Time to sack Amey and bring the streetcare service back in-house says Hilton

Jeremy Hilton with a food caddy full of food waste remaining uncollected by Amey

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.”

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.”

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.”

Tax-payers hit again by rising costs of Gloucestershire incinerator

A legal challenge has been today submitted by the Liberal Democrats under the council’s constitution over Cabinet’s approval of a £17 million contribution towards the Javelin Park incinerator.

Liberal Democrats are also questioning the lack of transparency with regards to the revised UBB contract that Cabinet has now authorised the Director of Communities and Infrastructure to agree and sign before negotiations have been completed.

The legal challenge known as a ‘call-in’ will halt the signing of the revised contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) until members of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee can meet to review the process.

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

“I am appalled that we’re in a situation where this council is giving a further £17million of tax-payers money to Urbaser Balfour Beatty for this project.

“The rising costs of the project have been down to Tory recklessness and incompetence and now they’re expecting county residents to pay.

“The Tory cabinet has pushed ahead with this project regardless of public opinion. I’ve asked a question about the cost of UBB’s gate fees, but Cabinet Member, Cllr. Ray Theodoulou has refused to give an answer.

“The blatant lack of transparency has led many to be suspicious of the true costs of building such a facility in Gloucestershire and Cllr. Theodoulou’s refusal to answer straight-forward questions has left us no choice, but to challenge this decision.”

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Chris Coleman (LD: St Marks and St Peters) who is also the Cabinet Member for Clean and Green Environment on Cheltenham Borough Council said:

“This council is taking a huge reputational and financial risk and it’ll be the tax-payers who will bear the brunt. The Conservatives have had plenty of opportunity to do the right thing and stop this unwanted and grossly expensive scheme.

“Across the county, residents know that there are other technologies that are better for the environment, health and the economy but time and again the Conservatives have ignored these alternative ways to deal with waste.

“It is a ludicrous and never ending saga that is seeing taxpayers money literally going up in smoke.”
ENDS…..

Notice of call-in
To Pete Bungard – Chief Executive

We, the undersigned six members give notice of which was published on 11 November 2015 (Agenda Item 8) –

Approval of a £17 million one-off financial contribution to the residual waste project, funded from revenue reserves to mitigate the cost of delay in the annual revenue budget for the project over 25 years.
Authorises the Director of Communities and infrastructure to agree and sign the deed of variation restatement of the residual waste contract.
The grounds for the call in are that the following conditions are satisfied for the reasons specified:

3. In making the decision, the Cabinet, Leader of the Council or Cabinet Lead Member took account of an irrelevant matter or failed to take account of a relevant matter –

The relevant matter[s] not taken into account by the Cabinet is [are]

Cabinet are being asked to authorise the Director of Communities and Infrastructure to agree and sign the deed of variation restatement of the residual waste contract even though negotiations still appear to be happening between the Council and UBB.
4. The Cabinet, Leader of the Council or Cabinet Lead Member acted contrary to the Cabinet Procedure Rules, the Access to Information about the County Council’s Formal Business and/or the principles of decision making set out in Part 2, Article 7.02 of the Constitution.

The matter contravened is –

7.02.3 – They should take proper consultation with others.

The above matter was contravened by the Cabinet in the following way:

The council continues to hide behind the protection of commercial confidentiality when members have asked questions about the project including the cost of gate fees, which presumably have now increased since the renegotiation of the contract and also in spite of the Information Commissioner’s order to release hidden details of the contract.
Although certain figures in terms of the costs involved as a consequence of planning delay or inability to obtain planning has featured on pink exempt paper; Cabinet has nevertheless failed to show ALL detailed costs involved to members of this council including the gate fees.
Members of this Council have not been properly briefed in terms of how the £17 million one-off financial contribution to the waste project paid now will actually provide any long-term savings to this council.
Cabinet have also failed to give members of this council any assurance that a £17 million one-off amount will not curtail and negatively impact other projects.
Dated – 11th November 2015

2. Call-in signed by the following Liberal Democrats: –

1. Cllr. Bernie Fisher
2. Cllr. Jeremy Hilton
3. Cllr. David Brown
4. Cllr. Simon Wheeler
5. Cllr. Chris Coleman

Lib Dems call for removal of “tacky’ adverts

Liberal Democrat councillors on Gloucester City Council are to call for the removal of all adverting boards on roundabouts within the city boundaries. Jeremy Hilton and David Brown will lead a debate at the city council, when it next meets on 19th November.

