Annual election of Gloucestershire Couty Council leader proposed by Liberal Democrats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

Liberal Democrats attempt to save protective covenants held by city council on Llanthony Secunda Priory

The Liberal Democrat councillors Jeremy Hilton, Declan Wilson, Phil McLellan, David Brown, Sebastian Field & Chris Witts have called in the cabinet decision to release protective covenants held by the council on Llanthony Secunda Priory.

Statement by Jeremy Hilton: “We have called in the decision of the Tory cabinet to release covenants that the city council holds on Llanthony Secunda Priory.

The covenants were put in place to protect the future of the historic priory, should the management trust fail. The council would buy back the ownership of Llanthony Secunda Priory for just one pound. This is a better solution than handing the priory over to the Official Receiver should the Llanthony Secunda Priory Trust become insolvent.”

A successful trust today is not necessarily a successful trust tomorrow. We must protect the future of one of Gloucester’s most historic assets. The cabinet decision must be reconsidered and that is why Liberal Democrat councillors have called-in the decision so that it can be reconsidered.”

 Call-in notice

“This is a request to call-in the cabinet decision made on the 11th of September, in relation to agenda item 12 – Llanthony Secunda Priory. The call-in is supported by members of the council who have acknowledged their support for this particular call-in via email.

The decision of cabinet was as follows:

  1. That the restrictive covenants be removed in accordance with the request from LSPT.
  2. That Planning Committee be requested to vary the S106 agreement relating to the property. 
  3. That the above are subject to agreeing a provision for continuing public access to the property and that the City Council shall have the continued right to nominate a Trustee.

Ahead of the cabinet decision Cllr. Jeremy Hilton did raise his concerns, at group leaders meeting (2nd September) about the proposal to remove covenants the council holds on Llanthony Secunda Priory and also to waive the original Section 106 Agreement.

On the 9th of September Cllr. Hilton wrote to the leader of the council asking him to withdraw the cabinet paper so that further discussion could take place. The leader responded negatively to Cllr. Hilton’s request and did not withdraw the cabinet paper. He suggested that if Cllr Hilton was not happy with his decision then Cllr Hilton should call-in the decision.

The original decision to sell Llanthony Secunda Priory to a management trust was made at full council on the 15th of February 2007.

In making the decision council agreed to the following clause:-

‘To covenant the site so that should the Management Trust fail, ownership of the monument and its grounds would revert to the Council.’

The matter of whether council should remove the covenants it holds on Llanthony Secunda Priory is therefore a matter for full council and not cabinet.

  • The covenants were put there for the benefit of the city
  • The possibility of the trust failing was in the original risk assessment. This was mitigated by the covenant relating to the transfer of the land back to the council should the management trust fail.
  • The decision to go ahead with the trust was done on the understanding that this safeguard would remain.
  • A successful trust today is not necessarily a successful trust tomorrow.
  • To remove the covenant now would not therefore be in the best interests of the city as it could potentially put the future of one of Gloucester’s most important historical assets at risk.

The signatories to the call-in request that the decision of cabinet is reviewed in particular the resolution to remove the covenants that this council holds on Llanthony Secunda Priory.”

Introduce a Local Levy on large superstores trading outside Gloucester’s city centre – say Lib Dems

Gloucester city councillors are due to debate a Liberal Democrat motion to give the council powers to introduce a local levy on large superstores outside the city centre.

The local levy would be rated at 8.5% on all large retail units trading outside Gloucester’s historic city centre, with rateable value of £500,000 or more.

The Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton who will propose the motion said: “Our aim is to help Gloucester city centre traders recover from damage done to it by large superstores trading outside the city centre. The large out of centre stores already benefit from free customer parking, whilst customers visiting city centre stores have to pay to park in city centre car parks. If approved we will use the extra £1.260 million income to improve the city centre, reduce vacant retail units and encouraging small independent traders.”

Cllr. Declan Wilson who will second the motion said: “The local levy would only be charged on superstores that are trading outside the city centre, so Debenhams would not be subject to this levy. A levy of 8.5% on all large out of city centre stores in Gloucester should raise an additional £1.260 million per annum for the council. We would want to invest this sum of money in the economic and environmental wellbeing of the city centre.”

