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.

Half a million streetcare contract mystery

money-drainThe Liberal Democrats are demanding answers from city council leaders over a mystery £500,000 paid to its streetcare contractor for “bins”.

The Lib Dems have discovered that Tory-led Gloucester City Council has been paying £53,824 annually to Amey – the council’s streetcare contractor.

The contract with Amey’s predecessor was signed by the Conservative administration in 2007 and since then more than £500,000 has been paid.

The council or the contractors have been unable provide an accurate explanation of the payments.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of Gloucester Liberal Democrats, questioned Councillor Richard Cook, the cabinet member for the environment, over the contract. He explained the contract looked like it was written by the supplier and had no exit clause.

“I was shocked to hear that so much money has been paid over to the contractor with no-one in the Tory administration having the faintest idea what the payments were used for,” Councillor Hilton said.

“The new cabinet member Richard Cook has described the contract as the worst he has ever seen.

“He was unable to tell me what the payments were for when I questioned him at council.

“The Tories were in charge when the contract was signed. This incompetence is unbelievable.”

Councillor Hilton added: “Gloucester is suffering from Tory austerity with important local services under threat from budget cuts, rising Council Tax bills and hard working council officers losing their jobs.

“Yet the Tory administration has given Amey more than £500,000 and cannot explain what Council Tax payers in Gloucester have got back in return, beyond ‘bins’.”

Councillor Declan Wilson, deputy leader of Gloucester Lib Dems, added: “The problem of the mystery payments first came to light at the Audit Committee on January 23.

“Every year £53,824 has been paid over for ‘bins’, but no-one is able to confirm what this annual sum as been used for.

“This is incredible. For the Tory administration to hand over half a million pounds without fully understanding what it is for is astonishing.”

Blogg: The Vanishing Council by Jeremy Hilton

An empty desk at the city council offices, HKP Warehouses

An empty desk at the city council offices, HKP Warehouses

More jobs are to go on Gloucester City Council. This time the Tory run council plans to axe a further 60 jobs. At this rate, the council will cease to exist in future – its vanishing before us. The council is already running a skeleton service compared to eight years ago.

In 2009 the council employed 432 members of staff providing much needed service to the people of Gloucester. With this round of job losses, the number employed will be just 187.

Already services are suffering with projects being delayed or not done at all. The delayed work on the bus station and failure to deliver the Kings Quarter project are two high profile examples of projects suffering from overburdened staff.
The annual hours lost from the proposed job cuts will be 102,000 per year. The total loss of annual hours will be 417,000 compared to 2009. You can imagine a lot of additional work could be done if we reinstated the lost hours.

The council’s project to cut these 60 jobs is called ‘Together Gloucester’. A more appropriate name might have been ‘Goodbye Gloucester’. Certainly, many loyal members of staff will be reluctantly saying goodbye to the council fairly soon.

To cut these jobs, there will be major restructuring of the council and staff will have to apply for new generic jobs where they will have to double up on their responsibilities. Specialist technical work could be carried out by less experienced staff. Everyone will become a ‘jack of all trades’.

Liberal Democrats are concerned about the council’s ability to run important services in future. The council collects our bins, has responsibility to find homes for the homeless, it protects our built environment, manages our parks and opens spaces, approves planning applications and ensures that taxis are properly licensed.

There comes a point where there just won’t be enough people employed for the council to carry out its statutory duties.

The blame for this situation we are now in must lie 100% with the Conservatives who run the council and their government who both seem wedded to perpetual austerity.

Government funding this next year is being cut by £1.755m. This is totally unfair, but our Tory council just take the grant cuts on the chin and we all suffer and good staff become unemployed.

I believe the leader of the council needs to get on the train to London and lobby hard for a better funding deal for Gloucester City Council. He hasn’t in the past. Is it because he is too timid to fight for Gloucester?

The cuts must stop. If we carry on with job losses year after year as we have done, no one will be working for the council in six years. Our historic city will no longer have a council of its own.

‘Don’t cut the grant to the Citizens Advice Bureau’ say Lib Dems

dont-cut-cab-grant

Liberal Democrats on Gloucester City Council are to oppose plans by the Tory administration to cut the grant to the Gloucester & District Citizens Advice Bureau by half. The have demanded that the grant of £62,000 is retained.

The Lib Dems point out that the grant is already £48,000 smaller that it was in 2011 when the annual funding the CAB received was £110,000. If the grant reduction goes ahead the Gloucester CAB will only get £31,000 from the city council next year. This could mean the Bureau closing one to one and half days a week.

Lib Dem leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “The proposal to cut the CAB grant again is mean spirited. The CAB does a brilliant job. It helps people in need. Last year the Bureau dealt with 8,138 clients. That is incredibly good value at £7.62 per client. Reducing the grant to £31,000 will severely harm the effectiveness of the service the CAB provides in Gloucester. It could mean the Bureau closing for one day a week. I say enough is enough, don’t cut the grant to the CAB. It must be kept at £62,000.”

Lib Dem spokesperson for Communities & Neighbourhoods, Cllr. Howard Hyman said: “The proposed cuts to the funding of the CAB are a false economy. For every pound spent many more pounds are saved in the costs to the council, the NHS and other agencies in dealing with the effects of people having nowhere else to turn. The CAB is more than a place to seek comfort. It is a vital lifeline to many people in Gloucester. Every day desperate people walk through the doors of the CAB and are helped by highly trained and caring volunteers with many kinds of concerns such as effects of welfare reforms, rent arrears, debt advice, domestic violence and helping those who are now being denied justice because of the changes to legal aid.”

