Thousands of pounds of public money wasted on abortive fire takeover

The total cost to the public purse of the abortive attempt by Gloucestershire Police & Crime Commissioner, Martin Surl, to takeover the county’s fire and rescue service was £135,000. 

The fire and rescue service has been governed by Gloucestershire County Council since 1974. All members of the council are united in their support of the county council remaining the local fire authority.

After spending £100,000 of taxpayers money on employing his own consultants to mount a hostile bid to run the fire and rescue service, Mr Surl dropped his plan during the summer. The cost to the county council in defending its fire authority role was £35,000.

Jeremy Hilton speaking out against the waste of public money

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Fire Service, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm and Wotton) said:

“The county council is the fire authority and already does a brilliant job in managing Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service. We all need to remember the great job our firefighters did during the 2007 floods.

“I am very disappointed in the police and crime commissioner for wasting such a large sum of public money on empire building. In particular, I am concerned about the £10,000 cost of fire officer time spent on answering Mr Surl’s consultant’s questions. He needs to concentrate on delivering a better police service in Gloucestershire.

“I am, however, pleased that he dropped his takeover bid.

“The £135,000 of taxpayers money spent would have been better used on developing new collaborative projects between the blue light services. We should be looking at sharing our fire stations.

“Together we pioneered the TriService emergency centre and vehicle workshops. The fire service is now helping the ambulance service by co-responding to medical emergencies and also helping social services with the enhanced self and well checks at people’s homes.

“We can do more collaborative work something which I will be proposing at December’s Council meeting in Shire Hall.”

We must save art panels from the former BHS store

Jeremy Hilton with the art panels in the background

The future of the three concrete art panels on the front of the former BHS shop in Eastgate Street is under question. A planning application by Reef Estates to remodel the shop front has been deposited with the city council. It will include the removal and relocation of the three concrete art panels currently on the front wall of the store.

Liberal Democrat councillor, Jeremy Hilton has written to the council asking for the art panels to be safely removed and relocated.

Art panel depicting goods on sale

Cllr. Hilton said:

“It is most important that the three concrete art panels are preserved. The city council and Reef Estates must agree on how the panels are to be removed and relocated before planning permission is granted. We don’t want a bodge job being done.

“The three concrete art panels are about 45 years old and depict the goods on sale in the shops at the time. This is good public art and very much of its time. They must be retained and displayed in the city centre.

“The applicants have suggested relocating the art panels to Clarence Street, which I believe is acceptable. However, the art panels should be displayed and illuminated to show them off in the best way possible. I would also like to see an interpretation board nearby explaining how they were made including the details of the original artists.”

Similar art panels have appeared on other BHS stores around the country in towns such as Stockport and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Artists Joyce Pallot & Henry Collins

Jeremy Hilton added:

“I believe Gloucester panels are the work of Joyce Pallot (1912-2004) and Henry Collins (1910-1994) – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, established the Colchester Art Society, during the 1930s.

“They never worked on the site itself, but used a regular contractor Hutton’s Builders Ltd of Colchester, who cast the panels. Their work must be preserved.”

Liberal Democrats Condemn Boundary Review Plans

New boundary map showing the loss of Elmbridge to the Gloucester Parliamentary Constituency.

The Liberal Democrats have branded proposals to move Elmbridge out of Gloucester and into Tewkesbury as “daft”.

The Boundary Commission for England has suggested in its latest review of parliamentary boundaries that the Elmbridge area of Gloucester be represented by an MP from a town 12 miles away.

It would see Elmbridge joining the neighbouring Longlevens in Tewkesbury, so that Quedgeley can be retained in Gloucester, rather than moving to Stroud.

The Liberal Democrats have long argued for Longlevens to return to Gloucester and have criticised the Boundary Commission for England for ignoring community and identity and concentrating on the numbers.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of Gloucester Liberal Democrats, said: “These new proposals are just daft – the heart is being ripped out of Gloucester. The proposal to move Elmbridge comes as a complete shock as the previous plan gave no indication to the loss of Elmbridge.

“I’m pleased Quedgeley has been retained within the Gloucester parliamentary constituency as residents identify far more with Gloucester than Stroud.

“The key to this review is identity and community and identity and community have been ignored.

