Business rates windfall to support cultural and community projects – Lib Dem’s

Liberal Democrats on the city council will propose amendments to the council budget on Thursday (22nd Feb) concentrating on cultural and community activities.

They will use a third of the unallocated £800,000 expected windfall from the 100% business rates retention pilot to fund five key projects.

In total the Lib Dems will suggest additional spending of £270,000. This will not require a further increase in the council tax above the 3% rise set by the Tory cabinet.

Among the proposals from the Lib Dems is to hold a Gloucester Narrow Boat Festival at the Docks, spending £10,000 installing drinking water fountains in public areas and doubling the amount of money city councillors allocate to community projects in their wards.

The Lib Dems also plan to tackle the backlog of cataloguing artefacts held by the museum service and start a fund to invest in new public art for Gloucester.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, Lib Dem group leader, said:

“We are concentrating our amendments on community and cultural projects. We plan to wisely use part of the expected windfall from the business rates retention pilot to deal with the 16,000 historic artefacts that have not received basic cataloguing by the museums service. We will also allocate £100,000 for new public art. Something about the Siege of Gloucester or Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians would be top of my list. Liberal Democrat plans would not increase the council tax further.

Councillor Declan Wilson, Lib Dem deputy group leader and finance spokesman, added:

“The Lib Dem proposals will see a real investment in Gloucester’s arts and heritage. A new narrow boat festival at the Docks is in our plans as is the installation of drinking water fountains in public spaces. We also plan to boost grants for community activities around the city over the next two years by £40,000. We hope that both Tory and Labour councillors will support us.”

800 homes empty in Gloucester

Jeremy Hilton campaigning to resolve the empty homes problem

Nearly 800 homes in Gloucester are empty, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, show that there are 791 homes across the city that have been empty for six months or more.

Of these, 299 had been empty for two years or more, 95 for five years or more, and 37 have stood empty for at least 10 years in Gloucester.

Across the country more than 11,000 homes have been lying empty for longer than a decade, the Lib Dem figures show.

Conservative-controlled Gloucester City Council has failed to make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) in the last five years – powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.

This is despite the fact that some people in Gloucester have spent Christmas without a permanent home – living in temporary accommodation.

Nationally only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these only six had used one in the past year.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, the Liberal Democrat group leader on Gloucester City Council, said: “At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a scandal that so many homes locally are sitting empty.

“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for those that need it in Gloucester.

“The Government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working and Gloucester City Council needs to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use.

“It is shameful that Gloucester City Council has failed to use existing powers to end this scandal. People have spent Christmas without a permanent home because of Conservative inaction and ineptitude.”

Councillor David Brown, the Liberal Democrat housing spokesman on Gloucester City Council, added: “These desperately needed reforms must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”

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.”

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.”

Young people in Gloucester should vote Lib Dem on June 8, says Jeremy Hilton

A Liberal Democrat is urging young people in Gloucester to vote for the Liberal Democrats and to stop a hard Brexit from damaging their futures.

Jeremy Hilton, who has been a councillor in the city for 25 years, said the Liberal Democrats have a raft of policies to give children and young people a brighter future.

These include:

  • Helping people buy their first home for the same cost as renting, with a new model of ‘Rent to Own’ homes.
  • Restoring housing benefit for young people.
  • Creating a discounted bus pass for 16 to 21 year olds, giving a 66% discount.
  • Introducing votes at 16 for elections and referendums across the UK.

As well as:

  • Investing almost £7bn in our schools and colleges, including £39 million in Gloucestershire.
  • Doubling the number of businesses that take apprenticeships
  • Tripling the early years pupil premium
  • Extending free school meals to all primary school students

Jeremy Hilton, who is the challenger to the Conservatives in Gloucester, said: “These proposals forms part of a package to build a fairer Britain that is open, tolerant and united and it also ensures no child or young person in the city is left behind.

“Young people, just starting out in life, should be excited about the future ahead. But instead, many are worried about their prospects and struggling to get by.

“It isn’t fair that their futures are being disregarded in the EU negotiations and that they are paying the price for a decision they didn’t make.

“To all the young people in living in Gloucester I want to say – you don’t have to accept Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s hard Brexit coalition that will wreck the future for you, your family, your schools and hospitals.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party let you down by voting with the Tories on Brexit. He ordered his MPs to vote with the Tories and Ukip in favour of Article 50, despite the Government making no concessions to them whatsoever.

“Nothing is more important to the future of the young voters in this city than Brexit. A hard Brexit deal, with Britain outside the single market, will wreck the future for our children, our economy and our schools and hospitals.

“That’s why at the heart of the manifesto is a commitment to give the people the final say on the Brexit deal in a referendum. And if you don’t like the deal you should be able to reject it and choose to remain in Europe.”

Jeremy Hilton announced as the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Gloucester

Jeremy Hilton voted yes in 1975 and remain in 2016

Gloucester Liberal Democrats have today announced that well-known councillor Jeremy Hilton will be the parliamentary candidate for June’s general election.

A local man born in Gloucester, Jeremy has 25 years of public service as a local councillor behind him.

With the recent county council results putting the Liberal Democrats into second place on the popular vote across Gloucester, Jeremy Hilton is confident that he can mount a serious challenge to the Conservatives in becoming Gloucester’s next MP.

Jeremy said “The Labour party are a lost cause with many previous supporters planning to vote Liberal Democrat this time.

“As a local resident, I know the city like the back of my hand. I am determined to become Gloucester’s representative at Westminster. The city needs someone who is not afraid to speak up and get things done.”

On the big issue of this election, membership of the European Union, Jeremy Hilton, is clear where he stands. He voted yes in 1975 and voted remain in 2016.

He supports remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union were Britain to leave the European Union.

Jeremy Hilton will vote in parliament to give the British people the final say on the Brexit deal.

He concluded: “The British people should decide if the Brexit deal is acceptable. If not, we should also have the choice to remain in the EU.”

Lib Dem success – Hyde Lane is made safe as road is resurfaced

Jeremy Hilton celebrates the resurfacing of Hyde Lane with Kingsholm resident Sue Tomlins

It has taken a long time, but at last Hyde Lane has been resurfaced, thanks to the single-minded determination of Lib Dem county councillor, Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton). His persistence has paid off.

The top end of Hyde Lane is currently a private road, but it is also a signposted pedestrian route to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. Following the resurfacing, the road will be adopted by the county council.

Jeremy Hilton said: “I finally secured funding from the county council for the road to be repaired last year. The road was resurfaced the week of 6th March.

“Hyde Lane was full of potholes and unsafe for pedestrians to use. In particular, for elderly or disabled patents using this route to get to a hospital appointment.

“We must remember that besides residents of Kingsholm using this way to get to the hospital, people arriving on the No. 10 or No. 94 bus do so as well.

“I am pleased that after such a long time I finally got the lane resurfaced.”