The Liberal Democrat proposal to introduce this local levy will need to be approved by the Secretary of State under the Sustainable Communities Act 2007. The council would work closely with Local Works and other councils to get the Secretary of State’s approval.

Ends…

Motion – Gloucester City Council 12th September

This Council notes the request from ‘Local Works’ to consider submitting the following proposal to the government under the Sustainable Communities Act:

‘That the Secretary of State gives Local Authorities the power to introduce a local levy of 8.5% of the rate on large retail outlets in their area with a rateable annual value not less that £500,000 and requires that the revenue from this levy be retained by the Local Authority in order to be used to improve local communities in their areas by promoting local economic activity, local services and facilities, social and community wellbeing and environmental protection.’

This Council notes that if this power was acquired it would present the opportunity to raise further revenue for the benefit of local communities, should the Council wish to use it and that this Council would only levy an 8.5% charge on large retail units based outside the city centre

This Council resolves to prepare a proposal to submit to the government under the Sustainable Communities Act and to work together with Local Works to gain support for the proposal from other councils in the region and across the country.

Proposed Jeremy Hilton

Seconded Declan Wilson

Trading Standards Service – Vital say Lib Dems

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ends…

Notes

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

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

 Motion

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed – Cllr. Jeremy Hilton

Seconded – Cllr. Iain Dobie

Jeremy Hilton elected National Spokesperson for the Fire Service

Former cabinet member for the fire service, County Councillor Jeremy Hilton has been re-elected as the party’s national local government spokesperson for the fire and rescue service. In a ballot of all Liberal Democrat councillors serving on councils in England & Wales, he was elected with 74.5% of the vote.

Cllr. Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) will serve as the lead member on the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Fire Services Management Committee (FSMC) for the next two years. The FSMC agrees new policy for the LGA on fire and rescue service matters.

As part of his remit, Jeremy is hoping to retain his place on the government’s Strategic Resilience Board, which oversees the fire service’s preparations for dealing with all types of major disasters if they were to occur in the future.

Jeremy Hilton said: “I am delighted to have been re-elected as the Liberal Democrats lead member at the LGA for the fire and rescue service. Very soon the LGA will have to respond to Sir Ken Knight’s report “Facing the Future”, which has looked at the operations and efficiencies of all 46 fire and rescues authorities in England. It will be my job to lead on the Liberal Democrat response to Sir Ken Knight’s suggestions.”

Cllr. Roger Price, from Hampshire will join Jeremy Hilton as his deputy on the LGA FSMC.

Ends…

Freeze parking charges say Lib Dems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ends…

 

Gloucestershire County Council will defend the decision to refuse planning permission for waste incinerator

Gloucestershire County Council will vigorously defend the decision to refuse planning permission for a massive waste incinerator at Javelin Park, Gloucester. This is the outcome of a debate led by Liberal Democrat Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) at the first meeting of the new county council earlier today.

On the 22nd February the Conservative administration signed a 25 year contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) to build a 190,000 tonnes per year waste incinerator at Javelin Park. One month later (21st March) the county council’s planning committee unanimously refused planning permission.

At today’s meeting, the county council supported an amended motion proposed by Cllr Hilton calling for the chief executive to seek robust support to defend the unanimous decision of the planning committee.

 Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “The planning committee refused permission to build this massive waste incinerator for sound planning reasons. They were unhappy about the size of the building, which is taller than Gloucester Cathedral and its harm to the local landscape. The overbearing impact the incinerator would have on nearby residential properties. The council must vigorously defend this decision in any appeal that UBB may take in the future.”

 The county council also agreed that a plan B needs to be prepared as an alternative to the waste incinerator to process the council’s household waste. A cross party working group will be immediately set up to consider alternatives to the waste incinerator.

Cllr Hilton concluded: “The council cannot stand idly by waiting for the appeal process to be concluded. We need to start working on plan B. My preferred solution would be Mechanical Biological Treatment as the cornerstone of a more environmentally and taxpayer friendly alternative. We must start working on this tomorrow.”

 Ends…

 Motion approved

 This council notes the decision made by the recent Planning Committee to reject the planning application to build a waste incinerator at Javelin Park.

 This council therefore calls on the Chief Executive to seek robust support to defend the unanimous Planning Committee decision in any appeal process that may take place in the future.

