County Council Press Team issue misleading report on Budget

The county council press team have issued a misleading press release that gives the impression that Lib Dem amendments to the Tory budget, were UKIP or Tory ideas. This is untrue.

Lib Dem leader Jeremy Hilton said:

“The government cut the core funding to Gloucestershire by £18 million. Despite the 3.99% Council Tax rise there will be no additional spending for Gloucestershire County Council. The revenue budget will be £420m next year as it this year. Liberal Democrats are pleased that we pushed the Tory administration into reversing the £2m cut in highway spending and that we have prevented cuts to adult social care. We are also pleased that a number of Lib Dem amendments were accepted as these will improve the budget for 2016/17”

Lib Dem budget successes are as follows:-

1) Increasing Highways Local to £30k per member and £7,500 per member for additional road maintenance in their area, £400K taken from the £2.075million extra to be spent on roads.

2) £150k to invest in new cycling schemes from the Barriers to Cycling report

3) £100k investment to pay for a designated Traffic Regulation Order officer and resources to speed up the processes

4) £50k to be match-funded with the district councils to look into air quality and pollution

5) £50k to continue the free visits for all five year olds at SkillZone

6) £25k investment into mental health support for children and young people

7) £20k into support to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

8) 5k to provide free residents parking for all Band A electric vehicles for the first permit only

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton

Isabel Brazil & Jeremy Hilton to contest Kingsholm & Wotton for the Lib Dems

Isabel Brazil, Sebastian Field and Jeremy Hilton campaigning in Kingsholm & Wotton

Isabel Brazil, Sebastian Field and Jeremy Hilton campaigning in Kingsholm & Wotton

Isabel Brazil & Jeremy Hilton will contest the Kingsholm and Wotton ward for the Liberal Democrats at the city council elections on May 5th.

There will be all out elections for the city council on new ward boundaries with the number of councillors going up from 36 to 39. Kingsholm and Wotton ward, regarded as a Lib Dem stronghold, will elect two city councillors.

Isabel Brazil will join Jeremy Hilton in standing for the city council as Sebastian Field steps down to concentrate on his singing career.

Sebastian said: “I have loved my time on the city council and this was not a decision I took lightly. Kingsholm and Wotton is a great place to live and work and I will miss being one of the councillors for the area.

Isabel Brazil lives in Edwy Parade and knows the local area very well. Her late father Peter Brazil was a Lib Dem councillor on Tewksbury Borough Council.

She said: “I am delighted to have the chance to serve Kingsholm and Wotton. I will work hard for the area and I will always put Kingsholm and Wotton first.”

Jeremy Hilton said: “Isabel Brazil will make an excellent councillor. I am pleased to have her as my running mate. Kingsholm and Wotton is a wonderful place to represent on the city council. I hope the voters will elect the both of us on 5th May.

Objections pile in on Allstone’s planning application

The county council has received forty individual objections opposing the planning application by Allstone to carry on stone crushing for three more years at its Myers Road site.

Receiving petition from local residents

Receiving petition from local residents

Lib Dem county councillor, Jeremy Hilton has also received a petition with over 90 signatures from local residents opposing the plan. He handed the petition to the chair of the planning committee at the last county council meeting.

Jeremy Hilton said: “I have personally sent in my own objections to planning application and I have agreement that the planning committee will determine the application rather than being done under officer delegated powers.

“I have spoken to a number of local residents at Swallow Park who would like this application refused. They are concerned about the county council’s ability to enforce the planning permission if it were to be approved. They are fed up with the noise and dust that emanates from it.

“The people living nearby at Swallow Park and Armscroft Estate have already suffered from four years of noise and dust from the operation of the stone crushing. This application is the third to seek temporary permission. When does temporary use become semi permanent. Do residents deserve another three years of dust and noise? I believe it is now time to close down stone crushing so near to the homes of families in my division. This sort of business should not be operating in an urban environment. I urge the planning committee to refuse permission.”

The earliest the application could be heard is at the March committee. Officers have asked for additional information from Allstone in respect to noise, air quality and landscaping.”

The county council is still receiving written comments on the application. Go online to www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/planning – Ref No: 15/0077/GLMAJW

Statement by Cllr. Jeremy Hilton on Gloucestershire County Council budget

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr. Jeremy Hilton ahead of Conservative cabinet decision to approve their budget has issued the following statement. Total revenue spending for the council will drop by £2m to £417.98m despite an increase of 3.99% in the council tax.

