On Thursday 26th May, opposition leader and Lib Dem councillor Paul Zukowskyj is due to head to Kiev to help provide humanitarian aid to the residents of Ukraine.
Paul is joining Vans without Borders, a small team of volunteers taking medical and care aid to Ukraine. Paul is helping get the team on the ground before returning from Kiev, while others in the team spend a number of weeks there distributing aid into parts of eastern Ukraine in the most desperate need.
Paul, whose father came from western Ukraine, has already led a fundraising drive amongst his County Council colleagues that raised almost £20,000 for the British Red Cross, now part of the DEC Appeal, to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Paul commented: “I want to help. I hope that by heading to Ukraine with the Vans without Borders team I can do something, even if only small, to help those suffering because of this unprovoked aggression by Putin.
“Readers can also help, Vans without Borders has a Crowdfunder to help them buy the care and medical aid the Ukraine people so desperately need, it’d be great if readers could help to fund their work. Every penny will go to making a difference.”
The Crowdfunder can be found here: crowdfunder.co.uk/p/vans-without-borders---return-to-ukraine
Lib Dem candidate for Handside, Michal Siewniak, who organised the Stand in Solidarity event on 26th February, reflects on the day:
'The short get together today in Welwyn Garden City Town Centre was so important. It was emotional, moving, difficult and beautiful in so many different ways and yet, despite feeling emotional, angry, empty and helpless, I felt blessed that I was able to be part of the event.
Almost 150 in were in attendance. Many participants travelled from different areas: Hatfield, Hitchin, Harlow, Harrow, Ware, Waltham Cross, and Cheshunt. Who attended? Local residents, local Councillors, members of the Ukrainian community, people from Belarus, Tunisia, Poland, Lithuania, Finland; groups and individuals who wanted show their support to those in desperate situations.'
What next? Please email Grant Shapps (or your local MP) and help put pressure on the government to do more for the Ukraine. Please donate to a relevant organisation. There are plenty of humanitarian organisations providing practical support for Ukrainian communities. You can donate through the Red Cross here:
Michal Siewniak, our candidate for Handside, is co-ordinating a stand in solidarity with the Ukraine, tomorrow, Saturday 26th February. Please join him at the fountain in Welwyn Garden City town centre at 4pm.
If you would like further information, please contact Michal directly using the details below:
Email: [email protected]
A lot of people think that I am mad. A lot of people think that politics, even at the local level, has never been more toxic.
Those who decide to stand, often do it for a number of different reasons. I feel strongly that being a Councillor is not like a vocation; it is a vocation. You do it, because you believe in it and you feel a sense of civic duty. Most of the time, you want to make a difference and improve your local community.
Standing is never easy. There are a lot of barriers and obstacles to overcome. If you want to do it, unless you stand if a super safe seat (do they still exist?), you have to put a lot of hard work into it; casework, leaflet delivery and canvassing, which I personally absolutely love! Door-knocking gives me a great joy, even when I don’t get a warm reception on the doorstep. Standing, whilst being a “foreigner” is probably even harder. As soon as I open my mouth, people know that I am not necessarily very “local”. This, in all honesty, doesn’t bother me too much; I will never judge someone based on their accent or the colour of their passport.
It is a wonderful feeling and more importantly a huge privilege to REPRESENT a particular area and a particular community. Moreover, being elected, at the local or national level, means being at the SERVICE for other people.
I absolutely love the civic process; I enjoy listening, talking and working with people. This will never change. Speaking to residents’ on regular basis gives me a fantastic opportunity to find out how people feel about politics at local and national levels. It worries me hugely that so many individuals that I’ve encountered feel deflated and disheartened. Some are not planning to vote. The sense of “political desperation” and political apathy is felt throughout the country.
Not always, but often, lack of passion for politics, drive and energy is also missing in many of the Council Chambers in our towns and cities. I do hope that I will be able to change that!
I often wonder what my unique selling point is. How can I complement the existing composition of my local Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrat Party and the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council as a whole?
Since settling here from Poland in 2005, I have been active in the local community. I am an honorary Trustee of our Polish Saturday School and a Trustee of New Europeans. I am particularly passionate about the civic process and I have worked with local and national community groups and organisations to democratically “mobilise” members of the community.
Since 2013, I have supported Parliament Week and have run a number of events and workshops to empower residents from “hard to reach” groups. Locally, I am passionate about increasing participation of residents in decision making processes and boosting their “democratic confidence”. If elected, I would support the most vulnerable members of our community, working together with other organisations and community groups. I would do my best to ensure that residents of my ward have a “voice” and that I am their “Ambassador”. As a Councillor, I will ensure that Welwyn Hatfield Council works to meet the needs of residents and that dialogue between the Council and residents continues to develop. I will play an active part in creating a sustainable environment for growth and collaboration between a number of sectors of our economy and community.
The journey has begun! Let’s hope that the hours that I’ve already put into my campaign will pay off! The support from my party colleagues is fantastic and the feedback on the doorstep is quite good, too. Let’s put PEOPLE first and we will never fail. If we do, we will must always stand up as giving up is not an option!
There are times when the Polish community is particularly proud of its background and heritage. There are days when our nationality and origin are our great assets. Saturday, 27 November, was just such a day. It was ugly, rainy and windy. Many of us probably would not have left the house. However, despite the typical winter weather, the Polish Saturday School in Welwyn Garden City once again showed that it is the “force for good”, which brings a positive social change in Welwyn Hatfield.
Thanks to a grant from the Hertfordshire Community Foundation, the school, its teachers and volunteers organised an event promoting public health. In all fairness, it was one of many projects organised by the school. Moreover, the school organised possibly bigger initiatives, however the one in November was also quite special.