“We campaigned for Longlevens to be moved into Gloucester from Tewkesbury because the people of Longlevens identify far more with Gloucester than Tewkesbury.

“We thought the Boundary Commission had agreed to returning Longlevens to Gloucester.

“The furthermost boundary of Longlevens is just a mile from the city centre. You can hear the roar from Kingsholm on match days – yet Longlevens is represented by an MP from a town 12 miles away.

“The same applies to Elmbridge, which under these proposals will be joining Longlevens in Tewkesbury.

“The Boundary Commission says the City of Gloucester is too large to be a single constituency. The reduction in the number of MPs and the 5% variation in constituency sizes is hurting Gloucester.”

Councillor Hilton added: “It is very unlikely these proposals will be implemented as the DUP and many Conservative backbenchers will not support them.

“I would urge Gloucester MP Richard Graham to vote against these proposals.

“The Government should stop wasting tax-payers’ money and pull the plug on this review. Legislation to review parliamentary boundaries also needs amending.”

Liberal Democrats demand action over empty buildings

Kingsholm & Wotton councillors, Isabel Brazil & Jeremy Hilton at Trident Life building

The regeneration of Gloucester has stalled and more must be done by the council to tackle the number of empty buildings in the city centre.

Liberal Democrat councillors have demanded that action is taken to kickstart the regeneration of dozens of empty buildings in Gloucester.

They include the former Argos store in Eastgate Street, the former jobcentre in Southgate Street and KC’s nightclub on Quay Street.

Former Argos store

Meanwhile the restoration of the Fleece Hotel has received a set back with a recent fire.

They are among 38 buildings on Gloucester City Council’s regeneration hit list and Lib Dem councillors have tabled a motion to be debated on 28th September to demand the ruling Conservative leadership draws up an action plan to tackle the problems.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of Gloucester Liberal Democrats, said: “The regeneration of Gloucester’s built environment is important to the Liberal Democrats.

“We are aware that the administration has a list of 38 sites that need regenerating.

“Progress is being made on a number of sites, but others seem to have stalled. The purpose of our motion is to put together tougher project management behind the list, with an action plan for every site on it, so that we can all scrutinise progress.

“It is all too easy to forget the hard to do sites, whilst concentrating on the easy wins.

“There are sites on the list where the Liberal Democrat group feel too little progress is being made and we want the cabinet member to focus some attention on them.

“We need to remember that the restoration and regeneration of the Fleece Hotel has been set back by the recent fire. We have seen fires in other listed buildings in the past where they are left to rot for too long.”

Councillor Hilton, who represents Kingsholm, said that in his ward the former Trident Life office on London Road has been empty for years.

“I understand that the owners have previously received a number of offers to buy it, but none have proceeded to a sale,” he said.

“It is slowly deteriorating and has recently been boarded up. I would like to see the council use compulsory purchase powers to acquire it for residential purposes.”

Lib Dem finance spokesman Councillor Declan Wilson, who represents Hucclecote, added: “Returning these buildings to commercial use would bring much-needed revenue into Gloucester, including rents and business rates.

“It would also help improve the range of businesses and services on offer to local residents and would also clear up what have become several unattractive grot spots and targets for anti-social behaviour in the centre of Gloucester.”

The motion, proposed by Councillor Hilton and seconded by Councillor Wilson, says: “This council agrees that one of its key objectives should be to oversee the regeneration of vacant and derelict sites within the council’s administrative area.

“Council notes that it has a list of 38 regeneration sites on its ‘regeneration hit list’.

“Council calls on the cabinet member for regeneration to prepare a report to refresh the hit list.

“The cabinet member should seek advice from councillors on which sites should be included in the new regeneration hit list.

“Finally, council requests that the new regeneration hit list include a cabinet approved action plan for each site, which can be monitored using the traffic light system.”

Statement by Jeremy Hilton, Lib Dem Leader – King’s Quarter Business Plan

It has taken some time, but at last we have a plan for the King’s Quarter that replaces the defunct retail led scheme. Liberal Democrats had long called for a plan B, when it was obvious the original scheme was going nowhere. I welcome the new plan drawn up by the council’s consultants, which will be a genuine mixed use scheme.

I am pleased that we shall retain Kings Square as a public open space and that it will not be built on as was the case in the original retail led scheme. However, there is still a lot of design work to do in making sure that the refurbished square is something we can all be proud of and enjoy.

