"Incapacitated" Service

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

15/10/2018

Dear Sir,

Your feature last week on the new Moorgate trains repeated the boast from Govia that they have ‘27% more capacity’. However that is only achieved by having fewer seats and more space for enforced standing.

100 fewer seats than the old trains they are replacing. Is that progress? Is that what someone travelling on a train for up to 45 minutes wants? And still no loos on them.

Class_700.jpgAnother train specified by the government rather than the train operator, like the uncomfortable outer-suburban class 700s.

Meanwhile we struggle on with just half the off-peak trains scheduled to run. How much longer will this continue? Every week I get a report from Govia telling me what a great job they are doing and that they are running more trains then before the May debacle – well not here in Welwyn Hatfield, we have less.

And now we face ever-higher fares for this appalling service. Rail minister Jo Johnson, taking instructions from his boss Failing Grayling, says we don’t deserve even a one-year freeze. Beyond belief.

Malcolm Cowan
Liberal Democrat Councillor


Parking problem parked again

No Parking

A decision on controversial parking changes in Parkway Close was postponed again last week due to the overwhelming opposition of local residents. LibDem group leader Malcolm Cowan who spoke up at the meeting said 'I cannot understand why the council seems determined to force through something against such strong opposition of those affected. The council normally does everything it can to work by consensus on parking and this usually works. Yet here, not only are residents set to lose parking spaces, their petition against was snubbed by the council to such an extent, members of the Parking Panel were not even made aware of it.

'This is poor at so many levels'

County councillor Nigel Quinton (Lib Dem) says 'There can be no excuse, and no hiding place, for the way the County Council has behaved in recent weeks. Assurances I have been given repeatedly have been shown to be false. I am taking this up at the highest level.'


Liberal Democrats Applaud PCC's Withdrawal of Hostile Takeover of Fire Service

Sustained Opposition Forces Re-Think

In a joint announcement issued today with Herts County Council, Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd agreed to abandon his proposal to take control of the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, leaving the service under the governance of the County Council.

Responding to the news, Liberal Democrat Councillor and Opposition Spokesperson for Fire Service, Barbara Gibson said "This is long overdue, but very good news. How much time and money has been wasted by the PCC trying to railroad through his empire-building plan in spite of unanimous opposition from every county councillor, including those in the PCC's own party. In addition, most district councils have passed Motions opposing the move.

"The takeover bid should never have been submitted. Our sustained campaigning on this issue has saved the Fire Service from being asset-stripped and weakened. Lib Dems will continue to fight to put community safety first."


If at first you fail, try, try again

"That seems to be the motto for Wetherspoons at 22 Parkway" says LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan. "While it is smaller than the 2 previous attempts which were turned down unanimously by the Development Management Committee, much of the harm that was identified then continues. And how disappointing that they have chosen to reveal their plans during the summer holidays when so many people are away."

site-of-proposed-wetherspoons-on-parkway-welwyn-garden-city.png

"It still has no parking either for customers or deliveries - Parkway will again bear the brunt; it is still fails to conform to the zoning for office-type use and it still looks like a large bar is the main feature. This is a pub by any other name. Yet there are far more suitable sites within the town centre - why don't Wetherspoons go for one of these?

"The plans Wetherspoons have submitted show the bedrooms are so small that the bed would be up against a wall in most rooms - hardly likely to attract many customers beyond the stag night crowd, and the worry is the hotel use will be dropped after a short while and Wetherspoons desire for a mega boozer will come about.

"You only have to look at the state of the building and grounds now to see the company cares not one bit for local opinion or sensitivity to the surroundings. Owner Tim Martin has repeatedly failed to reply to letters to him, showing his lack of interest in the town, just a desire to make a fast buck and let us face the consequences."


