Liberal Democrats Condemn Boundary Review Plans

New boundary map showing the loss of Elmbridge to the Gloucester Parliamentary Constituency.

The Liberal Democrats have branded proposals to move Elmbridge out of Gloucester and into Tewkesbury as “daft”.

The Boundary Commission for England has suggested in its latest review of parliamentary boundaries that the Elmbridge area of Gloucester be represented by an MP from a town 12 miles away.

It would see Elmbridge joining the neighbouring Longlevens in Tewkesbury, so that Quedgeley can be retained in Gloucester, rather than moving to Stroud.

The Liberal Democrats have long argued for Longlevens to return to Gloucester and have criticised the Boundary Commission for England for ignoring community and identity and concentrating on the numbers.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of Gloucester Liberal Democrats, said: “These new proposals are just daft – the heart is being ripped out of Gloucester. The proposal to move Elmbridge comes as a complete shock as the previous plan gave no indication to the loss of Elmbridge.

“I’m pleased Quedgeley has been retained within the Gloucester parliamentary constituency as residents identify far more with Gloucester than Stroud.

“The key to this review is identity and community and identity and community have been ignored.

“We campaigned for Longlevens to be moved into Gloucester from Tewkesbury because the people of Longlevens identify far more with Gloucester than Tewkesbury.

“We thought the Boundary Commission had agreed to returning Longlevens to Gloucester.

“The furthermost boundary of Longlevens is just a mile from the city centre. You can hear the roar from Kingsholm on match days – yet Longlevens is represented by an MP from a town 12 miles away.

“The same applies to Elmbridge, which under these proposals will be joining Longlevens in Tewkesbury.

“The Boundary Commission says the City of Gloucester is too large to be a single constituency. The reduction in the number of MPs and the 5% variation in constituency sizes is hurting Gloucester.”

Councillor Hilton added: “It is very unlikely these proposals will be implemented as the DUP and many Conservative backbenchers will not support them.

“I would urge Gloucester MP Richard Graham to vote against these proposals.

“The Government should stop wasting tax-payers’ money and pull the plug on this review. Legislation to review parliamentary boundaries also needs amending.”

Statement by Jeremy Hilton, Lib Dem Leader – King’s Quarter Business Plan

It has taken some time, but at last we have a plan for the King’s Quarter that replaces the defunct retail led scheme. Liberal Democrats had long called for a plan B, when it was obvious the original scheme was going nowhere. I welcome the new plan drawn up by the council’s consultants, which will be a genuine mixed use scheme.

I am pleased that we shall retain Kings Square as a public open space and that it will not be built on as was the case in the original retail led scheme. However, there is still a lot of design work to do in making sure that the refurbished square is something we can all be proud of and enjoy.

It is critical that we get the layout of the development and the quality of the architecture right so that the development becomes an impressive gateway into the city centre from both the railway station and bus station. There will also be a new car park with 428 spaces and I hope the designers ensure that it will be a safe and pleasant place to use. The proposed hotel should also be of the quality that will boost Gloucester’s offer and attract people back to the city.

Kings Quarter should also be the location of a modern and good quality indoor market to replace the tired market at the Eastgate Shopping Centre. Markets need a good footfall and the development at Kings Quarter should provide a location near to the transport hubs for specialist market traders to thrive.

It will be important that the development is a high quality build and of a design that wins architectural awards. I believe the consultants have got it right in proposing four phases of the development. The inclusion of residential units in the plans must also be welcomed.

Finally, I do think the city council cabinet has missed a golden opportunity to move its offices to the King’s Quarter. The cabinet is considering selling the offices at Herbert, Kimberly and Phillpotts warehouses and moving into Shire Hall. I think we should seriously consider building new council offices in the King’s Quarter, helping to kickstart the regeneration of this area just as we did in the 1980’s when we moved our offices to the Docks. The business plan does include up to 100,000 sq feet of office space.

