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.

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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

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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

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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."


Why vote Lib Dem on May 3rd?

The Tories have been in control of Welwyn Hatfield since 2002. You only have to look around you to see failure after failure. Change is long overdue and the Liberal Democrats can deliver that change.

If you want a council that listens to you and acts in the best interests of Welwyn Hatfleld, vote Liberal Democrat in the local elections on May 3rd 2018.


Council says walk more, drive less — unless you plan to shop at Aldi

How exactly does a Council for a Garden City, that claims to want us all to drive less, allow a major new supermarket to open that has no pedestrian access? How does the County Council's Highways department, which bears the responsibility for reviewing access and travel plans and raising any problems, also fail to notice?

The new Aldi store in Welwyn Garden City opened recently to great fanfare, but residents arriving on foot immediately realised there is no safe way into the site for pedestrians. Customers on foot, wheelchair or mobility scooter are forced to brave the two lanes of traffic entering and exiting the car park.

Lib Dem Councillors responded quickly to concerns raised by residents, speaking with Aldi management and querying both Councils to determine how such a serious oversight could occur. Cllr Malcolm Cowan is leading the push for enforcement action be taken by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to remedy the situation immediately.

Footway-Entrance.jpgThe entrance to the footway shown on Aldi's planning application
car-park-sign.jpgSign at entrance to the pub car park which shares vehicle access with Aldi
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Full of Holes

Experienced Liberal Democrat councillor, Malcolm Cowan, writes to the Welwyn Hatfield Times to point out that not only are our roads and paths falling apart and full of holes, so too are the tired excuses offered by the Conservatives for their failure to address these widespread problems. These are failings that could potentially put lives at risk.

Read more

Slower not Faster: New Rail Timetable under Fire

Class 365 Networker Express in Great Northern liveryThe new rail timetable starting in May and just published has plenty of disadvantages for WGC and Hatfield travellers, says LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan.

"First, the so-called fast trains from Kings Cross will take a new record slow time of 35 minutes compared with 26 or 27 minutes at present; this is a massive slow down with no explanation. Ironically the poster in the cafe on platform 3 at WGC shows pre-war trains taking 23 minutes, so we will be 50% slower from May.

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50 bags of litter picked up in Peartree and Handside

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Last Saturday (10th March), 30 young members of the Focolare Community took part in a mass-litter pick in Handside and Peartree. The young people were at the Focolare Centre for Unity for a weekend themed #BeyondAllBorders where they focused on how to make a positive difference to our environment.

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