Introduction of Free School Meals is Good News

Liberal Democrats at Shire Hall are delighted that the Deputy Prime Minister’s free school meals initiative had the support of the council and is on track to be delivered from this September.

The free school meals policy, announced by the Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference last September will give all year 1 and 2 pupils free school meals.

The £450m funding in 2014/15 and £635m in 2015/2016 will be made available to the Department for Education to fund this commitment.

The equivalent of £2.30 for every meal served in Gloucestershire. A government grant of £1.2m is also being used to upgrade kitchen to deal with the 19,000 free school meals that will be served every day.

Commenting, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said that:

“The introduction of free school meals for every single infant school pupil is a positive step in the right direction.

“It is great initiative that will bring positive benefits encouraging positive eating habits and helping to improve concentration and performance in the classroom. It will also save families £420 per pupil per year.

“I am disappointed that the Tories abstained in welcoming the free school meals initiative especially considering that nationally cross-party support has now been given for this policy”.

ENDS

 

Liberal Democrats announce candidates for Gloucester City Council elections on May 22nd

Liberal Democrats have announced who their candidates will be for the city council elections to be held on the 22nd May. The party will be fielding candidates in all wards. The Liberal Democrats will be defending four seats. 

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton), Cllr. Phil McLellan (Barnwood), Cllr. Chris Witts (Elmbridge) and Cllr. Jim Beeley (Hucclecote) are all standing for re-election.

Lib Dem leader, Jeremy Hilton said: “The city council elections are very important for people of Gloucester. Liberal Democrats standing in all fifteen wards want to make Gloucester a better place to live and work. A strong representation of Liberal Democrats on the city council will be good for Gloucester and good for the continued regeneration of our historic city.”

Liberal Democrat candidates are:-

  1. Barnwood – Phil McLellan
  2. Kingsholm & Wotton – Jeremy Hilton
  3. Hucclecote – Jim Beeley
  4. Elmbridge – Chris Witts
  5. Longlevens – Jonathan Whittaker
  6. Quedgeley Severn Vale – Joanne Brown
  7. Westgate – Howard Hyman
  8. Barton & Tredworth – Paul Harries
  9. Abbey – Sarah Dobson
  10. Grange – Anthony Gowing
  11. Tuffley – Paul Harris
  12. Podsmead – Vicki Field
  13. Matson & Robinswood – John McFeely
  14. Quedgeley Fieldcourt – Kira Barnes-Moffatt
  15. Moreland – Mike Anderton

 

Ends….

Liberal Democrat success: from 1st May residents parking permits cut to £50 per year

The annual cost of residents’ parking permits is to go down to £50 from the 1st May. The current price is £80 per year.

The decision to cut the price of the permits by 37.5% is all down to the Liberal Democrats who successfully moved an amendment to the county council budget when it was set in February.

The two wards that will mostly benefit are Kingsholm & Wotton ward and Westgate ward.

Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) said: “It has been a long hard battle to get the cost of the residents’ parking permits reduced. It was wrong for the county council to overcharge for the cost of a permit. They were making a profit of £30. Now the price of the permit is the same as the cost of administration and enforcement.”

Sebastian Field (Kingsholm & Wotton) said: “Hopefully people living in streets with a permit scheme will be delighted with this news. £50 per year is better value than £80.”

Howard Hyman the Liberal Democrat candidate for Westgate ward said: This great news for city centre residents. Having the cost of their parking permit slashed by 37.5% is a job well done by Liberal Democrat councillors serving on the county council.”

Fire and Rescue Service to remain with local government thanks to the Lib Dems

Commenting on the news that the government will not be transferring responsibility for fire and rescue services to Police and Crime Commissioners, Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Lib Dem Fire Spokesperson at the LGA said:

“The future of the Fire and Rescue Service is best served by it remaining under the governance of democratically elected councillors sitting on local Fire and Rescue Authorities.

The controversial proposal to transfer responsibility of the fire and rescue service to Police and Crime Commissioners was advocated by Conservative government ministers. They did not get their way.

I am pleased that Liberal Democrats in government thwarted this plan. It was outside the Coalition agreement.

The proposal would have placed an extra burden on the Police and Crime Commissioners and removed the excellent democratic contribution that councillors make in the running of the fire and rescue services throughout England.