Jeremy Hilton said:

“The Tories plan to increase the council tax by 3.99%, the first rise in 5 years. Looking at the council’s finances it seems inevitable that the bill to local taxpayers will go up. It is clear the Conservatives are 100% culpable for the financial position the council is in. Despite this tax rise, spending will still drop by £2m next year.

“The government has slashed the council’s core funding by £18m (9.5%), leaving the council short of funds to maintain services, whilst the Coalition’s ‘council tax freeze grant’ has also been scrapped. In order to make up shortfall in funding for adult care the government has introduced a social care levy, the “Osborne Tax”, which encourages a 2% increase in the council tax to prop up these important services. The Tories are placing the burden on local council taxpayers rather providing central government funding.

“Locally, the council finances have been damaged by reckless management of council’s finances by Cllr. Hawthorne’s administration. They have squandered £17m in bailing out UBB on the incinerator contract. They have failed to balance the books with a whopping £8.9m overspend in one department, which soaks up 94% of the extra revenue from the 3.99% council tax increase. There will be bigger bills to local people, but cuts in actual funding for county services.

“Liberal Democrats will be proposing some amendments to the budget, concentrating on roads, health and the environment, which we shall announce next week”

My statement of Fire & Rescue Service transfer to Home Office

Responding to the announcement that responsibility for the fire service will be transferred from the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Home Office minister for Policing and for Justice, Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, which represents all 46 English fire authorities, said:

“The fire and rescue service is a high performing public service embedding within the local government family and run by local councillors who sit on English fire and rescue authorities.

The recent response to the flooding in Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and Yorkshire has demonstrated that firefighters do a brilliant job assisting those in need whilst working closely alongside the other emergency and public services.

The LGA’s view is that transferring government responsibility from DCLG to the Home Office must not undermine the superb job our fighters provide in times of emergency.

I look forward to working closely with the Mike Penning MP the new fire minister in supporting our firefighters and fire & rescue authorities in the excellent work they do.”

Cameron’s Government targets Gloucester for severe cuts

Gloucester city will be targeted for some of the most severe cuts in the country under the Conservatives plans to slash our council funding in the next five years.

Tories in Westminster will demand that Gloucester City Council cuts a full 14.7% from our local services – far above average savings of 6.7%.

Lib Dem leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said:

“We simply cannot trust the Tories on Gloucester City Council or Richard Graham MP to fight for our area. We are going to have make cuts greater than we thought and that cannot be fair.

“They have stood by while their friends in Westminster pass on devastating cuts to our council. The figures for 2016/17 for the Formula Grant/Settlement Funding Assessment (SFA) are £452k worse than assumed in the Money Plan, which went to cabinet on 9thDecember.

“It is deeply concerning that the Tories locally and nationally are happy to threaten the future of vital local services. The city’s regeneration could be put at risk and vital services undermined. The city council recycling rate is the second worst in Gloucestershire and further cuts in funding for refuse collections could make matters worse.”

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”.

Tax-payers hit again by rising costs of Gloucestershire incinerator

A legal challenge has been today submitted by the Liberal Democrats under the council’s constitution over Cabinet’s approval of a £17 million contribution towards the Javelin Park incinerator.

Liberal Democrats are also questioning the lack of transparency with regards to the revised UBB contract that Cabinet has now authorised the Director of Communities and Infrastructure to agree and sign before negotiations have been completed.

The legal challenge known as a ‘call-in’ will halt the signing of the revised contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) until members of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee can meet to review the process.

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

“I am appalled that we’re in a situation where this council is giving a further £17million of tax-payers money to Urbaser Balfour Beatty for this project.

“The rising costs of the project have been down to Tory recklessness and incompetence and now they’re expecting county residents to pay.

“The Tory cabinet has pushed ahead with this project regardless of public opinion. I’ve asked a question about the cost of UBB’s gate fees, but Cabinet Member, Cllr. Ray Theodoulou has refused to give an answer.

“The blatant lack of transparency has led many to be suspicious of the true costs of building such a facility in Gloucestershire and Cllr. Theodoulou’s refusal to answer straight-forward questions has left us no choice, but to challenge this decision.”

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Chris Coleman (LD: St Marks and St Peters) who is also the Cabinet Member for Clean and Green Environment on Cheltenham Borough Council said:

“This council is taking a huge reputational and financial risk and it’ll be the tax-payers who will bear the brunt. The Conservatives have had plenty of opportunity to do the right thing and stop this unwanted and grossly expensive scheme.

