Garden Waste Tax – Daylight Robbery say Gloucester Lib Dems

Jeremy Hilton with GCC garden waste bin subject to a 22% increase in collection charge

Jeremy Hilton with GCC garden waste bin subject to a 22% increase in collection charge

Gloucester Liberal Democrats have condemned the recent announcement by the Conservative controlled city council that charges for collecting garden waste are going up by 22%. Lib Dems have described the ‘garden waste tax’ as ‘daylight robbery’. They blame the Conservative council and government in equal proportion.
The current charge for garden waste collection is £36 per year. The charge was introduced in 2011 to cover the cost of collection on this non-statutory service. Lib Dems discovered in 2016 that the council was profiteering from the collection by around £6 per bin, making a profit of £110,000 a year. The Tories now propose to increase the charge to £44.
Lib Dem leader, Jeremy Hilton said: “Last year we tried to reduce the charge to £31 to just cover the cost of collection. Both Labour and Tory councillors rejected our proposal. Now the Conservatives plan to increase the charge to £44. This is a tax on responsible householders who recycle their garden waste. It’s daylight robbery.”
Lib Dem Deputy leader, Declan Wilson said: “The council’s finances are dire and the Tories are penalising responsible householders. We should be encouraging recycling not taxing it. The Tories will be making a profit of £13 on every green bin. This a profit margin of 30%. Local gardeners are going to have to empty their pockets to cover the financial mismanagement of the council by the Conservatives. It’s unfair.”

Tax-payers hit again by rising costs of Gloucestershire incinerator

A legal challenge has been today submitted by the Liberal Democrats under the council’s constitution over Cabinet’s approval of a £17 million contribution towards the Javelin Park incinerator.

Liberal Democrats are also questioning the lack of transparency with regards to the revised UBB contract that Cabinet has now authorised the Director of Communities and Infrastructure to agree and sign before negotiations have been completed.

The legal challenge known as a ‘call-in’ will halt the signing of the revised contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) until members of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee can meet to review the process.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) said:

“I am appalled that we’re in a situation where this council is giving a further £17million of tax-payers money to Urbaser Balfour Beatty for this project.

“The rising costs of the project have been down to Tory recklessness and incompetence and now they’re expecting county residents to pay.

“The Tory cabinet has pushed ahead with this project regardless of public opinion. I’ve asked a question about the cost of UBB’s gate fees, but Cabinet Member, Cllr. Ray Theodoulou has refused to give an answer.

“The blatant lack of transparency has led many to be suspicious of the true costs of building such a facility in Gloucestershire and Cllr. Theodoulou’s refusal to answer straight-forward questions has left us no choice, but to challenge this decision.”

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Chris Coleman (LD: St Marks and St Peters) who is also the Cabinet Member for Clean and Green Environment on Cheltenham Borough Council said:

“This council is taking a huge reputational and financial risk and it’ll be the tax-payers who will bear the brunt. The Conservatives have had plenty of opportunity to do the right thing and stop this unwanted and grossly expensive scheme.

“Across the county, residents know that there are other technologies that are better for the environment, health and the economy but time and again the Conservatives have ignored these alternative ways to deal with waste.

“It is a ludicrous and never ending saga that is seeing taxpayers money literally going up in smoke.”
ENDS…..

Notice of call-in
To Pete Bungard – Chief Executive

We, the undersigned six members give notice of which was published on 11 November 2015 (Agenda Item 8) –

Approval of a £17 million one-off financial contribution to the residual waste project, funded from revenue reserves to mitigate the cost of delay in the annual revenue budget for the project over 25 years.
Authorises the Director of Communities and infrastructure to agree and sign the deed of variation restatement of the residual waste contract.
The grounds for the call in are that the following conditions are satisfied for the reasons specified:

3. In making the decision, the Cabinet, Leader of the Council or Cabinet Lead Member took account of an irrelevant matter or failed to take account of a relevant matter –

The relevant matter[s] not taken into account by the Cabinet is [are]

Cabinet are being asked to authorise the Director of Communities and Infrastructure to agree and sign the deed of variation restatement of the residual waste contract even though negotiations still appear to be happening between the Council and UBB.
4. The Cabinet, Leader of the Council or Cabinet Lead Member acted contrary to the Cabinet Procedure Rules, the Access to Information about the County Council’s Formal Business and/or the principles of decision making set out in Part 2, Article 7.02 of the Constitution.

