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.”

Lib Dems celebrate 200th edition of Kingsholm Spotlight newsletter

Cllrs Howard Hyman, Jeremy Hilton and Isabel Brazil distributing the 200th edition of Spotlight.

Cllrs Howard Hyman, Jeremy Hilton and Isabel Brazil distributing the 200th edition of Spotlight.

A community newsletter that has become an institution in Kingsholm and Wotton is celebrating its 200th edition. Spotlight was founded by Councillor Jeremy Hilton in 1980 when he first stood for council.

The newsletter is funded by the local Lib Dem councillors who represent the area and is distributed by a team of volunteers several times a year. There was a lapse in production in the late 1990s but the newsletter was relaunched in 2001 when Jeremy returned to active politics.

Councillor Hilton said: “We are very proud of our Spotlight newsletter. We use it to keep people informed about what’s going on in the area. It is very popular with local residents.

“We originally produced Spotlight using a typewriter and Letraset. Now we use a computer with digital photos.

“Spotlight could not be delivered without our volunteers who help distribute it throughout Kingsholm and Wotton. We thank them for their help.”

Councillor Isabel Brazil, Councillor Hilton’s colleague in Kingsholm and Wotton, added: “We are currently delivering our 200th edition, but we do have some gaps in the delivery network.

“We would welcome new deliverers to join our team of volunteers.”

‘Don’t cut the grant to the Citizens Advice Bureau’ say Lib Dems

dont-cut-cab-grant

Liberal Democrats on Gloucester City Council are to oppose plans by the Tory administration to cut the grant to the Gloucester & District Citizens Advice Bureau by half. The have demanded that the grant of £62,000 is retained.

The Lib Dems point out that the grant is already £48,000 smaller that it was in 2011 when the annual funding the CAB received was £110,000. If the grant reduction goes ahead the Gloucester CAB will only get £31,000 from the city council next year. This could mean the Bureau closing one to one and half days a week.

Lib Dem leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “The proposal to cut the CAB grant again is mean spirited. The CAB does a brilliant job. It helps people in need. Last year the Bureau dealt with 8,138 clients. That is incredibly good value at £7.62 per client. Reducing the grant to £31,000 will severely harm the effectiveness of the service the CAB provides in Gloucester. It could mean the Bureau closing for one day a week. I say enough is enough, don’t cut the grant to the CAB. It must be kept at £62,000.”

Lib Dem spokesperson for Communities & Neighbourhoods, Cllr. Howard Hyman said: “The proposed cuts to the funding of the CAB are a false economy. For every pound spent many more pounds are saved in the costs to the council, the NHS and other agencies in dealing with the effects of people having nowhere else to turn. The CAB is more than a place to seek comfort. It is a vital lifeline to many people in Gloucester. Every day desperate people walk through the doors of the CAB and are helped by highly trained and caring volunteers with many kinds of concerns such as effects of welfare reforms, rent arrears, debt advice, domestic violence and helping those who are now being denied justice because of the changes to legal aid.”

Lib Dems condemn the loss of sixty jobs at Gloucester City Council

Jeremy Hilton & Declan Wilson give thumbs down to 60 job losses at GCC

Jeremy Hilton & Declan Wilson give thumbs down to 60 job losses at GCC

Liberal Democrats have announced their opposition to the loss of 60 jobs at Gloucester City Council. They have condemned the move which sees the number of staff employed dropping by 24% from the current establishment. The proposal to axe 60 job comes from the Conservatives who control the council.

Gloucester City Council is to see its funding from the Conservative government cut by £1.755m. Already the council has failed to fill 30 vacancies and another 30 jobs will be lost next year. Liberal Democrat councillors have said the staff shortages have led to delays and non-delivery of vital improvement projects.

Lib Dem leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said: “The loss of so many jobs will have a major impact on council services. Sixty fulltime jobs going equates to 102,120 hours of support for key projects being lost forever. Already we are suffering from a diminished service from the council and it is going to get worse. Important improvement projects will not get done or will be delayed. It’s depressing. The Tories seem hooked on perpetual austerity.”

