Whilst the attached picture might be quite amusing, the situation on Welwyn Hatfield's roads is way beyond a joke. Hertfordshire is in danger of becoming a laughing stock due to the appalling state our roads are in.
Conservative-led Herts Council Council's Highways Service, led by Welwyn Hatfield's own Cllr Pile as cabinet member for highways, are simply failing to deliver even the most rudimentary service. Holes are left unrepaired. Lights remain unfixed. Accident damage to street furniture is rife and streetsigns that look more like vertical lawns remain uncleaned. Cars are being damaged by potholes and a flood of claims is being received by County Hall on a daily basis.
It is all very well for John Dean and Grant Shapps to boast about freezing council tax, which we supported as necessary given the freeze in many people's incomes. But it is only half the story.
Services have been cut by both borough and county councils.
The borough still
- fail to take any action to stop the destruction of our grass verges
- they have reduced the number of grass and hedge cuts
- reduced tree budgets
- cut planning staff so there is less enforcement
- reduced grants to the voluntary bodies that do so much good
The list goes on. And of course the borough's budget shows a major deficit every year - hardly the mark of a well-run council.
An election leaflet from Cllr Pile has claimed that he has 'stopped the incinerator in its tracks', whereas the plans are simply on hold until the planning inquiry in September.
All residents are urged to ignore the claim and continue to support Hatfield Against Incineration (HAI) and the New Barnfield Action Fund (NBAF), especially financially, to stop the incinerator.
Liberal Democrats have revealed that at current progress, Herts County Council will repair your footpath every 136 years.
Cllr Malcolm Cowan who did the analysis from official HCC data said "We knew that footpaths and footways were the poor relation but we didn't know until the this week how bad it was."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has closed the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in Brighton by calling on members to spread the message of the Party's commitment in Government to deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society.
In his keynote Leader's speech, Nick paid tribute to the work of the Party in winning the Eastleigh by-election, beating the Conservatives into third place and squeezing Labour while campaigning on the Lib Dem record of delivering in Government.
Readers who saw in last week's WHT that Herts County Council is expecting to have a surplus of £22.7m must be wondering how that money could be used - money which they gave in council tax expecting it to be spent on services, rather than being used to prop up long-term capital projects.
Luckily, the LibDem opposition had plenty of good ideas on what to do with the surplus, which is a one-off, to improve people's lives.
Out-of-touch Conservatives running Herts County Council have launched an attempt to drown local media in unwanted press releases.
The Liberal Democrat opposition highlighted over 2000 press releases on locality budgets sent out in less than 3 years, at the budget meeting of the county council, and pointed out that most local newspapers and radio stations have said they don't want them.
The Tories hit back in the only way they know how - by sending even more, clogging up inboxes across the county. 22 came out the next day, then a record 62 the day after.
"We know virtually no-one reads them - why waste money producing them?" said LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan.
Ringway, the County Councils new highways contractor, has again come under fire from county councillors.
At a Full Council meeting at County Hall, Hertford, senior Ringway Directors heard a barrage of complaints from opposition councillors who questioned the Conservative Cabinet member for Highways (Cllr Stuart Pile) over their poor performance since they took over responsibility for maintaining Hertfordshire roads on 1st October last year.
"I was pleased that almost every opposition councillor was able to air their concerns, and give examples, about the way Ringway had failed to deliver the services we are paying them for. I was disappointed that Conservative councillors failed to raise complaints despite me knowing they have similar worries about the contractors and performance. It's almost as if they did not want to seen to be criticising a multi million pound company that they appointed to fix our roads." said Liberal Democrat Leader and Highways Spokesman Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst.
Councillor Mark Watkin, the opposition spokesperson for Education, challenged Frances Button, the executive member for Education to explain how services for specific groups such as high achieving children with autism who cannot cope with schools will be addressed. She failed to do so, instead she repeated the standard response that they could either attend a Moderate Learning Difficulty School, or have home help or attend a mainstream school, none of which will adequately meet their needs.
"What parents of such children have pointed out time and time again is that there needs to be a special unit or school where these children can be educated. The new scheme for providing Special Needs Education does not allow for this", stated Cllr Mark Watkin. "There could be hundreds of such children across the County but they are submerged under the needs of larger groups who receive all the funding."
In a shock move, the Liberal Democrats have demanded urgent answers to allegations of fraud made by a whistle blower.
Chris White, Liberal Democrat councillor for St Albans Central, recently met with a former highways engineer, who handed him some documentation. This documentation included paperwork from county council officials which admitted:
- falsification of records
- use of inferior materials instead of contracted materials
- falsification of key performance indicators reported to the council
- false 'close down' of jobs
There was also a letter from a senior county council official which said: "We have considered the situation carefully and it has been agreed that out files will be handed over to the Police so that they can consider what action, if any, they wish to take."