Recycling Rethink Required

08/08/2018

Dear Sir,

Twelve years ago as a Borough Councillor I was able to persuade our Council to start the process of a Climate Change Strategy and, after years of pressure from LibDem colleagues, to see positive moves towards increased recycling rates. Sadly, under our Conservative administration, the Climate Change Strategy withered on the vine, but I was pleased to see recycling rates increasing year on year to achieve 53% in 2016/17. This despite the ridicule I received from certain Conservative Councillors that 50% recycling would be totally unachievable.

Lib-Dem-recycling-collection.jpgIn 2005 local LibDems ran regular collections. Residents could bring their plastic waste, which at the time the council refused to collect.

By comparison, LibDem-run Three Rivers Council (in Rickmansworth) is achieving 63%, so there was still room for improvement, but now we hear that Welwyn Hatfield has dropped from 53% to 43.4% recycling rate in a single year. This fall in performance is due almost entirely to the Brown Bin Tax introduced last year, as many of us argued would happen at the time, which has massively reduced the amount of garden waste being recycled.

It is not even clear that the change of policy, which was pushed through by the Conservatives despite massive public opposition, has saved much Council Tax payers' money.

It is surely time for the new Conservative leadership at the Council to rethink this policy and start leading our community towards a greener future.

Nigel Quinton
Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Handside & Peartree


Brown Bin Charge Rubbishes Welwyn Hatfield Recycling Rates

  • Dramatic Drop in Recycling Rate Puts WHBC Bottom of Herts League Table
  • Tory-run Council Sending 15% More to Landfill

With reporting now complete on the first year since Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council rolled out a £35 charge for garden waste collection, the borough's overall recycling rate has plunged from 53% in 2016/17 to 43.4% for 2017/18. This sharp decline puts Welwyn Hatfield near the bottom of all Hertfordshire local Councils. At the top of the Herts league table is Liberal Democrat-controlled Three Rivers District Council, which achieved a recycling rate of 62.4%.

"These results are alarming and disappointing, though not unexpected," said Barbara Gibson, County Councillor for Haldens Division and Opposition Spokesperson for Community Safety and Waste Management. "At the time of the proposed change, hundreds of people voiced concerns about the environmental impact, but the Conservatives voted unanimously to ignore those concerns, and rushed through the change without proper consultation and planning.

"As a result, this Council sent 15% more residual waste to landfill in the past year, an increase of nearly 3000 tonnes overall, and an average of 58 kg per household. This is simply unacceptable."

Liberal Democrats are calling for the Council to use proceeds of the brown bin charges to implement a free food waste collection for all residents as soon as is feasible.

Cllr Malcolm Cowan, Leader of the Lib Dem Group on the Council, said "The brown bin charge was always badly managed, and people were initially angry about the cost. But now they are most concerned about the environmental impact. The Conservatives have taken us backwards. That's just rubbish!"


Rail Compensation Scheme Misses Thousands

The offer of a one month refund to rail season ticket-holders misses thousands of regular travellers who pay for their tickets in other ways, says LibDem councillor and rail campaigner Malcolm Cowan.

"The statement by Govia that only season-ticket-holders travel regularly is nonsense", he says.

  • They launched the carnet ticket for those who travel 3 or 4 times a week - have they forgotten them?.
  • Other travellers have disabled or other railcards, so buy daily tickets as these work out cheaper than a season.
  • Anyone who travels off-peak will buy daily tickets rather than a season ticket

"They have all had the same chaos as season-ticket holders but are excluded from the offer; it is petty and small-minded. Govia have gone for the easy headline but left thousands of travellers behind just as their trains have", he said. "The scheme needs to be extended properly."


Report Harassment and Misogynist Abuse - Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

16/07/2018

Dear Sir,

I was dismayed last week to hear from a friend, a young professional woman who lives near the city centre of Welwyn Garden City, that she'd experienced two separate incidents of abusive behavior within the past two weeks.

