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 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.”

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.”