"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and
open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values
of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall
be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity."
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Land sales policy relaxed
Buying small pieces of council land in residential areas could be easier for local residents. Until now, the council's policy was to presume against selling such land. However, a decision by Harlow Council's Environment & Community Committee has relaxed this rule, and instead has agreed criteria and conditions under which sale will be considered.
The non-returnable fee charged by the council for dealing with applications to buy pieces of land will rise from £50 to £150.
Consultation on new Traffic Regulation Orders
Residents in parts of Harlow are to be consulted on new proposals for traffic regulation orders affecting their streets and estates. Harlow Council has agreed to ask residents for their views on 'at any time waiting restrictions' orders for
Grazing days are over
Animals will no longer be allowed to graze in Harlow's parks, the council's Environment & Community Committee has decided. And animals grazing elsewhere in the town must display identification and contact details for their owner.
The decision is the result of complaints from local residents about a variety of problems, from residents being bitten or kicked to horse welfare complaints. Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Eleanor Macy says:
"This way forward allows grazing on appropriate areas of public land, but enables the council to control the situation and respond quickly to any future complaints."
Green waste collections on the way
Harlow Council's arrangements for dealing with green waste are set to change, following the council's adoption of a new waste management strategy.
Under the new scheme, the council proposes to close the two green waste 'bring' sites - at the swimming pool and the Latton Bush Centre - and replace them with a periodic kerbside collection system in estates. This will also replace the current bookable green waste collection service. Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Cllr Eleanor Macy says:
"The two 'bring' sites have been used as dumping grounds, not just for green waste but for rubbish too. We believe a scheduled kerbside collection for green waste at publicised intervals, like the council's block cleanses, will be popular with residents. We will also continue to promote home composting - another important green initiative."
No ban on free literature
Harlow Council's Environment & Community Committee has voted not to impose controls on distribution of free literature in the town centre.
The proposals put forward by council officers were defeated by five votes to three, with councillors from the Liberal Democrat and Labour groups opposing the plans. Liberal Democrat committee member Cllr Lorna Spenceley said:
"There is a fundamental principle that people have a right to freedom of speech, which should only be tinkered with in the most exceptional circumstances - not simply because it might be untidy. No evidence has been presented that free literature in the town centre is more of a problem than, say, the discarded containers from food and drink from local fast food outlets.
Council signs up to Nottingham Declaration
Harlow Council has joined 171 other local authorities in signing up to the Nottingham Declaration on climate change. The move, put forward by local Liberal Democrats for approval by the council's Environment & Community Committee, commits the council to work with central government and other partners in a variety of ways to address the causes and impacts of climate change. Liberal Democrat councillor Lorna Spenceley says:
"Climate change is occurring, and will have significant impacts on Harlow - as last summer's floods and January's storms are already beginning to show. I'm delighted that the council has agreed to commit itself to work with others to assess the risks, plan for action, encourage everyone to play their part, and monitor our progress."
Monday, January 29, 2007
The Dignity of Difference
Once again, Netteswell Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Jackson organised this year's Holocaust Memorial Day event in Harlow. Nearly 100 local residents - of all faiths and none - gathered in the Civic Centre to hear a series of very moving reflections from a variety of contributors, including the town's MP, the Youth Council, a Polish holocaust survivor and Ian's wife Kuzna. The theme of the evening was The Dignity of Difference, and each contributor spoke from a different perspective about the experience of the holocaust and of 'difference', whether through faith, disability, sexual orientation or being part of a different culture.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Partnership for children
Bush Fair Liberal Democrat councillor and environment spokesman Eleanor Macy joined representatives of Essex County Council and other partners from the Children & Young People's Strategic Partnership for an update on children's services in Harlow.
County Council services such as behaviour management and the children's centres were represented, as well as health services such as midwives and the Primary Care Trust.
Those present heard about the present and future in local children's services, including Team Around School, Child and Community (TASCC), and presentations about the Tree House Centre at Staple Tye, the Meadows Centre in Hare Street, and the Young People's Information Centre.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Mobile library services cut by Tories
Despite overwhelming public objection, Conservatives at Essex County Council have voted to reduce mobile library services across the county.
A recent public consultation showed that 80% of respondents wanted the service to continue as it is. Now, mobile libraries will only call once a fortnight instead of the weekly service currently offered, and any stops less than two miles from a static library are under serious threat.
Cllr Theresa Higgins, Liberal Democrats spokesman for community services on Essex County Council, said:
"This decision is political arrogance of the first degree. The public's views about this service could not have been made any clearer and yet the Conservatives have blatantly ignored them. Bizarrely, this flies in the face of the council's own policy on increasing the percentage of residents who want to be able to influence decisions affecting their own area.
