The Train Approaching Does Not Stop Here! - Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

01/07/2018

Dear Sir,

I had hoped that by now we would be seeing some improvements on the local rail services, but we are not. In fact, the problem is not lack of trains, it is lack of trains that stop at WGC or Hatfield - the vast majority thunder through.

Given that the current timetable has a 2½ hour gap between trains north in the morning, one would hope that faster trains would call in, as they did in the now discredited days of British Rail. But it seems that is too difficult. In the 2½ hour gap, there appear to be 8 Great Northern/Thameslink trains rushing through, that could be made to call here. But no, let the people wait.

Even worse is the comparison with the St Albans line. In our 2½ hour gap, around 18 trains serve St Albans. We really are the poor relations in Welwyn Hatfield. I suggest this is nowhere near good enough.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Cowan

LibDem councillor


Why is Grant Shapps defending Failing Grayling?

That is the question many local rail users are asking, after a motion of No Confidence in Transport Minister Chris Grayling was defeated with not a single Conservative MP breaking ranks in the vote, despite many of them expressing their extreme concern in the debate. And Grant did not speak at all in the debate unlike MPs for Stevenage, for Hitchin and for North-East Herts, the areas sharing our pain.

Grant has made much of his dissatisfaction with the failure of rail services since the failed new timetable, but has concentred his fire on operator Govia and infrastructure owner Network Rail. In fact, most observers have concluded it is the Department for Transport, headed by under-fire minister Chris Grayling who seems to be at the heart of the problems.

Firstly, Grayling was the one who reduced the number of timetable planners at Network Rail, just as they were having to organise and approve the new timetable with its thousands of changes. And secondly, he refused to allow the changeover to be put back, despite requests from rail insiders, when it was obvious it could not be delivered in time.

"Grayling's mucky paws are all over this; he is the one who made it impossible for the changes to work, and then blames everyone else. I would have hoped Grant would have realised this and made him accountable" said local rail user champion Malcolm Cowan.

"But rather than fighting for his beleaguered constituents , Grant meekly toed the party line and closed ranks in support of a failing party colleague."


Govia Boss Resigns

It has been announced that Charles Horton, head of Govia, has resigned.

Malcolm Cowan, Liberal Democrat councillor, says "This is not before time. He has presided over chaos on Southern, through the attempt to force in Driver-Only Operation, and now brought chaos to our line and Thameslink through the botched timetable change, in which Govia were major culprits. Great Northern regularly features as bottom or close to bottom of all the rail franchises for performance while charging sky-high fares. And all the time, it has been someone else's fault, like when he blamed delays and cancellations on Great Northern, on work at London Bridge even though our trains do not go anywhere near there. The timetable changes have been majorly oversold when for many of us they represent a worsening, even if they were actually to run.

He has been grossly overpaid at half a million pounds a year while the hard-pressed staff who are on the front line of passenger anger get a fraction of that. I suspect his legacy will be that he took the railway backwards when it was supposed to be going forwards."


Continuing Chaos Leaves Travellers in Dark

Train cancellations affecting Welwyn Hatfield have continued, with just a 50% service over the weekend of 2nd/3rd June and multiple cancellations on weekdays.

However, a joint letter from Network Rail, Govia and Northern has laid wide open that the chaos was known to be coming. Part of their statement says:

"To accommodate the extra services being introduced, six out of 10 services nationwide had to be retimed. The time of all GTR and most Northern services had to be changed. All of these new journeys needed to be individually approved by Network Rail to ensure the national rail network runs safely and smoothly.

As a result of the sheer number of changes required and the late running of some engineering improvements, the process took longer than anticipated, approvals for service changes were delayed and some timetable requests were changed. This meant that train companies had much less time to prepare for the new timetable meaning specialist training required could not be completed in time for drivers to learn all the new routes, or operate different trains for operators to address all the logistical challenges.

Malcolm Cowan asks: "Why, if everyone in the rail industry knew there would be chaos, from both the lack of approval for the new trains timings and the lack of trained drivers, did no-one bother to tell the passengers? Govia continued to shout about how wonderful it would be when they knew failure was coming down the track with the speed of an Inter-City, but the signals to those who pay and get a lousy service was set to green when they should have been red. For this alone, Govia should lose their contract. The whinging about lack of drivers has been a constant noise form Govia from the day they took over, but they still haven't got their plans working."


Sorry, we forgot to empty your bin... 34 times!

Serco's failure to provide a proper bin emptying service is shown up by the appalling record at flats in Duncan Close WGC - 34 failures in less than 30 months.

"That's 12 flats not getting a proper service" says local LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan, who has often been asked to intervene. "To add insult to injury, the flat dwellers had to pay to get recycling bins supplied, unlike people who live in houses. Quite why the council makes it so hard by discriminating against flat-dwellers is beyond me" he adds.

"Then, when I ask the council why the bins keep getting missed, they say it is the first time - they have no record of previous failures. I am totally disgusted. They can't improve if they don't know that they have failed in the past."

