader Malcolm Cowan. They even had the cheek to call it "all-party' when it is just Tory and Labour."


New crossing over Parkway

Parents have welcomed the new crossing over Parkway at its junction with Rooks Hill. A petition requesting such a crossing was submitted around 3 years ago, and since then, local county councillor Malcolm Cowan has worked with highways officials to develop and deliver such a crossing.

"Anyone who knows Parkway will know it is a difficult road to cross in the single carriageway section. My suggestion on where to put it was taken up, and I was able to get access to some money that was set aside when the Parkway school site was redeveloped. Looks like a win-win all round"


Uncertain future for vital footbridge

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

In your report of the planning meeting about the Spenhill site last week, you did not cover the point I made that the planned footbridge upgrade - basically a repaint and a new surface underfoot - is far from guaranteed as the council has not managed to engage with Network Rail who own the bridge. It is they who would carry out the work, not Spenhill or their successors. Nor is there any certainty that the money put down by Spenhill for this work - £150,000 - is accepted by Network Rail as adequate.


2017 Liberal Democrat Local Election Candidates

Introducing your 2017 County Council candidates


Pressure from Libdems leads to increase Affordable Homes on Shredded Wheat site

Libdems vow to hold the Council and Spenhill to account on Phase 2

Last Thursday, 30th April, Welwyn Hatfield Council gave approval to Spenhill (the property arm of Tesco) to develop the old Shredded Wheat site next to the train station. In many ways this is a cause for celebration - the scheme is for high quality urban architecture in a strategic position in the town centre that will provide 850 new homes and will extend the retail and evening economies into Peartree Ward.


Terms of Shredded Wheat site deal come under fire

Leading Liberal Democrats are asking whether our Council was lost in action during the negotiations of the "deal" to develop the Shredded Wheat site.

Shockingly, despite a projected £86M profit, developers Spenhill are being told they only have to provide 35 units of affordable housing - just 4% of the total 850 being built. It is the stated policy of the Council that 30% of all new homes should be affordable. And the profits could well be much higher as the Council has failed to scrutinise the cost estimates.


Humphrey's special fudge?

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

Dear Sir, after my revelation that Humphreys, the Campus West café, is set to lose almost £200,000 in the forthcoming year, following a similar loss in the current year, I expected to read of the council's plans to rectify this appalling situation.

Maybe a better food offer. Maybe a change in the discounts and pricing. Maybe a change in staffing levels.


Six to Fix in Hertfordshire - The Liberal Democrat manifesto for the 2017 elections

The Conservatives have run the County Council since 1999. Since then the County Council has become ever more remote from the real needs of local people. Liberal Democrats believe that there are a number of key areas which need urgent attention.

In short, there are six key things that urgently need fixing. Below, we outline the problems and ways of fixing them.


Crash site abandoned before work is started

The scene of an accident just before Xmas outside John Lewis has been abandoned with no further work planned, even before any restoration work is done.

LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan reported the damage on 23 December. Loose parts that came off the vehicle that crashed were removed, but that is all. Now Malcolm has received a report saying nothing remains to be done - no repair of the broken cycle racks, no repair to the smashed paving, no removal of the temporary protective fencing. It is both potentially dangerous, as well as an eyesore. The report from HCC highways says:


Highways spending plummets to lowest figure for five years

Local councillors have seized on figures from Herts County Council, showing spending on road and pavement maintenance and improvements have reduced every year over the past four years.

Spending on highways has plummeted from £39.2 million in 2013-14 to £30.1 million this year. This is despite inflation meaning that less can be done for the same amount of money, and the ever-deteriorating state of local roads and pavements.


Summary response to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Budget for 2017/2018

We asked the council to focus on reducing the following items:

1. £200k predicted loss at Humphrey's cafe at Campus West.
Unbelievable. This is open up to 12 hours a day and should be a license to print money, not to lose it. Copious amounts of wine are purchased by customers for some of the film nights.


Boundary House: 'The worst of Victorian era housing in a mid-20th century building'

Many TV viewers will have been shocked to see the conditions being endured by single-person households at Boundary House WGC, exposed in a Newsnight feature last week on Britain's housing crisis.

What was shown were several examples of a single room - a "studio flat" in estate agent language - being home to a mother and two children - a room being kitchen, living room and bedroom to 3 people! The entire block is privately owned but the families have been moved there from the London Borough of Waltham Forest.


On the verge of disintegration

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

Dear Sir, One of your correspondents last week complained about the state of the grass verges in our towns and the lack of action by the councils to reduce the damage done. I totally agree; the verges are part of the planned landscape, part of what makes WGC and Hatfield so different from most other towns.


Mooted religious free school plan stopped

Plans for a free school in the Peartree area, to be run by the Salvation for the Nations church, have been terminated by the government. In a letter to Herts County Council, they explain that they felt the trust were not able to meet the rigorous criteria it sets for free schools. They say that their priority is to ensure that they only establish schools where it is clear that the educational provision will be strong and where this best represents the use of public funds.


Unite for Europe National march to Parliament on March 25th

If you value the peace, friendships, relationships, rights, business & academic collaborations, economic prosperity and outward-looking attitude that European Union membership delivers; If you believe it's in the best interests of the UK to remain in the European Union, join us on March 25th and make your voice heard.

Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats are joining the march and we would love you to join us and help send a loud and strong message to the government and our un-elected Prime Minister.


Brown Bins: TAXED!

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) has pushed through plans to introduce an annual charge of £35 for garden waste collection, in the face of strong opposition from local residents.

The charges, which will come into effect in April this year, have been met with anger and two petitions calling on the Council were presented prior to the meeting. In total, these petitions drew more than 2,750 signatures. The Tory-led Council was determined to push ahead, however, and the plan was approved a special meeting on Monday 9th January 2017.