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.”

Five Questions to cabinet member for the fire & rescue service

The Tory cabinet member for the fire and rescue service is Will Windsor-Clive. I have asked him these written questions for council on Wednesday (26 Nov). He needs to be challenged regularly over what seems to be the Tory administration’s cavalier attitude towards this important emergency service. His answers will be published on this website when I have them.

Q1.

Could you please provide me with the number of incidents that each of these stations were called out to in 2013/14 and the revenue cost of running each station?

· Gloucester South

· Gloucester North

· Cheltenham West

· Cheltenham East

Q2.

Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service bid for funds available from the government’s £75 million Transformation scheme, to upgrade Tewkesbury Fire Station to improve water rescue facilities. Why did your bid fail?

Q3.

What financial savings do you plan to make on the fire and rescue budget between now and 2018?

Q4.

How many times has Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service been called out to deal with a fire started by an e-cigarette?

Q5.

On the 17th October, the new fire minister, Penny Mordaunt MP attended the LGA Fire Commission to answer questions from portfolio holders and chairs of local fire authorities. You are this council’s appointed member of the LGA Fire Commission, why did you not attend this meeting to ask a question yourself and listen to what she had to say about the future direction of the fire and rescue service?

Disadvantaged Gloucestershire primary school pupils to receive £18.27 million boost

Disadvantaged primary school pupils in Gloucestershire are set to receive £18.27 million to boost attainment, the Liberal Democrats have announced. The pupil premium funding for 2015/16 will help teachers support those children at most risk of falling behind their colleagues. It means primary schools will receive £1,320 for every pupil who has registered for free school meals at any time in the last six years. Evidence shows raising the attainment of pupils by the end of primary schools has a direct impact on future exam results.
Liberal Democrat county group leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said:
“Every child should be able to reach their full potential, whatever their background. The pupil premium will get extra money to schools in Gloucestershire, targeted at the children who need it most. The whole class benefits when fewer children are struggling. Teachers in Gloucestershire do a great job, and I can’t wait to see how they use this additional funding to help all our children and young people succeed.”
Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws said:
“In government, Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy and a fairer society, with opportunity for everyone. We have already protected school budgets, introduced the pupil premium and expanded early years education for the very youngest children. This additional funding is another boost for schools in Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats are determined that teachers will continue to have the resources they need to give all pupils the best possible start in life, regardless of their background.”
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Introduction of Free School Meals is Good News

Liberal Democrats at Shire Hall are delighted that the Deputy Prime Minister’s free school meals initiative had the support of the council and is on track to be delivered from this September.

The free school meals policy, announced by the Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference last September will give all year 1 and 2 pupils free school meals.

The £450m funding in 2014/15 and £635m in 2015/2016 will be made available to the Department for Education to fund this commitment.

The equivalent of £2.30 for every meal served in Gloucestershire. A government grant of £1.2m is also being used to upgrade kitchen to deal with the 19,000 free school meals that will be served every day.

Commenting, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said that:

“The introduction of free school meals for every single infant school pupil is a positive step in the right direction.

“It is great initiative that will bring positive benefits encouraging positive eating habits and helping to improve concentration and performance in the classroom. It will also save families £420 per pupil per year.

“I am disappointed that the Tories abstained in welcoming the free school meals initiative especially considering that nationally cross-party support has now been given for this policy”.

ENDS

 

Liberal Democrat success: from 1st May residents parking permits cut to £50 per year

The annual cost of residents’ parking permits is to go down to £50 from the 1st May. The current price is £80 per year.

The decision to cut the price of the permits by 37.5% is all down to the Liberal Democrats who successfully moved an amendment to the county council budget when it was set in February.

The two wards that will mostly benefit are Kingsholm & Wotton ward and Westgate ward.

Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) said: “It has been a long hard battle to get the cost of the residents’ parking permits reduced. It was wrong for the county council to overcharge for the cost of a permit. They were making a profit of £30. Now the price of the permit is the same as the cost of administration and enforcement.”