The first was whilst jogging in the afternoon, a group of pre-teenaged boys on bikes yelled obscene suggestions. The second, similar but more sinister, occurred as she walked home late in the evening, when four men in a car slowed down to yell, again, a highly offensive sexual comment not fit for print in this newspaper.

Her initial response was to do nothing, because she didn't feel there was anything that could be done. She said "I know this happens everywhere all the time, I just felt dispirited."

My reason for raising it here, is that we must take action, or risk this misogynistic, hateful behaviour becoming the new norm.

My advice to any woman or girl who encounters such abuse is to report it via the police non-emergency number (101), every time. Although it may not result in any immediate action, it helps to build a record of troubled areas and repeat behaviours, which the police can act on.

In both the instances above, it is likely that my friend was not their only target. But if none of the women they harassed reported it, the police have no reason to increase patrols in the area. And if the perpetrators went on to commit a more serious offence, the additional information provided by those who encountered them might provide valuable evidence.

Don't downplay the seriousness of this behaviour. This is not harmless catcalls and wolf-whistles, it is highly offensive and threatening anti-social behaviour. So if you encounter this kind of abuse, take note of details, take a photo if you have your phone and can do so without putting yourself at risk, get a registration number, whatever little bits might help to build a record. And report it. Because their next victim may not be as strong as you.

I am gathering evidence to scope the extent of the problem in Welwyn Hatfield. If you have recently experienced misogynist verbal abuse or harassment and you are willing to share your story, please contact me at barbara@welhatlibdems.org.uk.

Sincerely yours,

Cllr Dr Barbara Gibson,
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate


We Want Trains, Not Empty Promises - Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

09/07/2018

Dear Sir,

Perhaps our MP should be offering a month of free taxes to compensate Welwyn Hatfield constituents for the ineptitude of his party's government when it comes to ensuring a working transportation system.

Last week's front page was another free publicity opportunity for Mr Shapps, taking credit for an achievement that hasn't happened, with sketchy detail.

I have a few questions:

When it is absolutely clear that Chris Grayling has failed the British public spectacularly, our MP was silent in the Parliamentary debate on a motion of no confidence in the Transport Secretary. How does Mr Shapps justify having voted along party lines rather than standing up for Welwyn Hatfield residents?

The "promise" of compensation is currently still just political hot air, and likely applies only to season ticket holders. It does nothing to alleviate the huge inconvenience suffered by the rest of us, who travel frequently but irregularly. It does nothing to compensate businesses for the lost productivity, or self-employed people for the loss of income or any of the other expenses we are all incurring. What will Mr Shapps and Mr Grayling do for the rest of us?

Most importantly, when will we be able to count on any published train timetable again? In the last three weeks, there's been a problem with every single journey I've taken, and the message to "check before you travel" is ludicrous, since cancellations are often only announced too late to choose an alternative. Every fellow passenger I've spoken with tells the same story.

We don't want empty promises of compensation. We want trains that run as scheduled, with reasonable frequency at all times of day, and we want it now, not months from now.

Sincerely yours,

Cllr Dr Barbara Gibson,
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate


New "interim" timetable no better than failed one

"The new so-called improved interim train timetable, set to start on 15 July is no better than the current one that is failing so badly" says LibDem councillor and rail champion Malcolm Cowan.

"The current 2 ½ hour gap in trains from Kings Cross in the morning - 0921 followed eventually by the 1151 is an insult. There is also a 90 minute gap in the evening, and a 90 minute gap going into London just after lunch. Yet again, none of the faster Govia trains that rush through are being called in to stop, when there must clearly be spare track capacity given the number of trains not running.

"On Saturdays, it is a 50% service all day, including on the Moorgate line where there are no new trains and no driver training needed. We are becoming a Cinderella service despite the sky high fares. Maybe we should have a 50% fares cut.

"And all this assumes Govia can actually do what they promise - does anyone have confidence in that? After all, the spring edition of their magazine Connections has the banner headline 'The Golden Age starts in May'. Candidate for quote of the year?"


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