Lib Dems succeed in amending county council budget

Yesterday saw a tremendous breakthrough for the Liberal Democrats in securing nearly a full slate of budget proposals amounting to nearly £0.5million for 2015/2016.

This year’s county council budget setting meeting commenced after the morning’s extraordinary meeting over the incinerator. The Liberal Democrats presented a comprehensive package of recommendations over a range of different service areas including cycling schemes, health, fire emergency support, Wi-fi, adoption and road safety.

The Liberal Democrat proposals agreed included:

1) A £100K investment to undertake the necessary feasibility and advance design work in preparation for delivering cycling schemes in future years.

2) A £10K investment funded from the Sexual Health part of the Public Health ring fenced Grant to carry-out a study into Chlamydia/STI screening and the role of GPs across the county in encouraging more opportunistic screening.

3) That approximately £100K be invested to provide free Wi-Fi in every county and community library.

4) That every elected county councillor in 2015/2016 receives an additional £2.5k (53 x £2.5K = £132.5K as part of a one-off increase to their ‘Highways Local’ money, which may be used for tree maintenance and/or tree planting in their division.

5) That a £10K one-off investment is given to the Red Cross Fire Emergency Support Service in order to double the number of volunteers from 12 to 24. The Red Cross Fire Emergency Support Service provides invaluable support to Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service.

6) A £10K pot of money to provide support in the form of courses for those approved adopters who adopt older children and teenagers where risk of disruption is recognised to be high. The aim is to further support these placements and reduce the chance of the placement breaking down.

7) £50K one-off investment package into a number of Road Safety Programmes including a repeat of all Year 5 pupils at Gloucestershire’s primary schools being given the opportunity to have a session at Gloucester’s SkillZone.

8) That a £20K one-off investment is given to the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Team to work towards doubling the number of children who receive e-Safety in 2015/2016.

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

“We are delighted in securing these proposals, which are now a part of the 2015/2016 budget. We are hopeful that our recommendations will go some way to making a real difference to the lives of Gloucestershire resident’s in 2015/2016.

“I am especially pleased that support was given for repeating our proposal last year for all Year 5 primary school pupils to undertake a session at SkillZone. Teachers have overwhelmingly reported that their children will be safer after a session.

“I am also excited by the one-off investment that is to be given to the Red Cross Emergency Support Service. They play a pivotal role in providing the basic amenities and emotional support to those going through the horrific experience of an emergency situation such as a house fire, flood or even road traffic accident.

“Users of our public libraries will be delighted that free WiFi will be available in all libraries.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how small pots of money can make a big difference in Gloucestershire.”

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Iain Dobie (LD: Leckhampton and Warden Hill) also said: “We welcome the £100K investment to undertake the necessary feasibility and advance design work in preparation for delivering cycling schemes.

“Cycling should be for everyone, not just the speedsters in Lycra. We want to break down the barriers to cycling to school or the shops, to work or for leisure.

“The rewards could be massive: millions of pounds in savings for the NHS, less pollution and congestion, and greater safety and happiness.”
ENDS

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.”

All Gloucester libraries should have free WiFi

Jeremy Hilton ready to use his tablet computer at Gloucester Library

Jeremy Hilton ready to using his tablet computer at Gloucester Library

All libraries in Gloucester should have free public WiFi says Jeremy Hilton the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Gloucester. Cllr Hilton has already succeeded in his campaign to get free WiFi provided at Gloucester Central Library. He now wants it installed into the five other libraries within the city boundaries.

The free WiFi service started at the Brunswick Road library on the 2nd of February, but this is currently the only library in Gloucester with this service. Free WiFi is also operated in Cirencester & Cheltenham libraries.

Jeremy Hilton said: “Libraries must offer a 21st Century service. I am delighted that free WiFi is now available in Gloucester Central Library. The users of our main library will be delighted.

“If McDonalds can do it, so can our county libraries. The county council must now provide free public WiFi at Longlevens, Hucclecote, Quedgeley, Tuffley and Matson libraries.

“There is no excuse in not modernising Gloucester’s libraries. They are a great place to study or work. The public should be able to access free Wifi on their phones, laptops or tablets in any library in Gloucester.”

 

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

“Time for Free Wi-Fi at Gloucester Library” – Jeremy Hilton

Jeremy Hilton ready to use his tablet computer at Gloucester Library

Jeremy Hilton ready to use his tablet computer at Gloucester Library

  Follow Jeremy Hilton on Twitter @jeremy4glos

Gloucester’s main library in Brunswick Road is to get free public access Wi-Fi in the New Year, says Cllr. Jeremy Hilton the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Gloucester. It is anticipated that free Wi-Fi should be operational by the middle of January.

Jeremy Hilton said: “I have made enquiries at the county council about the lack of free Wi-Fi in Gloucester’s central library.

“It is unfair that this service is provided at Cheltenham central library, but not in Gloucester. The quality of service provision in both central libraries should be comparable.

“There are free internet access desk top computers in all libraries, which the Lib Dems introduced when I was the cabinet member. It is time that free Wi-Fi is also available.

“The good news is that the county council has recently gone out to tender to install public Wi-Fi provision in Gloucester Library. The county council tell me that it should be operational by the middle of January. I hope they meet this deadline.

“Many people now have a tablet computer. Being able to use such a device in Gloucester Library would be a welcomed additional service.”

Currently two other libraries in Gloucestershire have public Wi-Fi, they are Cheltenham and Cirencester libraries. Jeremy Hilton has requested that Hucclecote and Longlevens libraries should be next on the list for free public Wi-Fi, once it is operational in Gloucester Library.