Tory hike on council tax hits elderly and vulnerable
Conservatives at Essex County Council have announced an above inflation hike in council tax paid to the county council for financial year 2007/08. Residents in Essex will see an increase of 4.5% combined with whatever increase their district council and Essex police and fire authorities propose. Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes, Liberal Democrat leader on Essex County Council, said:
"This increase will hurt large numbers of people across Essex, but we are particularly concerned about the financial burden on those people on pensions and fixed low incomes. The council tax is a particularly unfair tax not linked to the ability to pay, which hits the elderly, vulnerable and disadvantaged people the hardest. It should be scrapped."
Lib Dems urge council to take green initiative
Liberal Democrats on Harlow Council will be urging the authority to take the initiative on climate change, by signing up to the Nottingham Declaration.
The Declaration, which has now been signed by 171 councils, is a voluntary commitment by local authorities to address the issues of climate change. A proposal to sign the Declaration will be considered by Harlow Council's Environment & Community Committee on Tuesday 30 January. Liberal Democrat councillor Lorna Spenceley, a member of the committee, says:
"Harlow Council adopted an Energy Efficiency Strategy in the summer of 2006. We all need to play our part to address the dangers of global warming - signing the Declaration and committing to action alongside many other councils will demonstrate that we mean business."The Declaration commits participating councils to work with the government, partners and local communities to address the causes and impacts of climate change locally, and monitor the progress of its plans.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Harlow's work in tackling anti-social behaviour was recognised today when the town was announced as a Respect Area. The Respect launch took place at the a specially rented shop in the Harvey Centre, where for the coming week residents will be able to drop in for information and advice, as well as see displays of confiscated items such as music systems and quad bikes.
Harlow's success in bidding for Respect Area status will mean £158,000 of funding to run a Family Intervention Project targeting the small number of families who cause disproportionate problems in the town, to employ a senior parenting practitioner and for parenting support training, and to run other projects throughout the year.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Recycling hits new high
Conscientious Harlow residents have beaten their previous recycling best by over 23 kilos, local Liberal Democrats report.
133,260 kilos of recyclables were collected in the week ending 8 January - topping the previous record of 110,380 kilos in the week ending 20 November last year. The latest figure is also just over 42 kilos more than the amount collected in the same week last year. Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Cllr Eleanor Macy says:
"Five years ago, Harlow languished at the bottom of the county's recycling tables. At Liberal Democrat insistence, the council has spent time and resources improving our performance - through the recent waste booklets delivered to every household, promotional activities, and the issuing of recycling bins, boxes and bags. It's great that Harlow residents are so keen to play their part and improve our performance year by year."
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Storms batter Harlow
Today's storms have seen roofs ripped off, and damage to buildings in various parts of the town including Potter Street, Harlow Common, Little Parndon and Mark Hall.
Liberal Democrat councillor Linda Pailing, a former Samaritan, was part of the council's emergency response team based at the Latton Bush Centre, where Harlow Council staff were on hand to offer affected families temporary shelter, support and advice on issues from housing and insurance to health. Liberal Democrat councillor and Housing Committee vice chairman Lesley Rideout visited the centre to thank staff for their hard work.
Public-spirited college students came to the assistance of a couple of people blown over in the town centre.
Meanwhile, trees have fallen in Hookfield, Tylney Croft, Monkswick Road, Howard Way, Fir Park, Morley Grove, Lower Sheering Road, Wharley Hook, The Gardiners, Rundells, Harlow Mill, Jocelyns and Chapel Fields. One tree fell in Broadwalk, and another was judged unsafe and felled.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Harlow's Lib Dem leader hits back at BBC
Harlow Council's Liberal Democrat leader Chris Millington has spoken out against a BBC Breakfast News feature which claimed that the town centre is declining.
The feature, broadcast on Tuesday, was part of a week-long series that the BBC is running examining the decline of the British high street.
The broadcaster used neglected areas poised for regeneration work and empty shops to suggest that the town centre is in decline, ignoring the newly developed Water Gardens area and playing down multi-million pound plans for regeneration. Liberal Democrat Leader Chris Millington said:
"They simply can't have done any research. They did not contact the Council or speak to anyone who could have explained the plans for the north area of the town which is obviously in need of improvement.
Planning and regeneration this year's key issues: Lib Dem leader
The impact of the East of England Plan on Harlow and the regeneration of the town are among the key issues facing Harlow this year.
That's the view of local Liberal Democrat leader Chris Millington, who joined his fellow joint leader and Harlow Council planning and regeneration officers for a special meeting with leading local organisations.
