Last year Jeremy Hilton arranged for two thousand additional daffodil bulbs to be planted along Estcourt Road. He said: “It is lovely to see these daffodils sprouting and flowering. It’s a sign that Spring is on its way.”
Liberal Democrats on the city council will propose amendments to the council budget on Thursday (22nd Feb) concentrating on cultural and community activities.
They will use a third of the unallocated £800,000 expected windfall from the 100% business rates retention pilot to fund five key projects.
In total the Lib Dems will suggest additional spending of £270,000. This will not require a further increase in the council tax above the 3% rise set by the Tory cabinet.
Among the proposals from the Lib Dems is to hold a Gloucester Narrow Boat Festival at the Docks, spending £10,000 installing drinking water fountains in public areas and doubling the amount of money city councillors allocate to community projects in their wards.
The Lib Dems also plan to tackle the backlog of cataloguing artefacts held by the museum service and start a fund to invest in new public art for Gloucester.
Councillor Jeremy Hilton, Lib Dem group leader, said:
“We are concentrating our amendments on community and cultural projects. We plan to wisely use part of the expected windfall from the business rates retention pilot to deal with the 16,000 historic artefacts that have not received basic cataloguing by the museums service. We will also allocate £100,000 for new public art. Something about the Siege of Gloucester or Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians would be top of my list. Liberal Democrat plans would not increase the council tax further.
Councillor Declan Wilson, Lib Dem deputy group leader and finance spokesman, added:
“The Lib Dem proposals will see a real investment in Gloucester’s arts and heritage. A new narrow boat festival at the Docks is in our plans as is the installation of drinking water fountains in public spaces. We also plan to boost grants for community activities around the city over the next two years by £40,000. We hope that both Tory and Labour councillors will support us.”
Nearly 800 homes in Gloucester are empty, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, show that there are 791 homes across the city that have been empty for six months or more.
Of these, 299 had been empty for two years or more, 95 for five years or more, and 37 have stood empty for at least 10 years in Gloucester.
Across the country more than 11,000 homes have been lying empty for longer than a decade, the Lib Dem figures show.
Conservative-controlled Gloucester City Council has failed to make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) in the last five years – powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.
This is despite the fact that some people in Gloucester have spent Christmas without a permanent home – living in temporary accommodation.
Nationally only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these only six had used one in the past year.
Councillor Jeremy Hilton, the Liberal Democrat group leader on Gloucester City Council, said: “At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a scandal that so many homes locally are sitting empty.
“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for those that need it in Gloucester.
“The Government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working and Gloucester City Council needs to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use.
“It is shameful that Gloucester City Council has failed to use existing powers to end this scandal. People have spent Christmas without a permanent home because of Conservative inaction and ineptitude.”
Councillor David Brown, the Liberal Democrat housing spokesman on Gloucester City Council, added: “These desperately needed reforms must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”
The Liberal Democrat leader on Gloucester City Council, Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) has today called for an early end of the council’s streetcare contract with Amey PLC. The fifteen year contract is due to end on 31st March 2022 and is valued at £5.7m per year. Amey are contracted to provide street cleaning, grounds maintenance, recycling and refuse collection services.
The call by Jeremy Hilton to end the contract early, comes as councillors email inboxes have been flooded with complaints from residents about missed bin collections over the Christmas period. This follows on from a similar problem with bins not being collected last year due to insufficient drivers being employed by Amey. The quality of the street cleaning and grounds maintenance services is also problematic.
The streetcare service will be discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday 8th January and Jeremy Hilton will call for an ending of the contract earlier rather later and for all options to be considered, including bringing the service back in-house with a direct labour organisation.
Previously, Richard Cook the cabinet member in charge has described the contract as the worst he has ever seen.
Jeremy Hilton said: “It is time that the administration took action and cancelled the contract because of poor performance. The sooner we reorganise the streetcare services the better. I favour serious consideration to bringing the service back in-house with council employing and managing staff directly rather than through a third party. We have had a number of failures on the refuse collection service in the last twelve months, grounds maintenance is inadequate and street cleaning in Gloucester is just not good enough.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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 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.”