“Across the county, residents know that there are other technologies that are better for the environment, health and the economy but time and again the Conservatives have ignored these alternative ways to deal with waste.

“It is a ludicrous and never ending saga that is seeing taxpayers money literally going up in smoke.”
ENDS…..

Notice of call-in
To Pete Bungard – Chief Executive

We, the undersigned six members give notice of which was published on 11 November 2015 (Agenda Item 8) –

Approval of a £17 million one-off financial contribution to the residual waste project, funded from revenue reserves to mitigate the cost of delay in the annual revenue budget for the project over 25 years.
Authorises the Director of Communities and infrastructure to agree and sign the deed of variation restatement of the residual waste contract.
The grounds for the call in are that the following conditions are satisfied for the reasons specified:

3. In making the decision, the Cabinet, Leader of the Council or Cabinet Lead Member took account of an irrelevant matter or failed to take account of a relevant matter –

The relevant matter[s] not taken into account by the Cabinet is [are]

Cabinet are being asked to authorise the Director of Communities and Infrastructure to agree and sign the deed of variation restatement of the residual waste contract even though negotiations still appear to be happening between the Council and UBB.
4. The Cabinet, Leader of the Council or Cabinet Lead Member acted contrary to the Cabinet Procedure Rules, the Access to Information about the County Council’s Formal Business and/or the principles of decision making set out in Part 2, Article 7.02 of the Constitution.

The matter contravened is –

7.02.3 – They should take proper consultation with others.

The above matter was contravened by the Cabinet in the following way:

The council continues to hide behind the protection of commercial confidentiality when members have asked questions about the project including the cost of gate fees, which presumably have now increased since the renegotiation of the contract and also in spite of the Information Commissioner’s order to release hidden details of the contract.
Although certain figures in terms of the costs involved as a consequence of planning delay or inability to obtain planning has featured on pink exempt paper; Cabinet has nevertheless failed to show ALL detailed costs involved to members of this council including the gate fees.
Members of this Council have not been properly briefed in terms of how the £17 million one-off financial contribution to the waste project paid now will actually provide any long-term savings to this council.
Cabinet have also failed to give members of this council any assurance that a £17 million one-off amount will not curtail and negatively impact other projects.
Dated – 11th November 2015

2. Call-in signed by the following Liberal Democrats: –

1. Cllr. Bernie Fisher
2. Cllr. Jeremy Hilton
3. Cllr. David Brown
4. Cllr. Simon Wheeler
5. Cllr. Chris Coleman

Lib Dems call for removal of “tacky’ adverts

Liberal Democrat councillors on Gloucester City Council are to call for the removal of all adverting boards on roundabouts within the city boundaries. Jeremy Hilton and David Brown will lead a debate at the city council, when it next meets on 19th November.

Liberal Democrats are critical that the decision to sanction the installation of advertising boards by the Tory Cabinet Member for the Environment, Cllr. Jim Porter was done without consultation with ward councillors and the local community.

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

Jeremy Hilton gives a thumbs down to advertising on Tewkesbury Road roundabout

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm & Wotton) said. “These advertising boards are blighting well kept roundabouts in Gloucester. They are visually intrusive and unnecessary. The council get a paltry £10,000 income per year from this advertising. We do not need our historic city cheapened in this way. Lib Dems are demanding that all advertising on roundabouts are removed immediately.”

Cllr. David Brown (LD: Hucclecote) who will be seconding the motion to remove the advert boards said: “A number of residents in Barnwood and Hucclecote have complained to me by email, telephone and in person.  Most point out that adverts are designed to attract our attention and that is the last thing a driver needs when negotiating a roundabout, and I agree.  Others say that the signs are tacky and people are concerned that even more will pop up around the area.”

Ends….

Notice of motion for full council

“This council notes with great disappointment the Cabinet Member for the Environment’s decision to sanction the installation of advertising boards on roundabouts across the city.

This council believes these advertising boards are tacky and unsightly; blighting some well kept roundabouts.

The council also believes these advertising boards could be a distraction to motorists and present an unnecessary hazard to motorcyclists.

This council, therefore, requests the Cabinet Member for the Environment to instruct officers of this council to have these advertising boards removed immediately from roundabouts within the city council boundaries.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton

Seconded by David Brown