Lib Dems condemn the loss of sixty jobs at Gloucester City Council

Jeremy Hilton & Declan Wilson give thumbs down to 60 job losses at GCC

Jeremy Hilton & Declan Wilson give thumbs down to 60 job losses at GCC

Liberal Democrats have announced their opposition to the loss of 60 jobs at Gloucester City Council. They have condemned the move which sees the number of staff employed dropping by 24% from the current establishment. The proposal to axe 60 job comes from the Conservatives who control the council.

Gloucester City Council is to see its funding from the Conservative government cut by £1.755m. Already the council has failed to fill 30 vacancies and another 30 jobs will be lost next year. Liberal Democrat councillors have said the staff shortages have led to delays and non-delivery of vital improvement projects.

Lib Dem leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “The loss of so many jobs will have a major impact on council services. Sixty fulltime jobs going equates to 102,120 hours of support for key projects being lost forever. Already we are suffering from a diminished service from the council and it is going to get worse. Important improvement projects will not get done or will be delayed. It’s depressing. The Tories seem hooked on perpetual austerity.”

Lib Dem Deputy leader, Cllr. Declan Wilson said: “The blame for the loss of so many jobs must be shared between the Conservatives on the council and at Westminster. Budget cuts go on forever. This year the funding from Whitehall is being slashed by 18%. This is grossly unfair. On top of that we have had mismanagement of the council’s finances by the Tories leading to extra avoidable costs. The leader should apologise personally to the staff that will lose their jobs.”

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.”

Liberal Democrats call for more investment in Gloucester’s footways

Jeremy Hilton points out the poor state of the footway along Priory Road

Jeremy Hilton points out the poor state of the footway along Priory Road

Gloucester City Council on the 1st of December will debate the state of the city’s footways and the amount of money the Conservative led county council spends annually on resurfacing. The motion proposed by the Liberal Democrat group will call on the county council (the highway authority) to increase its capital footway budget from the £83,000 being spent this year.

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said:

“The state of many of the footways in Gloucester is shocking, in particular on our post-war housing estates and the older parts of the city. These footpaths are decades old and they need resurfacing rather than patching. The funds allocated by the Conservative run county council on resurfacing are inadequate. The county council must increase spending on footway repairs next year and beyond.”

Liberal Democrats have been critical about the Tories who have recently agreed to spend a £1m on new telephones for Shire Hall and have given contractors UBB £30m in a cash gift to build the waste incinerator at Javelin Park. Money the Lib Dems say could have been better spend on repairing our roads and footpaths.

Cllr. Emily Ryall who will second the motion said:

“It is unacceptable that the Conservative run county council do not see it as a priority to spend taxpayers’ money on ensuring that our pavements and footpaths are safe and fit for purpose. I have heard from residents in my ward of Elmbridge who struggle to manoeuvre wheelchairs, and have suffered twisted ankles and even head injuries from falling, due to uneven and broken surfaces. These residents deserve better.”

Ends….

Motion – poor maintenance of footways in Gloucester

“This council expresses its deep concern about the state of many of the footways in Gloucester, noting that the county council has only budgeted to spend £83,000 from its capital budget on footways repairs within the city council boundaries this financial year.

This council notes that there are many footpaths, particularly on post-war housing estates, that are in desperate need of resurfacing.

This council therefore calls on Gloucestershire County Council to increase its capital spending on footway repairs within Gloucester for the 2017/18 council year and beyond.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton
Seconded by Emily Ryall

The Siege of Gloucester (1643) the city can do more commemorate

Gloucester City Council (29 Sept) will debate how the city could better celebrate and remember the events of 1643, when the citizens of Gloucester defended the parliamentary garrison against the royalist forces during the first English Civil War. The Liberal Democrat group will propose the motion.

From 10th August to 5th September 1643 the army of King Charles I besieged Gloucester. The city held out for just short of a month under the leadership of Colonel Massie until it was relieved by parliamentary troops under the command of the Earl of Essex. This was a pivotal turning point in the civil war.

Colonel Massie

Colonel Massie

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton who is to propose the motion said: “The revival of Gloucester Day and the parade is one way in which the city remembers the events of 1643 when our ancestors fought on the side of parliament. It was a crucial turning point in the English Civil War. We should be proud of this point in our history. Gloucester fought for parliament and democracy. That is why I am proposing that we set up a cross party working group to see how we can better remember and commemorate the Siege of Gloucester. We should consult the public as well.”

The seconder of the motion Cllr Joanne Brown said: “I well remember taking part in the first Gloucester Day parade of the modern era in 2009 and how it brought home to me the great spirit and strong will of the people of Gloucester who stood together during the siege of 1643. Today we can feel proud of the pivotal role our city played in changing the course of the Civil War and I believe that we can do even more to remember and commemorate the events of the siege.”

Ends….

Text of the notice of motion

“This council notes that Gloucester Day is a recently reinstated annual day of celebration of the city’s history and culture.

Gloucester Day was first held in the modern era on 5th September 2009, but originally dates from the lifting of the Siege of Gloucester in 1643, during which the city held out against royalist forces during the First English Civil War. The lifting of the siege was celebrated annually in the city for years afterwards but died out in the nineteenth century.

This council thanks the organisers of this year’s Gloucester Day celebrations and wishes them well in planning the 2017 celebrations.

This council also remembers the sacrifice and determination of the people of Gloucester as they defended the parliamentary garrison (10th August to 5th September 1643) against the besieging army of King Charles I. The siege ended with the arrival of a relieving parliamentary army under the Earl of Essex.

This council recognises that the Siege of Gloucester is one of the most important events in the history of this city of which we should all be proud and that we agree to set up a cross party working group to consider what else we can do to remember and commemorate the events of 1643.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton
Seconded by Joanne Brown