 This Council should immediately establish a “Plan B” cross-party working group to consider alternatives to the current proposals for a waste incinerator at Javelin Park, to be available in the event that the council’s current contract proposal with UBB ultimately fails.

 

Stop work on the incinerator!

The county council must stop work on the waste incinerator project until after the elections, when a new administration can give fresh instructions to council officers. That is the view of the Liberal Democrat group.

 Following the decision of the planning committee to refuse planning permission for a £500m waste incinerator at Javelin Park, Liberal Democrat leader Cllr. Jeremy Hilton has written to the chief executive of Gloucestershire County Council requesting work on the project to be halted.

 Jeremy Hilton has also asked for confirmation on whether or not the contract between the county council and Urbaser Balfour Beatty has been signed.

 Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “The planning committee has spoken; in my view the plan to build a mass burn incinerator at Javelin Park should be stopped until after the elections on May 2nd, when a new administration can give fresh instructions to council officers to progress alternative plans.

 “Mechanical Biological Treatment of our residual waste would be much cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative than burning our waste.”

 In a letter to the chief executive, Cllr. Hilton requested that no further work be done on the waste incinerator project until new administration was in place. He also asked the council to request UBB from not proceeding with a planning appeal.

Cllr. Simon Wheeler a member of the planning committee said: “The committee came to the only honest conclusion it could in the face of overwhelming argument by members of the public. As a councillor I represent first the wishes of the public.

 “The public have made it absolutely clear that they do not wish to have this monstrosity built at Javelin Park and as such, by the end of the debate, that was the only way I could vote. If only the cabinet of GCC could have taken that principle on board months ago we could have saved every one much pain anguish and tax payers money”

 Ends…

 Javelin Park planning application – reasons for refusal

 The development conflicts with several  development plan policies and whilst  WCS14, Structure Plan Policy NHE1, and Stroud District Local Plan Policy NE10 recognise the potential for other public (including social, environmental, and economic) benefits to outweigh harm to the landscape, it is considered as a matter of planning judgement the identified harm is not outweighed by those considerations. 

The form of the development will introduce a prominent building causing significant loss of the open character and the natural rural appearance to this part of the Severn Vale contrary to WCS Policy 14, WLP Policy 37, Stroud District Local Plan Policy NE10 and paragraph 109 of the NPPF in term of the effect on the intrinsic character of the countryside and Structure Plan Policies NHE1 and S6 (a).

The development is outside the Cotswold AONB and views from it including from the Cotswold Way would be generally against the backdrop of the Severn Vale which includes other building development.  It is considered that there would be some visual impact which would affect the noted special qualities of the area. We agree with Natural England that significant adverse impacts of the proposal are not outweighed by other considerations.  Therefore, as a matter of judgment it is considered that there would be significant harm to the overall setting of the AONB and long distance views.  The proposed mitigation measures in the layout and design of the EfW do not overcome this harm contrary to Policy WCS14.

The development would lead to harm to the significance of designated heritage assets and that harm is not outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal contrary to Policy WCS16 and Paragraph 134 of the NPPF.  

 Notwithstanding the proposed mitigation, the proposed development would have an overbearing effect on nearby residential properties adversely affecting amenity contrary to WLP Policy 37 and Stroud District Local Plan Policy GE1.

Statement by Liberal Democrat leader Cllr. Jeremy Hilton – Waste Incinerator Planning Refusal

 Yesterday, Gloucestershire County Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to refuse a planning application to build a £500m waste incinerator at Javelin Park, Gloucester.

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “I welcome the decision of the planning committee to unanimously refuse the planning application for a massive waste incinerator at Javelin Park. Liberal Democrats have opposed the project from the beginning.

“We have tried to stop this project a number of times in the last few years by proposing motions at council and formal challenges to cabinet decisions to end the project.

“On every occasion the Tories refused to listen to us. Under the reckless leadership of Mark Hawthorne the Tories just arrogantly pressed on with the waste incinerator project. They even agreed to sign a £500m contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty ahead of the planning decision, leaving the council contractually committed to millions of pounds of costs in compensation if the project is cancelled.

“It is quite clear from the decision of the planning committee that the incinerator project should be dead. The Tories cannot be trusted to sort out alternative plans. Mark Hawthorne should apologise to the people of Gloucestershire. It is clear that we now need a new leader of the county council to take us forward into the future.”

Ends…