The matter contravened is –

7.02.3 – They should take proper consultation with others.

The above matter was contravened by the Cabinet in the following way:

The council continues to hide behind the protection of commercial confidentiality when members have asked questions about the project including the cost of gate fees, which presumably have now increased since the renegotiation of the contract and also in spite of the Information Commissioner’s order to release hidden details of the contract.
Although certain figures in terms of the costs involved as a consequence of planning delay or inability to obtain planning has featured on pink exempt paper; Cabinet has nevertheless failed to show ALL detailed costs involved to members of this council including the gate fees.
Members of this Council have not been properly briefed in terms of how the £17 million one-off financial contribution to the waste project paid now will actually provide any long-term savings to this council.
Cabinet have also failed to give members of this council any assurance that a £17 million one-off amount will not curtail and negatively impact other projects.
Dated – 11th November 2015

2. Call-in signed by the following Liberal Democrats: –

1. Cllr. Bernie Fisher
2. Cllr. Jeremy Hilton
3. Cllr. David Brown
4. Cllr. Simon Wheeler
5. Cllr. Chris Coleman

Lib Dems call for removal of “tacky’ adverts

Liberal Democrat councillors on Gloucester City Council are to call for the removal of all adverting boards on roundabouts within the city boundaries. Jeremy Hilton and David Brown will lead a debate at the city council, when it next meets on 19th November.

Liberal Democrats are critical that the decision to sanction the installation of advertising boards by the Tory Cabinet Member for the Environment, Cllr. Jim Porter was done without consultation with ward councillors and the local community.

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm & Wotton) said. “These advertising boards are blighting well kept roundabouts in Gloucester. They are visually intrusive and unnecessary. The council get a paltry £10,000 income per year from this advertising. We do not need our historic city cheapened in this way. Lib Dems are demanding that all advertising on roundabouts are removed immediately.”

Cllr. David Brown (LD: Hucclecote) who will be seconding the motion to remove the advert boards said: “A number of residents in Barnwood and Hucclecote have complained to me by email, telephone and in person.  Most point out that adverts are designed to attract our attention and that is the last thing a driver needs when negotiating a roundabout, and I agree.  Others say that the signs are tacky and people are concerned that even more will pop up around the area.”

Ends….

Notice of motion for full council

“This council notes with great disappointment the Cabinet Member for the Environment’s decision to sanction the installation of advertising boards on roundabouts across the city.

This council believes these advertising boards are tacky and unsightly; blighting some well kept roundabouts.

The council also believes these advertising boards could be a distraction to motorists and present an unnecessary hazard to motorcyclists.

This council, therefore, requests the Cabinet Member for the Environment to instruct officers of this council to have these advertising boards removed immediately from roundabouts within the city council boundaries.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton

Seconded by David Brown

 

Allstone’s apply to crush stone for three more years

Jeremy Hilton outside Allstone Sand & Gravel

Jeremy Hilton outside Allstone Sand & Gravel

Allstone Sand & Gravel have applied to Gloucestershire County Council for temporary planning permission to extend stone crushing and stockpiling at its Myers Road site. This will be the third application, following on from approval given by the county council in 2011 and 2013. This time the application is for three more years.

The application proposes to continue with the same operating hours, but permission is sought to increase the height of the stockpile from 4m to 6m. Twenty lorries a day are expected to make visits to the site, with a maximum of 20,000 tonnes of inert waste per annum.

Photo taken of crushed stone stockpile on 3rd Oct 2015.

Photo taken of crushed stone stockpile on 3rd Oct 2015.