Lib Dem Deputy leader, Cllr. Declan Wilson said: “The blame for the loss of so many jobs must be shared between the Conservatives on the council and at Westminster. Budget cuts go on forever. This year the funding from Whitehall is being slashed by 18%. This is grossly unfair. On top of that we have had mismanagement of the council’s finances by the Tories leading to extra avoidable costs. The leader should apologise personally to the staff that will lose their jobs.”

Garden Waste Tax – Daylight Robbery say Gloucester Lib Dems

Jeremy Hilton with GCC garden waste bin subject to a 22% increase in collection charge

Jeremy Hilton with GCC garden waste bin subject to a 22% increase in collection charge

Gloucester Liberal Democrats have condemned the recent announcement by the Conservative controlled city council that charges for collecting garden waste are going up by 22%. Lib Dems have described the ‘garden waste tax’ as ‘daylight robbery’. They blame the Conservative council and government in equal proportion.
The current charge for garden waste collection is £36 per year. The charge was introduced in 2011 to cover the cost of collection on this non-statutory service. Lib Dems discovered in 2016 that the council was profiteering from the collection by around £6 per bin, making a profit of £110,000 a year. The Tories now propose to increase the charge to £44.
Lib Dem leader, Jeremy Hilton said: “Last year we tried to reduce the charge to £31 to just cover the cost of collection. Both Labour and Tory councillors rejected our proposal. Now the Conservatives plan to increase the charge to £44. This is a tax on responsible householders who recycle their garden waste. It’s daylight robbery.”
Lib Dem Deputy leader, Declan Wilson said: “The council’s finances are dire and the Tories are penalising responsible householders. We should be encouraging recycling not taxing it. The Tories will be making a profit of £13 on every green bin. This a profit margin of 30%. Local gardeners are going to have to empty their pockets to cover the financial mismanagement of the council by the Conservatives. It’s unfair.”

Liberal Democrats call for more investment in Gloucester’s footways

Jeremy Hilton points out the poor state of the footway along Priory Road

Jeremy Hilton points out the poor state of the footway along Priory Road

Gloucester City Council on the 1st of December will debate the state of the city’s footways and the amount of money the Conservative led county council spends annually on resurfacing. The motion proposed by the Liberal Democrat group will call on the county council (the highway authority) to increase its capital footway budget from the £83,000 being spent this year.

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said:

“The state of many of the footways in Gloucester is shocking, in particular on our post-war housing estates and the older parts of the city. These footpaths are decades old and they need resurfacing rather than patching. The funds allocated by the Conservative run county council on resurfacing are inadequate. The county council must increase spending on footway repairs next year and beyond.”

Liberal Democrats have been critical about the Tories who have recently agreed to spend a £1m on new telephones for Shire Hall and have given contractors UBB £30m in a cash gift to build the waste incinerator at Javelin Park. Money the Lib Dems say could have been better spend on repairing our roads and footpaths.

Cllr. Emily Ryall who will second the motion said:

“It is unacceptable that the Conservative run county council do not see it as a priority to spend taxpayers’ money on ensuring that our pavements and footpaths are safe and fit for purpose. I have heard from residents in my ward of Elmbridge who struggle to manoeuvre wheelchairs, and have suffered twisted ankles and even head injuries from falling, due to uneven and broken surfaces. These residents deserve better.”

Ends….

Motion – poor maintenance of footways in Gloucester

“This council expresses its deep concern about the state of many of the footways in Gloucester, noting that the county council has only budgeted to spend £83,000 from its capital budget on footways repairs within the city council boundaries this financial year.

This council notes that there are many footpaths, particularly on post-war housing estates, that are in desperate need of resurfacing.

This council therefore calls on Gloucestershire County Council to increase its capital spending on footway repairs within Gloucester for the 2017/18 council year and beyond.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton
Seconded by Emily Ryall

Liberals choose Linda Castle for the Longlevens By-election

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

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

Local resident Linda Castle has been selected by the Liberal Democrats to be its candidate in the Longlevens by-election.

Linda has lived in Longlevens almost her whole life.

The married mother of two, who works as an IT trainer for the NHS, grew up in Longlevens, went to Longlevens infant, junior and secondary schools and raised her family in Longlevens.

The Longlevens by-election will be held on Thursday November 3 following the death of Conservative city councillor Jim Porter in August.

