County councillors Malcolm Cowan (Handside and Peartree) and Lynn Chesterman (WGC South) have welcomed news that Woodhall library will not now lose all its paid staff. They had campaigned together to retain some permanent library staff in the face of a libraries consultation that proposed relying entirely on volunteers. "It is not yet clear how much time they would spend there, but is a good step forward, particularly when other local Tier 3 libraries such as Welwyn and Brookmans Park will not share this improvement."
Local Liberal Democrat parliamentary hopeful Hugh Annand has called on the government to do more to ensure that wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share of tax.
"At a time when public services are being cut, people are being asked to make sacrifices and the Conservative Party is announcing ever more draconian measures against sick and disabled people, the latest revelations once again show that there are rich, powerful people who think they are above the law," he told the Welwyn and Hatfield Times.
Hugh was born in Welwyn Garden City. His parents, Carolyn and Michael, were and still are long-established residents of the town. Following his primary education at St John's, Lemsford and Applecroft School, he went on to Haileybury, Hertford. Having discovered a talent for languages at an early age, he then spent a year in France and Germany before studying Modern European Studies at Loughborough University. After graduating in 1996, he spent a year in Yakustk, Eastern Siberia, teaching English at the university and working for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He then returned to Welwyn Garden City and spent several months temping at Serono Laboratories, Roche and Schering Plough, before being offered a job with a scientific instrument company in Hemel Hempstead. Since then, he has had put his languages - he now speaks six - to good use professionally, in a career spanning the private, voluntary and public sectors.
Malcolm Cowan, LibDem councillor has criticised the decision to hand the franchise for the East Coast mainline to Scotland to Virgin/Stagecoach. "Virgin already run the West Coast route, they are being given a monopoly of London to Scotland routes, with all that means for fares and competition. In fact, for the last few years, East Coast was being run by the public sector after previous private operators failed or pulled out. No-one has said it was being badly run, so why change?
"In fact, Virgin Stagecoach also run East Midland line and the Great Western, so all Inter-city services.
"This is a dangerous concentration of power that is worrying. Rail privatisation was justified as bringing competition - the exact opposite is being rolled out" he added.
I well remember when this government proposed a couple of years ago that offices could be converted into homes without any need for planning permission, all 3 parties on the local council supported the objections made by the council's planning staff. We wrote to Grant, but he backed the government.
What has happened since? Well, hundreds of homes have been created (hurrah) but office space has been lost, most of the new homes lack the parking they need, no provision has been made for the additional school places needed, no social housing has been created, no contributions to infrastructure have been made and most of the homes are in unsuitable locations, such as on the Mundells one-way system in the middle of an industrial area, with no play space for the children. I know of no-one of any political persuasion who thinks this has been sensible.
Despite over 12,000 signatures on petitions against the cuts to supporting bus services.
Despite the overwhelming response to the county councils own consultation - only 30 people supported the cuts out of 4,500 responding.
Despite almost every local council in Hertfordshire saying they were concerned.
Despite the NHS chiefs saying it was a stab in the back, and would make many of their plans unworkable.
Despite the fact the savings the Tories wanted had already been found.
Despite all this, ruling Tories decided at last week's Highways and Waste panel meeting that the cuts proposed were not deep enough.
Health chiefs of the East and North Herts NHS Trust and the E and N Herts Clinic Commissioning Group (representing GPs) have blasted the plans put forward by the ruling Conservative group on the county council to slash support for evening and Sunday buses.
In a strongly worded letter to the county council, they point out:
- Many patients would not be able to access the later appointments increasingly being offered (78 surgeries already offer appointments after the planned 6.30 cut-off)
- The council and the NHS are working together to use the government's Better Care Fund, a requirement of which is that there is 7 day working.
- Referring to Lister hospital, they say 'In a move which has been planned in conjunction with the county council since 2007, inpatient services completely closed at the QEII hospital in Welwyn Garden City at the beginning of this month. Frequent, reliable bus services between these areas are therefore more important than ever. All patients from Welwyn and Hatfield and surrounding areas who need an overnight stay in hospital in the east and north of Hertfordshire are now referred to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage and visiting hours take place after 6.30pm and at weekends.' They also point out that staff need to get to and from Lister at all times.
Today's Highways and Waste panel meeting today showed how residents' pressure, largely organised by the Liberal Democrats, have brought forward improvements to the previous plans. Liberal Democrats across the county brought forward 5 petitions, with thousands of signatures.
Changes agreed were:
- No sites to close
- Most sites to be open 10 am to 6 pm, instead of 8 am to 4 pm.
- Waterdale (near Watford) and Stevenage to have 2 extra hours on Saturdays
- Work to be carried out to reduce queuing on the A414 outside Cole Green
Hundreds of intending rail users on Sunday turned up to find the new rail operator Great Northern were running no trains â€¦â€¦ and there had been little notice.
Local councillor Malcolm Cowan was one of those affected. He says "Firstly I was shocked there were no trains, but secondly at the attitude of the rail staff. One of them aggressively told me there had been notices up for 12 weeks and it was on the website. He also said it was in Metro, but how many weekend rail users read that? - a prominent advert in the Welwyn and Hatfield Times would have been far more use."
LibDem county councillor Malcolm Cowan has added his voice to the criticism of Veolia for trying to get a judicial review of the decision not to allow the incinerator at New Barnfield.
"There were very solid planning reasons why the incinerator was turned down, and this was supported by minister Eric Pickles. Do Veolia really think this can be overturned?" he asked.