Sebastian Field (Kingsholm & Wotton) said: “Hopefully people living in streets with a permit scheme will be delighted with this news. £50 per year is better value than £80.”

Howard Hyman the Liberal Democrat candidate for Westgate ward said: This great news for city centre residents. Having the cost of their parking permit slashed by 37.5% is a job well done by Liberal Democrat councillors serving on the county council.”

Labour plan to abolish Gloucester City Council killed off

The county council’s local government structure task and finish group met yesterday to review evidence it has received from the district councils. The group was set up following a Labour motion. Labour are obsessed with creating unitary councils. This could mean reducing both Gloucester and Cheltenham councils to town council status – a ridiculous idea. Anyway the evidence received by the task and finish group proved conclusively that there are loads of problems to be faced if unitary local government were to be imposed in Gloucestershire.

I am a member of this committee and I argued strongly yesterday to kill off Labour’s plans for unitary government in the county. I did the same when we debated the issue at full council. We don’t want to spend 5 years arguing about a new local government structure in Gloucestershire and where the new offices will be etc. We should just get on with the job of running council services under the system we currently have.

The good news is that all members of the task group, including Labour members, agreed to scrap any plans to consider creating monolithic unitary local government in Gloucestershire. This will now be reported to Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee and then to full council.

Annual election of Gloucestershire Couty Council leader proposed by Liberal Democrats

A proposal being put forward by the County’s Liberal Democrats to the Council’s Constitution Committee on Monday could see changes to the length of the Council Leader’s tenure.

The Council’s Constitution currently stipulates that the term of office of the Leader starts on the day of his election and ends on the day of the next post election annual meeting.

To reduce the risk of leadership complacency and in order that the incumbent Leader remains effective and accountable to the Council the Liberal Democrats have recommended cutting the current four year term of office to yearly terms.

If approved the present Conservative Leader Cllr. Mark Hawthorne would need to be re-elected at next year’s annual Council meeting or see the election of a new Leader of Council.  

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm & Wotton) said that:

“Electing the Leader of the Council annually at the council’s AGM is good for both democracy and the people of Gloucestershire.

“The Leader of the Council should be accountable to all fifty-three County Councillors who themselves represent the people that live in their own divisions.

“The introduction of annual election for Leader, which is an option introduced in the legislation, would strengthen accountability and reduce any complacency.

“Annual elections are held for the Chairperson and the same can be done for the Leader of the Council. This would give all members of the Council a chance to see what the Leader has done in the previous year and make their own judgments as to whether he or she has done a competent  job worthy of re-election.”  

The proposal that has been submitted will be debated at the Constitution Committee at Shire Hall for debate on Monday 7th October at 3pm.

ENDS

Lib Dems want the end of gagging of councillors on Gloucestershire County Council

Calls for the removal of the maximum 30 minute rule for each political group to consider motions at full council have been proposed by the County’s Liberal Democrats.

The recommendation being put forward to the Council’s Constitution Committee next week in removing the current 30 minute rule will give elected members the opportunity to fully discuss individual motions with no time limits. The time allowed to debate motions differs widely amongst local authorities across the country from a maximum of 30 minutes currently in Gloucestershire to no time limits in councils such as Cumbria. To reduce the risk of debates being too open ended the Liberal Democrats accepts there should be a total period of time spent on motions. It has been suggested that the maximum two hour limit be extended to three hours.

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm & Wotton) proposer of the motion said that: “For eight years the Tory stifled discussion on the big issues affecting Gloucestershire by using an oppressive guillotine on the length of debates. “Now the council has moved into no overall control we must relax the rules to allow all 53 councillors the opportunity to debate the major issues in the council chamber. “Our amendments to the constitution remove the guillotine on length of motions bringing democracy to Shire Hall.”