Liberal Democrats are critical that the decision to sanction the installation of advertising boards by the Tory Cabinet Member for the Environment, Cllr. Jim Porter was done without consultation with ward councillors and the local community.

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm & Wotton) said. “These advertising boards are blighting well kept roundabouts in Gloucester. They are visually intrusive and unnecessary. The council get a paltry £10,000 income per year from this advertising. We do not need our historic city cheapened in this way. Lib Dems are demanding that all advertising on roundabouts are removed immediately.”

Cllr. David Brown (LD: Hucclecote) who will be seconding the motion to remove the advert boards said: “A number of residents in Barnwood and Hucclecote have complained to me by email, telephone and in person.  Most point out that adverts are designed to attract our attention and that is the last thing a driver needs when negotiating a roundabout, and I agree.  Others say that the signs are tacky and people are concerned that even more will pop up around the area.”

Ends….

Notice of motion for full council

“This council notes with great disappointment the Cabinet Member for the Environment’s decision to sanction the installation of advertising boards on roundabouts across the city.

This council believes these advertising boards are tacky and unsightly; blighting some well kept roundabouts.

The council also believes these advertising boards could be a distraction to motorists and present an unnecessary hazard to motorcyclists.

This council, therefore, requests the Cabinet Member for the Environment to instruct officers of this council to have these advertising boards removed immediately from roundabouts within the city council boundaries.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton

Seconded by David Brown

 

Allstone’s apply to crush stone for three more years

Jeremy Hilton outside Allstone Sand & Gravel

Jeremy Hilton outside Allstone Sand & Gravel

Allstone Sand & Gravel have applied to Gloucestershire County Council for temporary planning permission to extend stone crushing and stockpiling at its Myers Road site. This will be the third application, following on from approval given by the county council in 2011 and 2013. This time the application is for three more years.

The application proposes to continue with the same operating hours, but permission is sought to increase the height of the stockpile from 4m to 6m. Twenty lorries a day are expected to make visits to the site, with a maximum of 20,000 tonnes of inert waste per annum.

Photo taken of crushed stone stockpile on 3rd Oct 2015.

Photo taken of crushed stone stockpile on 3rd Oct 2015.

Liberal Democrat county councillor for the area, Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) will oppose the application. He said:  “I am not at all happy with this application that seeks to continue stone crushing for another three years. The county council has failed to enforce the condition limiting the stockpile height to just 4 metres.

“The dust and noise close to residential properties is unwanted. After four years, I had hoped that Allstone would have found a more acceptable site to carry out this sort of process. The site is close to homes at Swallow Park and Armscroft Estate. It is near St Peter’s Primary School and the hospital is also in the area. Horton Road is already heavily congested and does not need more lorries travelling along it.

“The proposal to increase the stockpile of stone from four to six metres will only exacerbate the risk of dust problems. The stockpile is just a few metres away from people’s homes.

Cllr Hilton has asked county planning officers to insist on an Environmental Impact Assessment, as the applicants think this is not required.

Residents can post comments online at: www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/planning – Ref No. 15/0077/GLMAJW

Tory council blights roundabouts with advertising

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

The Tory controlled city council has erected advertising boards on the three roundabouts along Estcourt Road. They are also doing this across Gloucester.

The decision to install advertising boards has been questioned by Liberal Democrat councillors. It is understood that the council will get a paltry £10,000 from the advert boards across the city.

Planning approval was done, unusually, under officer-delegated powers. Normally planning applications by the council have to come to the planning committee.

Liberal Democrat councillor Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) said: “The Tories have used stealth methods to get advertising boards installed. The scheme was developed with the cabinet member, who failed to take a written report to cabinet. Local councillors were not consulted by cabinet on this scheme ahead of decision to go ahead. Then planning permission was granted under officer-delegated powers.

“If the Tories get their way, the three roundabouts in question will be blighted for the next five years. They are an eyesore and a distraction for drivers. I shall be fighting to get these removed. We don’t need this tacky advertising blighting the roundabouts in Kingsholm & Wotton or the rest of Gloucester.”