Ends…

 

Denmark Road grassed central reservation – This is not a carpark!

Jeremy Hilton at the grassed central reservation along Denmark Road

Jeremy Hilton at the grassed central reservation along Denmark Road

Liberal Democrat councillor for Kingsholm & Wotton, Jeremy Hilton has called on rugby fans to stop using the grassed central reservation along Denmark Road (dual carriageway section) as a carpark. The next home match for Gloucester Rugby is on the 20th December when the Cherry & Whites take on Bath.

Jeremy Hilton said: “The grass central reservation along Denmark Road is not a carpark. I ask rugby fans to park elsewhere, otherwise they will get a parking ticket.

Rugby Fans Parking Illegally 19th Sept 2014

Cars parked up during match on the 19th September

“Often it is latecomers who use this open space to park up their cars in their rush to get to the game. The next match against Bath will draw the crowds and it is important that the traffic enforcement officers are on patrol until well after the game starts.

 “The club contributes financially to the cost patrolling the streets of Kingsholm during match days. I have asked the parking enforcement team to patrol local roads and book those who park illegally. It is not just in Denmark Road that there is a problem. You can see cars parked up on double yellow lines in other streets in Kingsholm.

 “It is great that Gloucester will be a venue for the Rugby World Cup next year. However, the problem of illegal parking must be resolved. The RWC will be good for local businesses, but fans to need to park their cars legally and with consideration to local residents.”

 Ends…

Alternative plans instead of waste incinerator announced

A long-awaited report into what should be done with Gloucestershire’s rubbish should a controversial plan to build an incinerator at Javelin Park be thrown out by the Government gives the county three alternatives.

The report has been produced by an all party working group of county councillors set up following a motion put to the county council by the Liberal Democrat immediately after the county elections in 2013. Lib councillors on the Plan B working group were Simon Wheeler and Bill Whelan.

Build another incinerator, build a Mechanical Biological Treatment facility to turn trash into fuel and ship it out of the county, or don’t build anything and just send all of Gloucestershire’s rubbish elsewhere to be dealt with.

Here’s what the Tories and Liberal Democrat think of the plans:

Conservative

Councillor Ray Theodoulou (C, Fairford and Lechlade), Conservative deputy leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: “This report demonstrates what we’ve been saying all along – that an energy from waste plant like we propose is a clean, safe and efficient way of getting rid of Gloucestershire’s waste which we can’t recycle.

“The report is clear that it won’t stop us recycling, and that, thanks to decisions taken when Labour and the Lib Dems ran this council, Javelin Park is one of the only realistic sites. It’s great that so many opposition councillors have put party politics aside to say that.”

Liberal Democrat

Councillor Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm and Wotton), the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “I’m delighted that this report is now in the public domain.

“In the event that the council’s current controversial contract proposal for an incinerator is rejected by the Secretary of the State we now at least have a ‘Plan B’.

“The Liberal Democrats have always opposed the building of a mass burning waste incinerator and have continually called for alternative technologies.

“It is good to see that Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) may be back on the table of possible options.

“We now wait upon the decision of Eric Pickles in determining the county’s future waste disposal.”

“No Place for Local Council Leader to have Pro-Whitehall Attitude” say Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council have asked the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Mark Hawthorne, the reason why he’s not joined 119 other leaders of English councils in signing a letter calling for greater devolution and an end to financial cuts imposed by the centre.
The Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) said that: “I am disappointed that other Tory controlled regions in England have joined forces in signing this letter, but  the Leader of Gloucestershire County Council has decided not to sign.
“In the wake of the Scottish referendum we have the perfect opportunity for power to be devolved from London to this county. An opportunity that Mr. Hawthorne doesn’t appear to want to take.
“I would like to hear publicly from Mr. Hawthorne why he felt this was a letter that his Tory colleague on Gloucester City Council could sign i.e. Cllr. Paul James, but that he could not.
“Is it not the case that Mr. Hawthorne is quite happy being dictated to by a distant Whitehall?”
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Iain Dobie (LD: Leckhampton and Warden Hill) also said that: “The question of devolution was debated last week at Shire Hall. Here, Mr. Hawthorne voted against a joint Lib Dem/Labour amendment asking him to write to the Prime Minister in encouraging more power to county and city regions.
“The very fact that Mr. Hawthorne has not signed this letter gives me further reasons to believe that the Leader of Gloucestershire County Council does not want to seize this opportunity in taking greater local responsibility.
“Taking power back from Whitehall is a good thing for the county, but needs the support from everyone – not least the Leader of the County Council. It would be good if the Leader of the Council speaks up for Gloucestershire.”
ENDS

A417 upgrade good for road safety and reducing congestion

01_12_2014 E01 10-GEC Echo GECH2S2

Today the coalition government has reserved millions of pounds towards improvements along the A417 at the Air Balloon. These improvements will see the road converted to a dual carraigeway from Brockworth to Cowley roundabout. The estimated cost is £255m.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Gloucester, Jeremy Hilton has welcomed the government announcement.

Jeremy Hilton said: “The A147 along the missing link is congested and dangerous. Upgrading it to a dual carriageway will improve road safety and reduce congestion. Pollution levels will go down. Connectivity will get better, enhancing travel times from Gloucester to London and the South East This should boost the economy in Gloucestershire and create new jobs.

“I now call on all of the county’s MPs and councillors to work together to back this scheme which will make this road safer and less congested.”