It was the Polish Saturday School that secured funding for a health and wellbeing project; a total of £2,500. The obtained grant helped the Polish School to become the driving force behind the whole event. Our guests and attendees, including the Mayor of Welwyn Hatfield and the Leader of the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, had an opportunity to learn, listen and network with 15 organisations from many areas across Hertfordshire as well as many Polish residents.
The Health MOT Event made me reflect on my own “personal journey” in the UK and in Welwyn Hatfield. It helped me once again to appreciate my roots, heritage and culture. I think that often, despite the difficulties, Polish patriotism abroad unites our community. It is thanks to such initiatives that we can positively and more effectively influence our local community. It is thanks to this enthusiasm and desire to build something lasting that our relationships with many institutions are becoming more and more fruitful. The initiative on November 27th made it possible to not only support Polish companies or improve the "sea of Polish talents", but most importantly, it might have helped to break certain stereotypes and promote a positive image of Poland abroad.
Let us continue building bridges of understanding. Let us continue working together in order to make Welwyn Hatfield a better place to live for ALL.
By Michal Siewniak, Liberal Democrat Campaigner
The Local Plan is now virtually certain to collapse amid blame-shifting by Welwyn Hatfield Conservatives.
They've decided to blame the Government for the Plan's failure rather than admit their own responsibility, by grasping at straws in Boris Johnson's speech. They claim he said the Conservatives would not build on green fields, relying on the most unreliable prime minister this country has ever seen to stick to a throw-away line he will clearly not honour, as he has so many times before.
The ploy to write to Michael Gove is an attempt to cover up what must clearly be an internal split that is stopping the Tories from agreeing the options they have been presented with.
After sinking many millions of local council tax payers money into a failing Local Plan, what we get is political game-playing at a pathetic level to escape the consequences.
Our Borough now faces planning by appeal, leading to destruction of greenspaces on an epic scale. We can look forward to monstrous high-rises dominating townscapes and expansion of towns to feed the greed of property developers, all without the roads, doctors surgeries, schools and other services the new residents will need.
Cllr Paul Zukowskyj, Leader of the Opposition on the council, commented: "We do not expect Michael Gove will answer. He doesn't have to, and the Plan Inspector will lose patience and find the plan unsound. All because the Conservatives couldn't agree with their own plan and had to find a way to shift the blame.
"The Conservatives have spent millions of our taxes on this plan, have played politics with it from day 1, and warned again and again of the dangers of losing control and the plan failing. Now they are playing their last card, and it is a political ploy to avoid blame."
The below article by one of our members, Michal Siewniak, was printed in the Welwyn Hatfield Times.
Why some Poles are leaving Welwyn Hatfield and UK?
Like some of us, my family also decided to renovate our house during the health pandemic.
Nothing major, however our houses needed a talented handyman. Unfortunately, I have no
manual skills. I asked Zbyszek, WGC resident who worked in our house before, to help out. We
knew him well and we were confident that he would get the job done.
One afternoon Zbyszek told us that he and his wife decided to go back to Poland. I knew that
they were planning to return after their son moved back with his family a few years ago, however
I was still surprised. During the same time, another two people left the UK for Poland.
It is not always easy to leave your native home and settle somewhere else. Equally, it is quite
hard to re-emigrate and re-settle in the country of your origin. A German friend of mine said to
me once that after 30 + years of living in the UK, she had to “re-integrate” in Germany. Some of
these conversations, about a few “Welwyn Hatfield - European returns” helped me to pause and
reflect on the causes of the Polish departure from the UK. This trend has already directly affected
many of my fellow countrymen and countrywomen.
It is estimated that almost a million Poles lived in the UK before the Brexit vote. Some, mainly
anecdotal evidence, suggests that around 200,000 members of the Polish community have now
left the UK. It is a significant exodus of Poles, which, in my view, might continue in the future. So
what are the reasons why people have left or are leaving?
The Brexit vote, its consequences and post-Brexit uncertainty is definitely one of the key
reasons. I do feel that many of us didn’t really know which direction the country was going to
take. Will my immigration status change? Will I be able to work, buy or rent a house? Will my
civic rights be safeguarded and protected? Many of my friends felt in a “limbo state”. For some,
the result of the Brexit vote also had some emotional connotations of feeling “unwanted” or as a
second class citizen. Many might have felt that our contribution was not always valued and
Moreover, and possibly more importantly, the health pandemic repercussions; inability to travel,
visiting our loved ones (often elderly and in need) or job insecurity triggered in people a complete
shift in their decision making process. The freedom of movement, one of the pillars of European
identity and something which me and my family have hugely benefited from, has in a way ended.
Many of us had to ask ourselves a number of existential questions, and balance the importance
of life opportunities against the need to look after or be close to our family members. Has the
pandemic strengthened the family relations for many Europeans? Quite possibly.
There was one other factor, in my view significant, which “helped” people to decide; the state of
the Polish economy. Pre-pandemic world seems like a distant memory, however it is important to
emphasise that the Polish economy had been doing very well before the pandemic hit: the
standard of living, wages and endless (literally) employment opportunities in Poland might have
been the reasons why some Poles decided to make a move. After being in Poland over the
summer, I can see that in spite of some political challenges, the Polish economy is bouncing
back and the standard of living is pretty good.
I must admit that the subject of migration, a global phenomenon, fascinates me hugely. Our lives
post Brexit and post COVID will be different, however I do believe that our desire to move around
and broaden our horizons will never stop. Let’s hope that many of us find “home” whether we go
and whether we settle. Zbyszek and his family are back in Cracow and so far, they really enjoy
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!