Jeremy Hilton objects to hostile takeover of fire service

Jeremy Hilton and the Liberal Democrats are opposed to any plans for Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl taking over the running of the county’s fire service. It is understood that Mr Surl has employed consultants to mount a hostile bid to takeover Gloucestershire’s Fire & Rescue Service.

The Tory Government has passed legislation that would allow a hostile takeover by the local PCC, but Jeremy Hilton – who is running to be Gloucester’s next MP – is against the idea.

“Gloucestershire has one of the best run fire services in the country and should remain under the control of the county council,” he said.

“Moving the fire service would cost a lot of money and would not deliver any savings to tax payers in Gloucestershire. It would undermine the good collaboration that we have between the emergency services in Gloucestershire. Mr Surl should sort out the police service rather than empire building.”

Jeremy Hilton also confirmed that the Liberal Democrat manifesto commits to replacing police and crime commissioners, elected at great expense in elections with very low turnout, with accountable police boards made up of local councillors.

Gloucester Liberal Democrats – A dozen ideas for a better city

Gloucester Liberal Democrats have published their manifesto for the city council elections “A dozen ideas for a better city”. Currently the city council is controlled by the Conservatives, but the Liberal Democrats believe that the council could be run much better.

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: ”Services are not improving, budgets are being cut and we have had the first council tax rise in five years. The Tories are taxing responsible householders who recycle their garden waste by overcharging them for the garden waste collections. The Tory ‘Garden Tax’ adds £6 to the price of every green bin above what is needed to cover collection costs.

“Regeneration in the city centre has stalled with the Kings Quarter project going nowhere. Its a shambles. The council administration needs to work much harder. We need to kick-start regeneration within the city centre. Kings Square has been unloved by the Conservatives and Labour for 25 years. We need to make this a great public space. We also need a new indoor market in a new location.

The last approved city plan for Gloucester dates back to the 1980s. We shall deliver a new city plan with policies to protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance the historic fabric of the city. We will do our best to encourage the building of more affordable homes to rent particularly within the social housing sector. We will also increase resources to defend council planning policies and decisions.”

“There is so much to do and Liberal Democrats are up for the challenge.”

A dozen ideas for a better city

1. Market Parade or (White Friars) project

We will get this project started, which will include a new hotel, indoor market, city centre homes, car park and some retail. That is a true gateway into Gloucester, which is well linked to a refurbished railway station.

2. Kings Square

This should be our premier open space in the city centre. It has been unloved by the council for 25 years. It must become a space for public events, dining and socialising, with (limited) new pavilion cafes, restaurants, and most of all, superb public art that pulls people to the square.

3. Cathedral Quarter

Project Pilgrim will help enhance the area around the cathedral, but we need to look at the whole of lower Westgate Street. How about refurbishing the small square outside Shire Hall or creating a visitors centre in Pitt Street, where the stone masons work keeping the cathedral in good condition?

4. City Centre living

We must continue to support city centre living with new developments. The council must do more to encourage the conversion to housing of former office/commercial space within the city centre.

5. City Centre environment

There are too many pound shops, turf accountants and tattoo parlours. We do need to improve our retail offer. There is no provision of high quality public toilets and this must be addressed. The pavements are littered with chewing gum and Liberal Democrats will invest in improving street cleaning in our city centre. The provision of public art in city centre is underwhelming.

6. Regeneration Oversight

Regeneration oversight is done behind closed doors and we propose to create a new Regeneration Scrutiny Committee to meet in public that can properly scrutinise the council’s regeneration plans. Lib Dems will bring Marketing Gloucester under tighter control by the city council.

7. History

We live in a great historic city and we should promote this more effectively, with restoration of important buildings, festivals remembering our past & public art celebrating our 2,000 years of development. We would bring the new Culture Board under greater democratic control.

8. University City

We must support the continued development of University of Gloucestershire in the city and encourage purpose built student accommodation in Blackfriars area to persuade year two and three students to stay in Gloucester rather than move to Cheltenham.