It is critical that we get the layout of the development and the quality of the architecture right so that the development becomes an impressive gateway into the city centre from both the railway station and bus station. There will also be a new car park with 428 spaces and I hope the designers ensure that it will be a safe and pleasant place to use. The proposed hotel should also be of the quality that will boost Gloucester’s offer and attract people back to the city.

Kings Quarter should also be the location of a modern and good quality indoor market to replace the tired market at the Eastgate Shopping Centre. Markets need a good footfall and the development at Kings Quarter should provide a location near to the transport hubs for specialist market traders to thrive.

It will be important that the development is a high quality build and of a design that wins architectural awards. I believe the consultants have got it right in proposing four phases of the development. The inclusion of residential units in the plans must also be welcomed.

Finally, I do think the city council cabinet has missed a golden opportunity to move its offices to the King’s Quarter. The cabinet is considering selling the offices at Herbert, Kimberly and Phillpotts warehouses and moving into Shire Hall. I think we should seriously consider building new council offices in the King’s Quarter, helping to kickstart the regeneration of this area just as we did in the 1980’s when we moved our offices to the Docks. The business plan does include up to 100,000 sq feet of office space.

Martin Surl withdraws hostile bid to takeover Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service

Jeremy Hilton a strong advocate for the fire service remaining with Gloucestershire County Council

 

Martin Surl the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire has announced that he will not be persuing a hostile bid, allowed under the Police & Crime Act, to takeover the governance of Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service, which is currently governed by the county council.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the fire service, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) welcomed the news.

He said: “This is very good news. The fire and rescue service should stay under the governance of Gloucestershire County Council, as it has done since 1974. My motion to the county council in June opposing a transfer was backed unanimously by all councillors. Mr Surl was alone in wanting to transfer the service.

“The Police and Crime Commisioner has a massive job governing Gloucestershire Constabulary. He needs to concentrate on improving the police service in our county. I’m pleased he has recognised this and has withdrawn his bid to takeover Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service.

“The Fire and Rescue Service is already well run. It does a brilliant job in protecting the people of this county. We all remember the excellet job our firefighters did during the servere floods in 2007.”

Long running saga of unadopted roads at St Oswald’s Park – continues

Jeremy Hilton at Longhorn Avenue, St Oswald’s Park

The long running saga of the adoption of the roads and footpaths on the residential development at St Oswald’s Park continues.

At the county council meeting in June, local Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Lib Dem – Kingsholm & Wotton) asked the cabinet member what was causing the delay in the adoptions.

The council said the failure of the developers to enter a section 38 highways adoption agreement when construction took place, was a cause.

The cabinet member Nigel Moor said there were several significant issues that would require resolution before the roads could be adopted.

He said: “Issues needing resolution are the adoption of the intervening private streets, submission of a vesting certificate for the sewers, submission of a stage 3 road safety audit and designers response report, submission of the health & safety file and resolution of on-street parking that is causing an obstruction.

“Until the developer decides to address these issues it would not be in the public interest for the council to adopt roads.”

Jeremy Hilton said: “The housing development is now complete and the roads and footpaths need to be formally adopted by the county council. There are issues with inappropriate parking in places that cannot properly be dealt with until to roads are adopted.

“I have written to Persimmon to seek their comments on the cabinet member’s response. They have asked that I call a meeting with key stakeholders. I have written to Persimmon, Hammerson and the county council to invite them to a meeting to get this process moving forward.”

 

Liberal Democrats label ‘Royal’ city plan as a ‘marketing gimmick’

Jeremy Hilton at the entrance to the City of Gloucester, next to a sign promoting the cathedral

Plans to rename Gloucester a royal city have been condemned as a “marketing gimmick” by Liberal Democrat councillors.

The city council is considering whether to petition the Government to become The Royal City of Gloucester.

Council leaders will not press ahead with the idea if local residents are against it.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, local Lib Dem leader, is against renaming Gloucester saying council bosses have not given any details about the costs of rebranding the city.

“It’s a marketing gimmick, pure and simple, and will make no difference to the people of Gloucester. It would be disrespectful to the Queen to seek royal status just as a marketing ploy,” said Councillor Hilton.

“Tourists flock to Gloucester for the cathedral, the docks and 2,000 years of history. Putting ‘royal’ in the title is not going to make a jot of difference to that.

