Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats are disappointed but unsurprised that local Conservative MP Grant Shapps chose to break his promise to the electorate and vote for a 1.25% rise in National Insurance.
The changes, which go against the Conservatives’ manifesto promise not to raise taxes, will mean hard-pressed local families and small businesses will be left paying hundreds of pounds more in tax each year.
Grant Shapps was one of the 317 Conservative MPs to support the plans. Liberal Democrat MPs, including St Albans MP Daisy Cooper, voted against the government plans, arguing that they fail to fix the ongoing social care crisis and will fall disproportionately on the young, the low paid and small businesses.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a cross-party agreement on social care, to find a long-term solution to funding high-quality care for everyone who needs it.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Zukowskyj said:
“Grant Shapps stood on a clear promise at the last election not to raise taxes, including National Insurance. Now they have voted to break that promise by hitting hard-pressed families and small businesses in Welwyn Hatfield with a tax hike at a time many are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic.
“The people of Welwyn Hatfield deserve better than this. They need an MP who they can trust and who will fight for a fairer deal for our area.
“Unlike Grant Shapps, the Liberal Democrats opposed these unjust plans in Parliament. We have been clear about how to fix the social care crisis in a fairer way, instead of hiking taxes on those who can least afford it.
For Grant and his colleagues, manifesto promises seem to be just like Christmas crackers, made to be broken.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP added:
“The Tories have gone from the party of supposed low tax to the party of broken promises.
“Conservative MPs have shown that they can’t be trusted and are taking people for granted. It’s little wonder that voters around the country and across the Blue Wall are turning to the Liberal Democrats instead.
“We want to see cross-party talks on how to fund social care in a fair and sustainable way, along with urgent action to fix the staffing crisis in care homes and give unpaid carers the recognition they deserve.”
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council reported themselves to the Social Housing Regulator earlier this year, and in a report published in July, the regulator found literally thousands of statutory checks had been missed. The council had failed to realise they were missing, putting potentially tens of thousands of tenants at risk of serious injury or worse, breaking a number of laws in the process.
So it was with a sense of total bemusement that the Welwyn Hatfield Lib Dems learnt this week that the meeting of the Cabinet Housing Panel scheduled for Monday 13th September, the council body where housing issues are discussed, had been cancelled ‘due to lack of business’.
Leader of the Opposition, Lib Dem Cllr Paul Zukowskyj, commented: “This just goes to show what the culture and ethos in Welwyn Hatfield council is. Councillors are treated as an annoyance and should be kept in the dark wherever possible. Secrecy is paramount. Sweep bad news away and don’t mention it.
“There is a promised investigation, so why could a timetable for that not be reported to the panel? Perhaps its remit and extent? Who is leading it? How about a timeline for getting back to being a legal landlord? There are massively important questions that need answers, but all we get from WHBC is silence and secrecy. We’ve not even had a guarantee that when the investigation concludes it will be published.
“Next week, Labour and Lib Dem groups will present a motion to Full Council calling for the leader of the council to resign. This culture of secrecy starts at the top. He needs to take responsibility for the failings that happened under his watch and the corrosive culture that the council has.”
WGC LibDems slam proposed increase in size of Shredded Wheat development
Local LibDem councillors are utterly appalled by the proposed increase in the number of flats to be built on the former Shredded Wheat site which will increase the height of the development from 8 to 11 or even 12 storeys.
The release of the revised plans has met universal disbelief. How on earth must the spirits of the town’s founders be looking down on their Garden City as the council’s planners destroy it in its centennial year? And the developers now say building will not be completed until 2030 – when originally we were told this could be ready by 2020!
Malcolm Cowan, our Group Leader on the council says “This cannot be thought of as what a Garden City is about – more like a ‘mini-Manhattan’. The supposed centrepiece of the development, our historic (and listed) grain silos, will be dwarfed and hidden from view. Not so much the Wheat Quarter as Hidden History!
Following the Grenfell fire in 2017, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council advised residents of Queensway House in Hatfield that there was no risk of a similar incident happening there. On 28th August 2020, Welwyn Hatfield Times ran a story claiming that a leaked report raises serious concerns over the cladding used on the building. The report also calls evacuation procedures into question.
Councillor Helen Quenet, Liberal Democrat lead on Housing, has written to the Welwyn Hatfield Times calling for decisive action and clarification from the council.
On 29th June, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published their Local Authority projections for new households based on 2018 data. Previous versions, based on 2014 and 2016 data, have been used by the Government and the Borough Council to justify the massive increase in homes needed in the Borough’s submitted Local Plan.
The 2014 data for the period 2013-2036 projected an additional 15,000 households. The 2016 data suggested this number had fallen to 14,000, but this adjustment was not applied to the local plan for technical reasons.
Now the change in the 2018 data shows a massive decrease in the forecast of just 9,000 additional households.
Paul Zukowskyj, County Councillor for Hatfield South, has had to step in to deliver urgent parking upgrades after years of neglect by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC).
Paul has ‘signed off’ on spending just over £40,000 from his County Council Highways Locality Budget to deliver an additional 31 parking spaces across southern Hatfield. Despite a number of requests over the past few years, WHBC Parking Services had refused to add the area to the parking works programme until ‘capacity was available’.
Each space that he has agreed will cost the public purse just over £1300, compared to a cost of £2509 per space for the council’s current programme in the Aldykes area.
Cllr Paul Zukowskyj has discovered the council has approved their own contractors, Lovells, siting a concrete crushing plant at High View, in south Hatfield, for the next three months.
Cllr Zukowskyj was not sent the 'update' newsletter that contained the discovery, apparently because officers didn't think he needed to know.
The plant, crushing material from the demolition of the High View site, is described as a 'muncher' and is being put in to reduce the concrete pads and other materials to lumps less than 2" across.
Concrete crushing plants are notoriously noisy and dusty, but WHBC appear to have approved the plan and suggest the noise and dust will be 'acceptable'.
Recent votes in the House of Commons have undermined earlier promises on food and animal welfare standards. “This has been sneaked though while everyone is focussed on Covid” says Paul Zukowskyj, County Cllr for Hatfield South.
“Chlorine-treated chicken and hormone-injected beef are likely coming our way. Why? Because that is what they do in the US and this government is desperate to do a deal with a Trump-led US, even if it means these lower standards.
”The mess around the paper and cardboard recycling banks most of the time is unbelievable” says Liberal Democrat council group leader Malcolm Cowan.
“The problem has persisted for several years and I have regularly sent the council photos of the problem. The rise in home delivery while we are in lockdown is making it worse.
“I have seen banks fill up within a few hours of being emptied. Then people leave cardboard all around. Cardboard needs to be cut up or folded flat, but even then the banks fill up very quickly. There is simply not enough capacity. This is particularly bad at Moors Walk in Panshanger.
Nationally there is growing concern over the outbreak of Covid-19 in care homes. Care workers in Welwyn Hatfield have been on the front line of this battle for months. The travesty unfolding in care settings isn’t just nationwide but here in our area.
Carers working during this crisis have told us of the many failings they have witnessed from the very beginning. These failures have put strain on a system that has been facing cuts for years.
The carers have told us how their involvement in dealing with the virus in their settings has been a series of false promises and dangerous actions.
They have seen people admitted to their setting with COVID whilst still in the infectious period. Carers work to high infection control levels every single day but this virus is new and it’s hard to contain anywhere. In a care home where the most vulnerable live is especially challenging.