9. Waste Collection

Liberal Democrats will retain the current collection schedules and introduce recycling of cardboard and all plastics. We will scrap the Tories’ Garden Tax, placed on responsible householders who recycle their garden waste, by removing the surcharge for the collection of green wheelie bins.

10. City Planning

We shall deliver a new city plan with policies to protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance the historic fabric of the city. We will do our best to encourage the building of more affordable homes to rent particularly within the social housing sector, despite the Tory government plans to ditch building new homes for rent. Lib Dems will invest extra resources in defending council planning polices and we will take necessary enforcement action against those who flout planning conditions.

11. Homelessness

We shall focus on measures to reduce homelessness in the city. Working with partners, we will tackle drug and alcohol addiction, ensuring that homeless individuals with mental health issues get the support they deserve.

12. Environment

We will crack down on dog fouling in parks, open spaces and on our streets. We will enhance our public parks and improve children’s play facilities. Liberal Democrats will remove the tacky advertising boards that the Tories installed that are now blighting our roundabouts.

Liberal Democrats condemn COXIT

The Liberal Democrat statement on what has been termed ‘Coxit’, the Cotswold District Council’s exit from Gloucestershire County Council reads as follows:

“Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council have condemned the actions of the Conservative Leader on Cotswold District Council for suggesting to create a unitary authority based on Cotswold District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council.

“This proposal is one which no one has voted for and no one has asked for. It threatens the very make up of our county.

“We believe the proposals would adversely impact on the delivery of important public services currently administered by Gloucestershire County Council, the NHS, the Police and the Local Enterprise Partnership.

“These organisations have already voiced their serious concerns over the splitting up of our county’s services due to the issue of any new Cotswold authority not only crossing different counties bit different regions too.

“For us improving services is the most important thing and therefore this proposal which has not been consulted on must have overwhelming support from the people of the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire if it were to happen”.

The Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said:

“The proposal for a unitary council made up from Cotswold District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council has come out of the blue. There has been no consultation with Gloucestershire County Council on this matter. It looks like it is being done as a method to abolish Oxfordshire County Council, with our own county receiving collateral damage.

“For 1,000 years the Cotswolds has been part of Gloucestershire and it should stay that way. Public services in our county could be severely damaged. One example would be Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, which could be carved up by this plan.”

Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (LD: Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach) said:

“I’ve been speaking to residents and parish councils in my area and I know many are already opposed to this mad idea. We should be spending all our time and money on improving services not on yet more consultants to try and justify an idea which no one has asked for”.

The lack of consultation on the unitary plan has also been criticised by Oxfordshire County Council’s Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green group leaders. A debate over the plans will take place at full council this Wednesday at Shire Hall.

Regeneration of Gloucester – Liberal Democrat Viewpoint

The regeneration of our city centre is a long-term project, which Liberal Democrat councillors’ support. It is vital that key projects have all party backing to encourage external investment.
The proposals announced in the Citizen on Monday have been developed over time with input and ideas from many people. They are certainly not, the sole ideas, of the Conservative administration. As a package, the proposals will have Liberal Democrat councillors support.
Liberal Democrats helped secure public funding for the new bus station, which we desperately need. I am pleased to see work has just begun.
The Tories have been unable to deliver the Kings Quarter Project, which is a major failure in policy terms. The administration has also been unable to find a development partner for the historic Fleece Hotel and grounds. There has been a number of planning approvals for the former Kwiksave site, but the site remains derelict.
Liberal Democrats believe that we can improve on the plans in the following way.
Breakup Kings Quarter into two separate, but linked projects
Market Parade or (White Friars) project
To include a new hotel, indoor market, city centre homes, car park and some retail. That is a true gateway into Gloucester, which is well linked to a refurbished railway station.
Kings Square
This should be our premier open space in city centre. It has been unloved by the council for 25 years. It must become a space for public events, dining and socialising, with new pavilion cafes, restaurants, and most of all, superb public art that pulls people to the square.
Cathedral Quarter
Project Pilgrim will help enhance the area around the cathedral, but we need to look at the whole of lower Westgate Street. How about refurbishing the small square outside Shire Hall or creating a visitors centre in Pitt Street where the stone masons work keeping the cathedral in good condition.
City Centre living
We must continue to support city centre living with new developments. The council must do more to encourage the conversion to housing of former office/commercial space within the city centre.
City Centre environment
There are too many pound shops, turf accountants and tattoo parlours. We do need to improve our retail offer. The provision of high quality public toilets is dire and must be addressed. The pavements are littered with chewing gum and Liberal Democrats will invest in improving street cleaning in our city centre. The provision of public art in city centre is underwhelming.
Regeneration Oversight
Regeneration oversight is done behind closed doors and I would propose that we create a new Regeneration Scrutiny Committee to meet in public that can properly scrutinise the council’s regeneration plans.
History
We live in a great historic city and we should promote this more effectively, with restoration of important building, festivals remembering our past & public art celebrating our 2,000 years of development.
University City
We must support the continued development of University Gloucestershire in the city and encourage purpose built student accommodation in Blackfriars area to persuade year two and three students to stay rather than move to Cheltenham.

