Cash-strapped councils asked to prepare for no deal Brexit

Barbarax300.pngResponding to the letter received by local Councils this week from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government calling for local authorities to prepare for a no deal Brexit, Liberal Democrat County Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate for Welwyn Hatfield Barbara Gibson said:
Asking cash-strapped councils to prepare for a no deal when it is in the Government’s gift to rule it out is nothing short of an insult to local services.

"With local government being eroded at every opportunity and councils struggling to even run just the most basic services, to add this burden for no reason other than to scaremonger support for the Prime Minister’s already defeated deal is utterly shameful."

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Snail-like County Council lets down Maintained Nursery Schools

In November last year LibDem County Councillor Nigel Quinton was very pleased when his motion asking the County Council to throw its weight behind calls for Central Government to confirm funding for Maintained Nursery Schools beyond March 2020 received unanimous support. But today it emerged that the Council has done nothing for two months, finally sending a letter to the Secretary of State only last week.

“What on earth were they doing?” Nigel asks. “As our debate in November made clear, our maintained nursery schools require urgent confirmation of continuing funding, or they face total uncertainty, potential loss of staff, and loss of places, possible closure. How can it take two months for the Council to compose a letter?”

Gosling Closure Shock

On Christmas Eve 2018, Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), operators of the Gosling sports complex in Welwyn Garden City, quietly announced that a decision had been made to close the sports hall and associated facilities at Gosling Sports Park at the end of March.

Liberal Democrat Cllrs Nigel Quinton and Siobhan Elam, County and Borough Councillors respectively, are shocked and disappointed at the news. Nigel commented: “As Hertfordshire’s Year of Physical Activity draws to a close we learn that a sports hall that was only upgraded four years ago, and which is subject to development agreements of 15 years, will be closed without any consultation whatsoever. The operators GLL are letting down our community dreadfully. Gosling is a much loved facility that has served the people of WGC and more widely, for very many years. As owners of the facility, what are the Council doing? The heart of the town’s leisure provision is being ripped out without a word or a care.

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Rail Fares Up; Service Still Down

Thameslink service passing through Hatfield

News that rail fares will rise by 3% at local stations is massive blow to passengers, and also to the reputation of MP Grant Shapps who vowed to stop the rise. "Even a government without a majority feels able to snub the MP and other more vocal Herts MPs who wrote together to oppose any rise" says local LibDem council group leader Malcolm Cowan, who is also chair of the WGC rail user group. "The Department for Transport set the fares for rail operator Govia. Chris Grayling, as Transport Minister must have signed off these ludicrous fare rises. If Grant is serious, he must demand Grayling's resignation."

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Local hospital trust misses targets yet again – why?

New QE2 - Welwyn Garden City

Figures just secured by the BBC show the local North and East Herts Hospitals Trust missing 2 out of its 3 main targets, and not even providing data for the third.

On seeing patients in A and E within 4 hours, it hasn't hit the target for over 3 years. For cancer care treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral, it is 8th worst in the UK out of 131 trusts, having not hit its target since April 2015. For planed operations and care, it has failed to provide any data, as was the case earlier in the year.

Yet nearby Luton and Dunstable, drawing its staff from a similar catchment area, results are very different: On A and E, it is top throughout the country (and well above targe), on cancer care it is well above average and above target, and on planned operations and care it is above average though slightly below target.

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Lib Dems call on Government to Save Funding for Maintained Nursery Schools

Last week Liberal Democrat Cllr Tamsin Jackson-Mynott won over the entire Borough Council who voted unanimously for her motion to put pressure on Grant Shapps MP to lobby the Govt to save funding for maintained nursery schools.

Speaking not only as a Councillor but as a parent using the wonderful facilities provided by maintained nursery schools for her daughter, Tamsin said, “The argument to save the funding for maintained nursery schools is not a cash saving exercise - it's about protecting a learning environment for young children that is rich with experience, support, knowledge sharing, cross school network learning, SEND support and teacher training. Nothing new is needed,  just a maintenance of the status quo. But for that to happen we all need to work together to this common goal for all of our children”.

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Depot out of Service

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times


Dear Sir or madam,

Residents of Peartree Lane with the threat of a bus servicing depot being built at the bottom of their gardens are jubilant after a planning inspector threw out an appeal against the refusal by Welwyn Hatfield council.

Applicants Welham Travel saw their application recommended for approval by council officers, but after I as ward councillor plus local residents spoke out against it at a planning meeting In January this year, councillors threw the application out.

The applicants then raised an appeal to an inspector at the last possible moment. The local residents association strongly objected to the proposal and I also wrote to the inspector explaining why the application should be rejected and finally the inspector announced he agreed and the application was rejected.

It was very disappointing to see the council planning officer recommending approval, but I and residents were determined to fight it and our stance has been justified. It shows a well organised and argued campaign can win. Peartree residents can look forward to sleeping more easily as a result of this.

Jayne Ranshaw, one of the local residents who fought this said "This proposal was wholly unsuitable in a residential area. We are delighted that the inspector upheld the councillors' decision and rejected the application".

Malcolm Cowan
Liberal Democrat Councillor

Christina Raven Selected as Liberal Democrat Candidate for Welwyn West

Christina Raven, LidDem Candidate for Welwyn West

The Liberal Democrats have chosen Christina Raven as their candidate for the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council by-election in Welwyn West ward set for 29th November. An osteopath who practises in Welwyn, Hitchin and SE London, Christina grew up in Digswell and returned in 2007 to live in Old Welwyn.

Christina explained why she is standing: “My earliest memories are rooted in this community, and I’ve made Welwyn my home for more than a decade. I love this community, and want to contribute to both preserving what is best about it, and also making it better.

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"Incapacitated" Service

Letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times


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.'

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