Liberal Democrat county councillor for the area, Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) will oppose the application. He said:  “I am not at all happy with this application that seeks to continue stone crushing for another three years. The county council has failed to enforce the condition limiting the stockpile height to just 4 metres.

“The dust and noise close to residential properties is unwanted. After four years, I had hoped that Allstone would have found a more acceptable site to carry out this sort of process. The site is close to homes at Swallow Park and Armscroft Estate. It is near St Peter’s Primary School and the hospital is also in the area. Horton Road is already heavily congested and does not need more lorries travelling along it.

“The proposal to increase the stockpile of stone from four to six metres will only exacerbate the risk of dust problems. The stockpile is just a few metres away from people’s homes.

Cllr Hilton has asked county planning officers to insist on an Environmental Impact Assessment, as the applicants think this is not required.

Residents can post comments online at: www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/planning – Ref No. 15/0077/GLMAJW

Tory council blights roundabouts with advertising

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

The Tory controlled city council has erected advertising boards on the three roundabouts along Estcourt Road. They are also doing this across Gloucester.

The decision to install advertising boards has been questioned by Liberal Democrat councillors. It is understood that the council will get a paltry £10,000 from the advert boards across the city.

Planning approval was done, unusually, under officer-delegated powers. Normally planning applications by the council have to come to the planning committee.

Liberal Democrat councillor Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) said: “The Tories have used stealth methods to get advertising boards installed. The scheme was developed with the cabinet member, who failed to take a written report to cabinet. Local councillors were not consulted by cabinet on this scheme ahead of decision to go ahead. Then planning permission was granted under officer-delegated powers.

“If the Tories get their way, the three roundabouts in question will be blighted for the next five years. They are an eyesore and a distraction for drivers. I shall be fighting to get these removed. We don’t need this tacky advertising blighting the roundabouts in Kingsholm & Wotton or the rest of Gloucester.”

Government is putting at risk Council’s Solar PV Projects

On the day that the Gloucestershire County Council decided to build five solar photovoltaic generation sites on county council owned land, the government decided to consider changing the Feed-in Tariff rules. If the government are to reduce the Feed-in rates it could make this innovative renewable energy project unviable.

The Feed-in tariff (FIT) has been providing payments to owners of electricity-generating renewable energy technologies since 2010. The generous initial rates of the  Feed-in tariff (FIT) has meant that the uptake of solar panels has been faster than expected and the government is currently undertaking a review of implementing cost control measures, which will ultimately be damaging to new municipal Solar PV projects of 5MW and below.

A consultation published by the Department of Energy & Climate Change is currently being undertaken and closes next month. If following this consultation it is considered that the scheme is unaffordable, it may well spell the end to generation tariffs for new applicants from January 2016.  

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr Jeremy Hilton will be calling for the Government to reconsider such changes at the next County Council meeting being held at Shire Hall on Friday 23rd October on the same day the consultation closes.

Cllr Jeremy Hilton said that “it is very much a double whammy in that not only is this Government reducing Council budgets, but they are also putting at risk Council’s own innovative projects.

“Ground-mounted solar PV has the potential to be an area of great investment for the Council. Helping to increase this Council’s revenue income will assist in reducing pressures on frontline services.

“This Council’s target is also to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2020/21.  The changes being proposed do not assist us in reaching such targets.

“Tens of thousands of pounds have already been spent on the pre-planning of this project – I am disappointed that the changes being proposed may mean that the economic case for each site could become unviable.   

“I am also calling on the Leader of this Council to write to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP requesting that any changes do not put at risk these and other public sector/community-led schemes”.

ENDS 

Notes:

The following motion is to be debated at Shire Hall on Friday 23rd October 2015:

Motion – Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Renewable Energy Generation on the Council’s Estate

This Council welcomes the decision taken by Cabinet on 22nd July approving the award of contract(s) for the design, build and maintenance of ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) renewable energy generation facilities on the Council’s Estate.