My statement on the unitary council bid from Cotswolds & West Oxon

“The proposal for a unitary council made up from Cotswold District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council has come out of the blue. There has been no consultation with Gloucestershire County Council on this matter. It looks like it is being done as a method to abolish Oxfordshire County Council, with our own county receiving collateral damage.

“For 1,000 years the Cotswolds has been part of Gloucestershire and it should stay that way. Public services in our county could be severely damaged. One example would be Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, which could be carved up by this plan.

“It is amazing to think that Lynden Stowe, the leader of Cotswold District, who is also a county councillor, could ambush his leader, Mark Hawthorne in such a way. Not only are the Tories fighting over Europe they now are arguing over the integrity of our wonderful county of Gloucestershire.”

Allocating tax-payers money ‘by a nod and a wink’ is unacceptable say Lib Dems

The County Council have agreed at this week’s full council meeting to look at whether or not the shuffling of financial funds in council reserves should be approved not just by the Cabinet, but by all members of the Council.

The issue was raised by the Liberal Democrats who expressed deep concern over the Cabinet’s decision on 11 November 2015 to approve a £17million one-off financial contribution to Urbaser Balfour Beatty’s residual waste project at Javelin Park.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) who called for financial regulations to be tightened said:

“There has been a seemingly lack of financial propriety in that substantial sums of money have been moved around in this council’s reserves in order for the Conservative Cabinet to award Urbaser Balfour Beatty a further £17million for the waste incinerator project at Javelin Park that no one apart from them actually wants.

“The minority Conservative administration seems to have forgotten that we are a Council in no overall control. They must consult with all parties when making changes to the agreed budget.

“I was a Cabinet Member from 2001-2005 and I had to seek council’s approval to be awarded less than £1million for the Tri-Service workshop project.

“Awarding large sums of tax-payers money ‘by a nod and a wink’ is unacceptable and changes need to be made to stop this from happening again in the future. I’m concerned that new projects have been deleted and on-going projects will now no longer happen, because of the awarding this extra £17m to UBB.

“I’m pleased that this will be looked at by the council’s Constitution Committee of which I am a member. I hope to see vital changes to our constitution reported back to full council at the earliest opportunity in the new year.”

Liberal Democrat Deputy Group Leader, Cllr. Iain Dobie (LD: Leckhampton and Warden Hill) who supported calls for such changes to take place also said that:

“I was told, with authority, that an overspend of 1% of budget would be defined as a scrutiny-worthy “significant overspend” – Here, we are considering as exceptional shift of £17million, which is 4% of the county’s overall budget of this year. This is a highly significant budgetary reallocation.

“Early this year the budget for this council was brought for a vote by all councillors. So, surely, any such administration which plans, late in the financial year, to significantly shift county spending is a matter for all members of this council to approve.

“I believe that democracy is undermined if cabinet members are allowed to shift significant sums as they please without respecting what was voted on by all county councillors in the budget debate. If the precedent of £17 million is allowed to stand unchallenged this time then why not £70 million next time?”