“Instead of wasting his time renaming Gloucester Paul James should focus on regenerating the city centre.

“Kings Square is a mess, too many shops lay empty and the subway under the railway station is an absolute disgrace. The city is covered in litter and we have no decent public toilets.

“Sorting these problems out will bring more tourists to Gloucester and give local people a city to be proud of, not creating a cynical PR marketing campaign.”

Gloucester has a rich royal heritage – Edward II is entombed in the cathedral and Henry III was crowned King in 1216.

“But Gloucester’s most recent royal connection was in 1643 during the Siege of Gloucester when the forces of King Charles I lay siege to the city,” said Councillor Hilton.

“The Parliamentary forces successfully withheld the King’s onslaught to prevent Gloucester from falling. Fifty people lost their lives or were wounded defending the parliamentary cause from 10 August and 5 September 1643. This is now remembered each year with Gloucester Day, which takes place on the first Saturday in September. We should be proud of our history and our defence of parliament.

“Following the return of Charles II to the throne, the King took his revenge upon Gloucester by having its walls torn down and drastically reducing the size of the city’s administrative boundaries. Let’s not disrespect our history.”

Refuse lorry driver shortagethreat waste collections – Gloucestert

The Lib Dems are demanding answers over a shortage of refuse lorry drivers in Gloucester.

Drivers of the bin trucks are leaving to get better paid jobs elsewhere – meaning the city’s residents are getting a worse service.

Local residents are complaining about missed collections as waste contractor Amey struggles to cope with demand.

A recent council report floated the idea of black bin collections going from every two weeks to every three weeks.

But this was rejected for now by the Conservative cabinet because recycling rates are not high enough – although has not been ruled out in the future.

The Lib Dems understand that the city council has asked Amey to review pay structures and give the drivers more money to stop them leaving.

Councillors have asked a series of questions to city council bosses about waste services in Gloucester.

Cllr. Howard Hyman (Lib Dem – Elmbridge) said:

“The last thing we want is Gloucester turning into Birmingham with Amey in dispute with its own staff, piles of uncollected black bags lining the streets and residents forced to take their rubbish to the tip.

“The Conservatives on the city council need to get a grip of this problem. We’ve been raising problems about the bin collections across Gloucester for some time now.”

Group leader Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Lib Dem – Kingsholm & Wotton) agreed:

“The city council and Amey need to sit down together and sort this mess out.

“The Tory council needs to stop trying to extract every pound from the waste contract while Amey should pay the refuse lorry drivers a decent wage for what is a hard job otherwise the only winners here will be the rats, not the residents of Gloucester.”

Lib Dems challenge to city council clean up Gloucester

Liberal Democrat councillors have put down a challenge to the Tories who run the city council to clean up Gloucester. On 20th July the city council will debate a motion by the Liberal Democrats calling for street cleaning to be improved. The Lib Dems are demanding details of the cleaning schedules for every street in the city so that weaknesses in the contract with Amey can be identified.

The move is coming from Kingsholm & Wotton councillors who are fed up with the council’s failure to keep the streets clean. They say that no one knows how often each street should be cleaned and litter removed.

Isabel Brazil said: “We are not at all happy with the street cleaning in Kingsholm and it is no better in other neighbourhoods near to city centre. We must know exactly how often the Amey contract says a street, footpath or open space should be cleared of litter.”

Ward colleague Jeremy Hilton agreed: “There is a distinct difference in the cleaning regime from the city centre to those areas close to the city centre. I’m fed up with seeing litter around Kingsholm and other areas in Gloucester. The Tories and their contractors are letting us down. We are demanding that the cabinet puts forward a improvement plan and lets councillors know how often each street in their ward is contracted to be cleaned.”

Ends…

Motion by Jeremy Hilton seconded by Isabel Brazil

“This council agrees that the level of street cleaning could be much better than it is and that the level of cleanliness in Gloucester is not up to the standard we would expect for an historic city.

This council calls on the Cabinet Member to provide each city councillor with full details of the cleaning regime in their wards, with details of how often each street, open space and public footpath is cleaned.

This council calls on the cabinet member to provide a report on how he intends to improve street cleaning in Gloucester, looking at three zones; the city centre, edge of the city centre and the suburbs.