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.”

Liberal Liberal Democrats will halt the sale of the Bishop’s College

Jeremy Hilton & Linda Castle discuss future education needs at former Bishop’s College site

The Liberal Democrats have vowed to halt the sale of the a former school in Gloucester should they take control of Gloucestershire County Council at the elections in May.

The Conservative-run county council want to build 90 houses on the former Bishop’s College off Estcourt Close in Longlevens.

But the Lib Dems say the sale should be halted until a full review has been carried out into secondary school provision in the north of Gloucester.

The Lib Dems, who are the second largest party on the county council, are bidding to take control and oust the Conservatives after 12 years of rule at Shire Hall.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, Lib Dem county councillor for Kingsholm & Wotton, said: “There is no comprehensive school in the north of the city.

“Every day 2,000 children leave Gloucester to attend comprehensive schools outside of the city boundary. This is a ridiculous situation.

“With more than 14,000 new homes planned in the Gloucester area and most of these in the north as suggested in the Joint Core Strategy, we must agree a site for a new comprehensive secondary school to serve all these extra families.

“The sale of the Bishops College site must be halted.”

In September last year Gloucester City Council’s planning committee granted outline planning permission for 90 houses on the land, subject to conditions.

The city council website suggests that a decision notice has yet to be issued.

Local resident Linda Castle, who is the Lib Dem county council candidate for Longlevens, said: “There is a dire need for a brand new comprehensive secondary school to serve Longlevens and the north of Gloucester.

“Children attending secondary school in the future should have the same opportunity as I had and be able to go to a local school that’s within walking distance.

“I was saddened when my former secondary school in Paygrove Lane was closed down. I’m angry with the Tories who now want to build on the Bishop College site.

“It would make an ideal location for a new comprehensive school. We must have proper review of secondary school provision.”

Ends…

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.

Jeremy Hilton backs plan to resolve the Gloucester SW Bypass – ‘Missing Link’

Liberal Democrats are backing the project to upgrade the Gloucester SW Bypass near Llanthony Priory. They have said that if they win the county council elections in May they will finish the job.

The county cabinet today approved the £5m project, which will see the short section by Llanthony Priory widened and have its junctions improved. It is expected, once land purchases have been completed that construction will start in 2020.

Lib Dem county councillor and leader of Gloucester City Lib Dems, Jeremy Hilton said: “We are 100% behind the project to resolve the bottleneck along this section of the bypass. This is the unfinished section of the bypass. It’s Gloucester’s missing link.

“I am very pleased that the cabinet gave approval for the project. Not only will the project improve traffic flow along the bypass, but it should reduce vehicle movements along The Quay and Southgate Street, which motorists are using as an alternative through route.

“The cabinet member also reassured me today in answer to my questions that the listed wall to Llanthony Priory will be protected during construction and that the new junction to Sudmeadow Road should improve access for residents, businesses and the new Gloucester City Football Club stadium.”