The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and Constitution Committee member Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton-on-the-Water & Northleach) also said that: “The time has now come where there is a need for full and unrestricted debate on those issues that are important to both the elected member and the constituents that they represent in the interests of transparency and democracy. “As a member recently elected I’ve been saddened that open debate has been stamped upon and councillors with valid points to make have been effectively gagged under the Council’s current rules. The proposal that has been submitted will be debated at the Constitution Committee at Shire Hall for debate on Monday 7th October at 3pm.

ENDS

Trading Standards Service – Vital say Lib Dems

County councillors will debate the future of Gloucestershire’s Trading Standards service when they meet on the 4th of September. Liberal Democrat councillors have lodged a motion calling for the services to be protected, if possible, from further cuts.

Trading Standards has seen its budget cut by 51%, down from £2m in 2010/11 to just £1m in 2013/14. Similarly, the number of staff employed has dropped from 46 to 24.

Liberal Democrat councillors believe the service cannot take any further cuts without damaging the protection to the public and businesses that Trading Standards currently provides.

The proposer of the motion, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) said: “The number of scheduled inspections and enforcements visits has dropped dramatically since 2010. There were just 139 scheduled inspections in the last financial year compared to 366 in 2010/11. This is a worrying trend. Trading Standards provides an important service, protecting the consumer and legitimate businesses from rogue traders. We should remember the horsemeat in beef products scandal and the important role Trading Standards has in inspecting food products. The service, in my view, just cannot take any further cuts.”

Cllr. Iain Dobie (Leckhampton and Warden Hill) who will second the motion said: “Trading Standards has to enforce over 100 Acts of Parliament. It does a vital job in protecting the public – especially the most vulnerable. With the county council’s new responsibility for public health, the work the service does protecting the public from unsafe goods and policing age restricted protects (such as alcohol and tobacco) is more important than ever. ”

The Liberal Democrat motion recommends that the Trading Standards service is protected, if possible, from further cuts during the life of the council (4 years).

Ends…

Notes

Trading Standards Service undertakes a wide range of enforcement activities related to:

  • welfare of farm animals and the prevention of disease outbreaks
  • doorstep crime and rogue trader activity
  • the safety of goods
  • food composition and description
  • age restricted products
  • unfair trading practices
  • weights and measures
  • petroleum, poisons and explosives licensing.

 Motion

 “This council commends the public protection work carried out by the trading standards service in Gloucestershire.

 This council notes that trading standards is a statutory service that protects the most vulnerable consumers in dealing with ‘rogue traders’ and also helps legitimate traders to trade well.

This council recognises that over the last three financial years, the county’s trading standards service budget and total number of employees has been cut by 50%. 

This council is concerned that any further cuts to the current trading standards service may put individuals, communities and public health more generally at risk, and could damage local businesses and the economy.

This council therefore recommends that the trading standards service is protected if possible from further cuts during the life of this council.”

Proposed – Cllr. Jeremy Hilton

Seconded – Cllr. Iain Dobie

Freeze parking charges say Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats have called for a freeze in the cost of on-street car parking charges across Gloucestershire for the next four years and also requested that the annual cost of residents’ parking permits be cut by £30.

 The move is made in a notice of motion being put to the full meeting of the county council on the 19th of June by Liberal Democrat councillors.

 The mover of the motion, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) said:

 “Freezing car-parking charges was one of our top six manifesto pledges. The county council earns a profit of more than £1.5 million from on-street car parking charges. It can well afford to freeze charges for the next four years.

 “In Gloucestershire 3,400 residents’ parking permits are issued each year. The annual fee for a permit is £80. This has risen from £62 in 2010. Liberal Democrats believe the charge is too much and want to see the fee dropped to £50 per year. In a survey done in my own division of Kingsholm & Wotton in Gloucester 80% of residents said the cost of a permit should be £50 or less.”

 Klara Sudbury (Charlton Park & College) who will second the motion said:

 “The cost of parking on the streets in Cheltenham is far too high. It is time the county council stopped treating our streets like a cash cow. Reducing the fee for residents parking permits from £80 to £50 will help many hard pressed families who live in the centre of Cheltenham.”

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