The meeting also heard from the chairman of the council about plans to celebrate Harlow's 60th birthday; and from senior council officers about initiatives to tackle crime and about partnership working.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Passmores House decision
Harlow councillors have given planning permission for Passmores House to become a residential care home and day centre. The application, by Vale House Stabilisation Services, will involve refurbishment of the existing listed buildings, and the demolition of the former caretaker's house to make way for a new two-storey residential building.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Comment: the day to put out all the rubbish
There is never a good day for a government to bring out bad news stories. But when there is a queue of bad news stories waiting to surface, Labour's spin doctors have tried out a solution to their problems of news management: flood the news channels in one go with all the bad news stories that have been waiting for weeks to make an appearance. And this is precisely what happened on 14th December!
The report into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, was released that day. The publication date had been known for some time. This was always going to be a big news story. So in Labour's eyes, this was an ideal day for the police to question the Prime Minister over the loans for honours scandal.
And why not use this day to announce the closure of 2500 post offices, the introduction of limits on further requests for government information under the Freedom of Information Act, the controversial expansion of airports and the start of consultation on giving prisoners the right to vote?
And once all these have been announced, why not announce that a major police investigation by the Serious Fraud Squad into British Aerospace contracts with Saudi Arabia was being called off?
With so many bad news stories overshadowed by the Diana report, this looks more like a scared government putting all the rubbish out in one go.
Smothering important issues in this way reveals a ministerial culture that fears discussion and public debate. It will do little to boost the people's confidence in the actions of the government.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Conservative defection - Liberal Democrat comment
Commenting on the news that Sumners & Kingsmoor councillor John Paul Goddard has quit Harlow Conservatives to sit as an Independent, Liberal Democrat leader Chris Millington said:
"Harlow Conservatives have lost two councillors in the last year, and now have a smaller group than at any time since 2002. They're clearly in trouble. Is the Cameron honeymoon over for Harlow Tories?"From having 13 councillors only a year ago, the Tory group has now fallen to 11 - level with Labour and only one seat ahead of the Liberal Democrats.
Freeview access comes under scrutiny
Access to Freeview services in Harlow is to come under scrutiny, according to a commitment given by Harlow's Liberal Democrat leader.
At a meeting of the Full Council, Cllr Chris Millington undertook to ask Harlow Council's scrutiny committee to carry out an inquiry into arrangements for accessing Freeview free-to-air digital television services. Cllr Millington says:
"The scrutiny process will be an ideal opportunity to hear from service providers and the public and get to the bottom of the legal and technical issues involved."
Petition procedures improved
Harlow Council has agreed proposals to improve the way in which it acts on petitions received from the public. Instead of petitions being presented to the Full Council meeting and then referred to committees, petitions will in future be presented straight to the relevant committee, unless they are about something which only the Full Council is responsible for. Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Millington explains:
"Until now, members of the public presenting petitions to Full Council have had to wait until the next meeting of the relevant committee for their concerns to be addressed. This new system means petitions will be considered by the committee responsible for acting on the contents."Meanwhile, proposed changes to the procedure for planning applications, which would have given individual councillors the right to refer applications to the Planning Committee for consideration, have been deferred to a later meeting of the Full Council.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Town Centre strategy
A proposed new strategy for the future of Harlow's town centre came under the spotlight, with a consultation meeting at lunchtime and a briefing for councillors in the evening.
Liberal Democrat councillors Su Lawton, Jim and Linda Pailing, Chris Millington, Chris Robins and Eleanor Macy were in attendance. Eleanor, who chairs Harlow Council's Environment & Community Committee, said:
"The strategy is about creating a high quality town centre that reflects Harlow's needs today. It needs to be clear about the role of the town centre and the opportunities it will offer, to bring Harlow's centre back to life and improve its image.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Ball games meeting
Liberal Democrat councillors Eleanor Macy and Jim Pailing joined interested residents at a meeting of Harlow Council's Communities of Interest Forum to discuss how the council should deal with the tricky issue of ball games.
The council has already agreed to put in place a bye-law forbidding skateboarding and ball games in shopping centres, shopping hatches and garage areas. Now it's consulting residents on what should be done about skateboarding and ball games in residential areas. Cllr Eleanor Macy explains:
"On the one hand, many parents want to know their children are playing safely nearby and within sight of home. On the other hand, some residents have complained that this prevents them enjoying the peace and quiet of their homes. We need to hear all sides of the story before reaching a decision."What do you think? Should the council allow ball games in estates? Should they be banned (for particular areas, or all over the town)? Or is there a different answer? Email us with your views!