Government is putting at risk Council’s Solar PV Projects

On the day that the Gloucestershire County Council decided to build five solar photovoltaic generation sites on county council owned land, the government decided to consider changing the Feed-in Tariff rules. If the government are to reduce the Feed-in rates it could make this innovative renewable energy project unviable.

The Feed-in tariff (FIT) has been providing payments to owners of electricity-generating renewable energy technologies since 2010. The generous initial rates of the  Feed-in tariff (FIT) has meant that the uptake of solar panels has been faster than expected and the government is currently undertaking a review of implementing cost control measures, which will ultimately be damaging to new municipal Solar PV projects of 5MW and below.

A consultation published by the Department of Energy & Climate Change is currently being undertaken and closes next month. If following this consultation it is considered that the scheme is unaffordable, it may well spell the end to generation tariffs for new applicants from January 2016.  

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr Jeremy Hilton will be calling for the Government to reconsider such changes at the next County Council meeting being held at Shire Hall on Friday 23rd October on the same day the consultation closes.

Cllr Jeremy Hilton said that “it is very much a double whammy in that not only is this Government reducing Council budgets, but they are also putting at risk Council’s own innovative projects.

“Ground-mounted solar PV has the potential to be an area of great investment for the Council. Helping to increase this Council’s revenue income will assist in reducing pressures on frontline services.

“This Council’s target is also to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2020/21.  The changes being proposed do not assist us in reaching such targets.

“Tens of thousands of pounds have already been spent on the pre-planning of this project – I am disappointed that the changes being proposed may mean that the economic case for each site could become unviable.   

“I am also calling on the Leader of this Council to write to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP requesting that any changes do not put at risk these and other public sector/community-led schemes”.

ENDS 

Notes:

The following motion is to be debated at Shire Hall on Friday 23rd October 2015:

Motion – Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Renewable Energy Generation on the Council’s Estate

This Council welcomes the decision taken by Cabinet on 22nd July approving the award of contract(s) for the design, build and maintenance of ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) renewable energy generation facilities on the Council’s Estate.

This Council notes that in light of the Council’s revenue budget pressures such a project would help increase the revenue income from the Council’s land assets, converting capital into revenue and thus reducing pressure on frontline Council services whilst at the same time reducing both energy costs and the carbon footprint of the Council.

This Council is however deeply concerned with the Government’s proposals for a fundamental review of the Renewables Obligation and Feed-in Tariff Scheme (FITs), which could put at jeopardy this Council’s and other local authorities Solar PV projects.

This Council therefore resolves that the Leader of this Council writes to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP requesting that any intended changes do not put at risk those public sector/community-led schemes such as this project and any similar future projects, which require much longer to develop, but yet have a much greater social return.

Time to end stone crushing at Myers Road

Liberal Democrat county councillor for Kingsholm & Wotton, Jeremy Hilton has today called for the county council enforcement team to close down the stone crushing operation off Myers Road when the two-year temporary permission ends in September.
Temporary planning permission was granted to Allstone Sand & Gravel by the county council in September 2013 for a two-year period despite opposition from local Lib Dem councillors.
Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “At the time of the application I did object to the renewal of the stone crushing permission, because of the negative impact this would have on neighbouring residential properties. There are many residents living at The Crescent, Swallow Park and Armscroft Estate who would like this process to end. People are getting fed up of the heavy lorries travelling up and down Horton Road and Myers Road, and the hazard this creates, especially close to St Peter’s Primary School in Horton Road. The stone crushing is a noise and dust nuisance to residents living nearby. We have the hospital in the neighbourhood. There must be a more suitable location in Gloucestershire for Allstone to carry out their stone crushing operation. I encourage them to look for one.”
Cllr. Hilton has asked the county enforcement team to act on clause 1 of the decision statement.
Clause 1 reads: “The development hereby permitted shall cease and the site be restored to permeable hard standing to the levels indicated on the Site Survey Plan ASG/001/2013 (dated Feb 2013), with all plant and machinery removed, no later than the expiration of two years from the date of this permission.”
Cllr. Hilton continued: “The decision notice is dated the 27th of September 2013 therefore I assume that permission ends on 27th of September this year. It is now time for the county council to get tough and implement its decision and to end stone crushing off Myers Road by end of September.”
Ends…

Notes

Link to 13/0021/GLMAJW decision notice http://caps.gloucestershire.gov.uk/gcc_images/13_0021_GLMAJW_DEC_NOT.pdf