This Council notes that in light of the Council’s revenue budget pressures such a project would help increase the revenue income from the Council’s land assets, converting capital into revenue and thus reducing pressure on frontline Council services whilst at the same time reducing both energy costs and the carbon footprint of the Council.

This Council is however deeply concerned with the Government’s proposals for a fundamental review of the Renewables Obligation and Feed-in Tariff Scheme (FITs), which could put at jeopardy this Council’s and other local authorities Solar PV projects.

This Council therefore resolves that the Leader of this Council writes to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP requesting that any intended changes do not put at risk those public sector/community-led schemes such as this project and any similar future projects, which require much longer to develop, but yet have a much greater social return.

Time to end stone crushing at Myers Road

Liberal Democrat county councillor for Kingsholm & Wotton, Jeremy Hilton has today called for the county council enforcement team to close down the stone crushing operation off Myers Road when the two-year temporary permission ends in September.
Temporary planning permission was granted to Allstone Sand & Gravel by the county council in September 2013 for a two-year period despite opposition from local Lib Dem councillors.
Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “At the time of the application I did object to the renewal of the stone crushing permission, because of the negative impact this would have on neighbouring residential properties. There are many residents living at The Crescent, Swallow Park and Armscroft Estate who would like this process to end. People are getting fed up of the heavy lorries travelling up and down Horton Road and Myers Road, and the hazard this creates, especially close to St Peter’s Primary School in Horton Road. The stone crushing is a noise and dust nuisance to residents living nearby. We have the hospital in the neighbourhood. There must be a more suitable location in Gloucestershire for Allstone to carry out their stone crushing operation. I encourage them to look for one.”
Cllr. Hilton has asked the county enforcement team to act on clause 1 of the decision statement.
Clause 1 reads: “The development hereby permitted shall cease and the site be restored to permeable hard standing to the levels indicated on the Site Survey Plan ASG/001/2013 (dated Feb 2013), with all plant and machinery removed, no later than the expiration of two years from the date of this permission.”
Cllr. Hilton continued: “The decision notice is dated the 27th of September 2013 therefore I assume that permission ends on 27th of September this year. It is now time for the county council to get tough and implement its decision and to end stone crushing off Myers Road by end of September.”
Ends…

Notes

Link to 13/0021/GLMAJW decision notice http://caps.gloucestershire.gov.uk/gcc_images/13_0021_GLMAJW_DEC_NOT.pdf

Liberal Democrats Call for Incinerator Review

Anna Mozol and Jeremy Hilton at Javelin Park - The proposed site of the Tory  waste incinerator

Anna Mozol and Jeremy Hilton at Javelin Park – The proposed site of the Tory waste incinerator

The Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council will at Wednesday’s extraordinary council meeting call for the Cabinet to ask Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) to halt work on the incinerator at Javelin Park until a full and public independent review has been undertaken to scrutinise both the Council’s procurement process and the contract in detail.

On two separate occasions, the Liberal Democrats have challenged pivotal decisions made by the Conservative Cabinet regarding Gloucestershire County Council’s residual waste project. Firstly, in December 2011, the Liberal Democrats lodged what is known as a ‘call-in’ over the selection of a preferred bidder and again another ‘call-in’ was submitted in September 2012 over the Cabinet’s decision to award the contract to Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) before the Council’s planning committee had considered the incinerator application.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) who will be leading calls for the review said:

“From the beginning, we’ve always challenged the process. In making a decision to cancel the incinerator contract at this stage, one needs to be sure of the exact costs involved and whether or not the contract had the necessary break-clauses in place to minimise any potential financial risk to this council.

“I am not convinced that the £60m-£100m cost to cancel the UBB contract is accurate, but has been instead overly estimated as a scaremongering tactic to stop elected members from voting in favour of cancelling the contract for fear of reprisals to council services.

“It is only right and responsible for an independent auditor to examine the contract in detail and determine impartially the actual figures involved with cancelling a contract of this nature and at this particular stage.

“If the figures are proved to be accurate, then, the Tories should be ashamed of themselves in purposefully tying our hands to a stringent and highly inflexible contract that will cost many millions of taxpayers’ money to cancel and detrimentally affect many council services.