“There is important work to be done in developing better collaboration between all blue light services. Changing the governance of the fire service at this time would just be an unnecessary distraction.”

ENDS

Make Gloucester Cathedral a World Heritage site – say Lib Dems

 

Jerem Hilton outside Gloucester Cathedral

Jerem Hilton outside Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral should become a UNECO World Heritage site according to the Liberal Democrats. On the 23rd January, Gloucester City Council will debate whether the council along with the Dean and Chapter should make a bid for the cathedral to become a World Heritage Site (WHS). Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton, is proposing the idea.

There are 16 world Heritage sites in England, including Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for the nomination of UK sites.

Gloucester Cathedral was built between 1089 and 1499. It has stood in heart of the city for nearly a thousand years. It is a fine example of English Cathedral design. Visitors can enjoy art and architecture from across the ages. The cathedral is listed as a top five UK visitor attraction in Which Magazine readers’ survey.

Jeremy Hilton said: “We should seriously consider bidding for Gloucester Cathedral to become a World Heritage Site. This would be a prestigious designation. It would help create a sense of pride for everyone who lives in Gloucester. It would surely boost the numbers of visitors to Gloucester. We should be bold and make a bid to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.”

Cllr. Declan Wilson said: “Our proposal also mentions of “Project Pilgrim” that will see £5m invested in the cathedral building and grounds to improve visitor experience. When I first moved to Gloucester, I was impressed by the magnificence of the cathedral. It is one of the most impressive cathedrals in Europe and would make a great addition to the UK twenty five World Heritage Sites.”

Ends…

Wording of the motion

“This council notes that Gloucester Cathedral is listed as a top five UK visitor attraction in Which Magazine readers’ survey.

This council notes and welcomes plans under Project Pilgrim to invest £5m in the Cathedral and its grounds.

That this council agrees to approach the Dean & Chapter to consider whether to apply to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for Gloucester Cathedral to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton & Seconded by Declan Wilson

Labour plan to abolish Gloucester City Council killed off

The county council’s local government structure task and finish group met yesterday to review evidence it has received from the district councils. The group was set up following a Labour motion. Labour are obsessed with creating unitary councils. This could mean reducing both Gloucester and Cheltenham councils to town council status – a ridiculous idea. Anyway the evidence received by the task and finish group proved conclusively that there are loads of problems to be faced if unitary local government were to be imposed in Gloucestershire.

I am a member of this committee and I argued strongly yesterday to kill off Labour’s plans for unitary government in the county. I did the same when we debated the issue at full council. We don’t want to spend 5 years arguing about a new local government structure in Gloucestershire and where the new offices will be etc. We should just get on with the job of running council services under the system we currently have.

The good news is that all members of the task group, including Labour members, agreed to scrap any plans to consider creating monolithic unitary local government in Gloucestershire. This will now be reported to Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee and then to full council.

Kwik Save – a ‘no go’ regeneration project!

Sebastian Field & Jeremy Hilton discuss the regeneration of the former Kwik Save site, which is in the background

Sebastian Field & Jeremy Hilton discuss the regeneration of the former Kwik Save site, which is in the background

Planning permission to build 119 flats with four ground floor retail units on the former Kwik Save site along Northgate Street and Black Dog Way was agreed three years ago. In the last three years no work has taken place to start construction of this regeneration project.

Leading Liberal Democrat city councillors Sebastian Field and Jeremy Hilton have written to the leader of Gloucester City Council seeking a meeting with the developers about why this crucial city centre new homes project has not started.

Deputy Leader Sebastian Field said: “We need new homes in Gloucester and this is a brown field site with permission for 119 residential apartments. I urge the developers to start construction work.”

Leader Jeremy Hilton agreed: “It is now three years since planning permission for 119 apartments was granted and eight years since a previous permission for 88 units was approved. This site is an eyesore in the centre of Gloucester. Construction must start soon before the planning permission expires.”

Ends…

Note

The planning committee approved planning permission (10/00769/FUL) on 7th September 2010. This is just over three years ago and construction work has not started. Permission runs out on the 15th October 2015. In 2005, permission was given for 88 apartments on this site. The site has remained an eyesore for eight years despite planning permission for being granted several times for apartments on the site.

 

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.”