The issue will be discussed at the next Constitution Committee meeting on Friday 8th January at 10am.

Labour trash chances of council incinerator vote

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Labour Councillor Brian Oosthuysen today used his casting vote as Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee to reject the Liberal Democrats challenge over Cabinet’s approval of an extra £17 million contribution towards the Javelin Park incinerator.

Gloucestershire County Council were already contributing £13 million as agreed by Cabinet in 2012. Now a further contribution of £17million will be injected from the capital fund reserve.

The Liberal Democrats were concerned about the further contribution and the impact that this would have on other capital projects in an age where significant cuts have been forecast for next year’s council budget.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) who proposed the call-in said:

“I am utterly appalled by the actions of the Labour Committee Chairman; his double standards over the incinerator are unbelievable. Cllr. Oosthuysen in voting to reject our call-in was a complete act of betrayal and tragedy in that now £17million cannot be spent on other vital council services. It will be the people of Gloucestershire that will suffer.

“Members of this council are still none the wiser to how the Conservative Cabinet have been able to manipulate the accounts in order to achieve this financial gift to Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB).

“Originally this project was supposed to be a design and build project in which UBB were to finance the whole capital investment now the council under the Tories are going to blow a total of £30million on bailing out UBB.

Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (LD: Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach) who proposed for the call-in to be taken to full council at today’s committee also said:

“Today members of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee found themselves in an exceptional situation that goes beyond process and procedures.

“There has been a democratic deficit during this whole process. The bottom-line is simply that our concerns should have been taken back to full council for proper discussion in the presence of all members.

“The Conservatives seem to continually forget we are a council in no overall control and that a further contribution of £17million to the incinerator project is a lot of money especially amidst forecast cuts to next year’s budget.

“I am also bitterly disappointed that the Labour Chairman used his casting vote to throw out our challenge”.

Tory & UKIP councillors vote to scrap Human Rights Act

At today’s full county council meeting the Liberal Democrats urged fellow councillors across political parties to continue supporting the very act that safeguards the civil liberties of everyone in the UK. However, Conservative Councillors used their majority with the support of UKIP to defend the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.

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

“I was very disappointed and shocked by the titude of both the Conservative and UKIP Councillors who rubbished the Human Rights Act, based on total ignorance about what this piece of legislation does, to protect our civil liberties.

“I was amazed to hear so many Conservative Councillors arguing for us to also pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which was advocated and supported by Winston Churchill just after the war.

“This shows the true colours behind the Conservative Party – Purple!

“The Liberal Democrats blocked David Cameron from scrapping the Human Rights Act in Government and we must stop him again.”

ENDS
Notes:
1. The following motion that was debated on Wednesday 8th July 2015: –
Motion – Human Rights Act

This Council notes that the Human Rights Act protects basic human rights regardless of gender, religion and background and ensures that everyone is treated equally and fairly.

This Council is aware and disappointed that the new Justice Secretary, Michael Gove has been assigned the task of abolishing the Human Rights Act.

This Council recognises that many oppose such a move including Senior Conservatives such as former Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve who has described the proposals as a “recipe for chaos”.

This Council values the list of rights that the Act gives and opposes plans for this important piece of legislation to be repealed.

This Council requests that the Leader of this Council writes to the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon David Cameron MP, the Secretary of State for Justice, Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP and the six Gloucestershire MPs urging them not to repeal the Human Rights Act.

Proposed by – Cllr. Jeremy Hilton

Seconded by – Cllr. Simon Wheeler

2. The Human Rights Act gives us access to:

•the right to life;

•the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

•the prohibition of slavery and forced labour;

•the right to liberty and security of the person;

•the right to a fair trial;

•prohibition of punishment without law;

•the right to respect for private and family life;

•the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;

•the right to freedom of expression;

•the right to freedom of assembly and association;

•the right for men and women to marry and found a family;

•the right to peaceful enjoyment of personal property;

•the right to education;

•the right to free elections;

•and the prohibition of discrimination.