“Until we know fully the costs involved, then, I do not feel that any elected member on Wednesday can make an informed decision over whether or not to cancel the incinerator contract.

“Labour has been overzealous in calling for the cancellation of the incinerator without first looking at all the costs involved and are playing politics over an important issue, which is simply for the benefit of their parliamentary candidate standing in Stroud. If sensible they too would be asking for such a review.

“It is time that we stop playing politics with such an important issue and get to the bottom of the real costs involved and whether the process was done correctly from the beginning.”

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Iain Dobie (LD: Leckhampton and Warden Hill) also said:

“If Labour are serious about cancelling this contract then wouldn’t it be better for them to know all the facts and surely if the Tories have nothing to hide then delaying work until the contract has been independently scrutinised would give elected members and residents of Gloucestershire confidence in the current administration.

“A review of this kind would give elected members like myself who were only elected in 2013 all the facts to make a reasoned and informed decision on whether it really is in the best interests of Gloucestershire to cancel the incinerator contract or not. I believe in transparency and I come to this without any prejudice.

“Our request is basically that once this review has been completed and a full uncensored report be presented to full council on Wednesday 20th May, then, we shall be in a much better position to make such an important decision.”

Astronomical costs to cancelling incinerator contract

In response to the costs associated with cancelling the UBB incinerator contract that have been shared with the Liberal Democrat Group.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) said that:

“We have seen the figures for exiting the waste incinerator contract with UBB and it is astronomical. The figures quoted are between £60m and £100m, which is far greater than the £33 million quoted for cancelling a similar contract in Norfolk.

“Labour have acted irresponsibly in calling to cancel this contract before knowing these costs. The Conservatives were reckless in signing such a rigid contract before the planning committee had even considered the application.

“The Liberal Democrats have always been opposed to the building of an incinerator and have continually pushed for alternative technologies such as Mechanical Biological treatment (MBT).

“We will now be looking at these figures in detail and seeking legal advice.

“Both Labour and the Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves in allowing this diabolical situation to develop in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ position.”

ENDS….

Don’t leave us in limbo Mr Pickles

 

Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council have today requested an extraordinary council meeting to be arranged in January over the Secretary of State’s failure, for the third time, to announce a decision on the £500m Javelin Park incinerator.

Jeremy Hilton, Steve Webb & Kevin Daws - thumbs down to incinerator 2

A written request has been submitted by five Liberal Democrat County Councillors to the Chairperson, Cllr. Awford, voicing disappointment with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP, in delaying to make a final decision.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said that:

“Once this meeting has been arranged, we’ll be insisting the Leader of this Council, Cllr. Mark Hawthorne writes to the Secretary of State immediately.

“Two years ago, the county council’s planning committee unanimously rejected permission to build a massive waste incinerator at Javelin Park. It is a disgrace that Eric Pickles, has for the third time, failed to make a decision on whether or not such a facility should be built.

“We demand that Mr. Pickles makes his decision no later than the start of the 2015 general election purdah period, i.e. Thursday 26th March 2015.

“The Conservative’s shambolic approach during the previous council meant the contract was signed before planning permission was considered. The consequences of has already cost this council millions of pounds. Any further delays will undoubtedly add to this cost and to the taxpayer.

“The Liberal Democrats have always been opposed to the building of this incinerator, but being ‘left in limbo’ like this is totally unacceptable.”

Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson, who has also put his name requesting for an additional meeting, also said that:

“The situation has gone beyond a joke. I cannot see any legitimate reason why the Secretary of State cannot make a decision one way or the other over the building of a mass burning incinerator at Javelin Park.

“The Conservatives are undoubtedly nervous about any decision made this side of May’s elections.

“Of course it may well hamper the Tories chances in holding seats, especially the parliamentary ones currently held by Richard Graham in the City and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown in the Cotswolds.

“It is time the Leader of the County Council stood up for residents and demand that this decision is made before the elections in May.”

ENDS