Linda said: “I am so proud to be standing for election to represent Longlevens – the area where I grew up.

“I know the area well and I am determined to speak up for Longlevens residents at the city council.

“I am campaigning for improvements to our roads and pavements in Longlevens, which are in a mess due to inaction by the Conservatives at Shire Hall.

“I am determined to make sure the proposals by the Boundary Commission to put Longlevens back into Gloucester are adopted.

“I am also fighting to ensure that residents in Longlevens do not suffer from the effects of thousands of new homes being built on the outskirts of Gloucester, such as pressure on the local road network, doctors’ surgeries and schools.”

After leaving school Linda worked for the CEGB in finance before joining the NHS.

In recent years Linda has been involved in the community campaign over the expansion of the Oxstalls campus and also wants to see the former Bishop’s College site retained for educational use.

Linda was also treasurer of the Gloucester Dyslexia Association for four years. She is married to Ian, whose father was a Liberal councillor in Tewkesbury.

She was a member of a residents’ campaign group that opposed the expansion of the Oxstalls campus by the University of Gloucestershire. Linda also wants to see the Bishops’ College site retained for educational use.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of Gloucester Liberal Democrats, said: “Linda will make an excellent councillor for Longlevens on the city council.

“She is a first class candidate and knows Longlevens very well having lived there for many years. She is full of enthusiasm and energy and is the breath of fresh air that Longlevens needs.

“We’ve been speaking to residents and they are pleased that Linda is interested in hearing what they have to say.

“Only Linda can beat the Conservatives in Longlevens and by supporting the Liberal Democrats on November 3, local residents can send a really strong message to the Conservatives in Gloucester that they have had enough of the way they run the city and county councils.

“The Conservatives have run out of steam in Longlevens and Gloucester. Regeneration has stalled and our city is stagnating.”

The Siege of Gloucester (1643) the city can do more commemorate

Gloucester City Council (29 Sept) will debate how the city could better celebrate and remember the events of 1643, when the citizens of Gloucester defended the parliamentary garrison against the royalist forces during the first English Civil War. The Liberal Democrat group will propose the motion.

From 10th August to 5th September 1643 the army of King Charles I besieged Gloucester. The city held out for just short of a month under the leadership of Colonel Massie until it was relieved by parliamentary troops under the command of the Earl of Essex. This was a pivotal turning point in the civil war.

Colonel Massie

Colonel Massie

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton who is to propose the motion said: “The revival of Gloucester Day and the parade is one way in which the city remembers the events of 1643 when our ancestors fought on the side of parliament. It was a crucial turning point in the English Civil War. We should be proud of this point in our history. Gloucester fought for parliament and democracy. That is why I am proposing that we set up a cross party working group to see how we can better remember and commemorate the Siege of Gloucester. We should consult the public as well.”

The seconder of the motion Cllr Joanne Brown said: “I well remember taking part in the first Gloucester Day parade of the modern era in 2009 and how it brought home to me the great spirit and strong will of the people of Gloucester who stood together during the siege of 1643. Today we can feel proud of the pivotal role our city played in changing the course of the Civil War and I believe that we can do even more to remember and commemorate the events of the siege.”

Ends….

Text of the notice of motion

“This council notes that Gloucester Day is a recently reinstated annual day of celebration of the city’s history and culture.

Gloucester Day was first held in the modern era on 5th September 2009, but originally dates from the lifting of the Siege of Gloucester in 1643, during which the city held out against royalist forces during the First English Civil War. The lifting of the siege was celebrated annually in the city for years afterwards but died out in the nineteenth century.

This council thanks the organisers of this year’s Gloucester Day celebrations and wishes them well in planning the 2017 celebrations.

This council also remembers the sacrifice and determination of the people of Gloucester as they defended the parliamentary garrison (10th August to 5th September 1643) against the besieging army of King Charles I. The siege ended with the arrival of a relieving parliamentary army under the Earl of Essex.

This council recognises that the Siege of Gloucester is one of the most important events in the history of this city of which we should all be proud and that we agree to set up a cross party working group to consider what else we can do to remember and commemorate the events of 1643.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton
Seconded by Joanne Brown