Resident John Fogarty (pictured with Malcolm) who organised for the flats to get recycling bins, and regularly chases the council says "I think we are due a refund - we paid to get the bins and we pay for them to be emptied but the council does not carry out its side of the bargain. No-one learns, no-one supervises. It is a disgrace".


Panshanger Community Hall Closure - Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times

14/05/2018

Dear Sir

The sudden and unannounced closure of Panshanger Community Hall after the council demanded a massively increased rent was a shocking betrayal of the community, the groups who used it and the local population. At the protest meeting, we were told by senior councillors that the issue had been being discussed for around 3 years.

What exactly did the local councillors do in that time? Nothing was claimed on their behalf, but to add insult to injury, a defeated Tory candidate has apparently claimed that we, the Liberal Democrats, knew about the threat all along and kept quiet. Not only totally untrue - if we had, we would have intervened to try to get some common-sense inserted - but crudely trying to avoid the question of what they did as councillors. Noticeable that none of them spoke at the protest meeting. Not good enough. No wonder local people voted them out.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Cowan

LibDem councillor


A Triumphant Night for WelHat Lib Dems

It was a triumphant night for Welwyn Hatfield Lib Dems in the local elections on May 3rd. We held on to three seats and gained three new seats, giving us eight seats on Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council: our strongest representation in the Council's history.

a-triumphant-liib-dem-team-on-election-night-2018.png

Malcolm Cowan said: "We gained seats from both Labour and the Conservatives, we now represent the majority of Welwyn Garden City - four out of seven wards - with our biggest group ever. The Tories are in retreat and have held on by their fingernails."

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank anyone and everyone who held in any way towards achieving this amazing result, and hope we can count on you to help us make the Tory retreat complete in 2019.

In Summary:

Handside [hold]: Siobhan Elam
Panshanger [gain]: Ayesha Rohale
Peartree [gain]: Tamsin Jackson-Mynott
Sherrards [gain]: Jean-Paul Skoczylas
Welham Green & Hatfield South [hold]: Jaid Caliskan
Welham Green & Hatfield South [hold]: Helen Quenet


Councillors and Candidates commit to fighting to keep Panshanger Community Centre open

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has effectively run a local charity into the ground and obliterated a number of community activities and resources by attempting to exorbitantly increase the rent on the Panshanger Community Centre, in Moors Walk shops, Welwyn Garden City.

Lib Dem County and borough councillors, and local candidates commit to fighting to try to keep the centre open if the Tory strnglehold on Welwyn hatfield Borough Council.

Vote Lib Dem on May 3rd and we'll fight to save Panshanger Community Centre

vote-for-a-positive-change-in-welwyn-hatfield-on-may-3rd-2018.png


Tory Rent Hikes Trash Community Services

Council Rent Hike Forces Charity into Insolvency, Closes Panshanger Community Centre

panshanger-community-centre-closed.pngWelwyn Hatfield Borough Council has effectively run a local charity into the ground and obliterated a number of community activities and resources by attempting to exorbitantly increase the rent on the Panshanger Community Centre, in Moors Walk shops, Welwyn Garden City.

Panshanger Community Hall Trust Limited, the charity that has operated the centre on the Council's behalf since 1994, challenged the Council's proposed increase of the rent from £200 to £20,000 per year, which was based on the Council's decision to charge rents for community facilities based on 'market value'. The case has dragged on for years, draining away the charity's financial reserves to pay for legal fees, and preventing the Trust from making improvements to the hall pending the outcome.

Following a judge's decision on 10th April that set the market value at £15,000 per year, the charity dissolved and informed community groups that have used the hall that all bookings were cancelled.

Read more

Tories "Dumb-down" Building Control

key_housebuilding.png

At the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council meeting on Monday 9th April, the Conservative controlled Council finalised their decision to transfer their statutory building control functions to Three Rivers District Council, in the face of strenuous opposition from both the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties. Three Rivers District Council will now carry on this function on WHBC's behalf.

One excerpt of the document under consideration read as follows:

"the original proposal of retaining a qualified building surveyor… to carry out 'sign-offs' and other competent functions has been revised. Instead it is now proposed to employ a non building control qualified individual to carry out such 'sign offs' but with a series of effective checks and balances to ensure quality control is maintained."

Liberal Democrat Councillor, Siobhan Elam, strongly believes this decision to be a mistake. "This is simply not acceptable. The point of a supervisor is that they should know more than the person they are overseeing, not less. They should know the job in question inside out. We have all seen in other national organisations how the introduction of less qualified supervisors has led to a reduction in standards. You cannot effectively supervise work by ticking boxes. Despite the soothing noises made by Conservative councillors that this has been done elsewhere and all will be well, this is another example of the eroding of proper standards in the name of efficiency and cost cutting. In the arena of building control, where people's lives are potentially at risk, and where we have the awful example of Grenfell Tower before us, this should never be contemplated. I urge the Council to think again."


Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Email.