"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."
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Government fails to hit green targets
Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 0.5% in the UK last year. The figures, released by Defra, showed that carbon dioxide levels, which make up about 85% of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions, stayed virtually the same, with a 0.1% fall. Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Steve Webb MP says:
"The Government is completely failing to match its rhetoric with actions. Although ministers made good early progress, this has now slowed to a snail's pace. This year, carbon emissions fell by a measly 0.1%.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Fairfield application turned down
The latest planning application for Fairfield, in Tye Green Village, has been rejected by Harlow Council's planning committee.
The application, for two two-storey properties in the garden of Fairfield, was actually taller than the previous application that had been thrown out by councillors on the grounds of its impact on the local area. Only the meeting's chairman, Cllr Mike Garnett, voted in favour, with all other councillors present voting against.
At the same meeting, the Planning Committee voted unanimously to grant permission for the demolition of Meadow Court, between Lodge Hall and Spruce Hill, and its replacement with a new development of flats.
Liberal Democrats gain ground in third successive poll
A poll published in the Independent has seen support for the Liberal Democrats rise at the expense of the Conservatives. The poll now puts the Lib Dems one point up on 17, with the Conservatives down one to 38, reducing their lead over Labour to eight points. Following polls conducted by ICM and YouGov, it is the third successive time that the Liberal Democrats have seen a rise in support from previous polls, with the Conservatives losing out as a result.
Rising numbers of elderly people denied social care
Rising numbers of elderly and disabled people in England are being denied social care at home, the Commission for Social Care Inspection warns. The Commission also says there are inconsistencies in how councils decide who gets help and how much they get.
Seven out of ten councils, including Essex, now restrict their services to those people whose needs are defined as 'substantial' or 'critical'.
Liberal Democrats say:
"This Government has presided over a collapse of elderly services. Ministers have responded to the chronic warnings of a looming crisis only with criminal underfunding. Older people need more investment in services, not another review. Liberal Democrat proposals for a 'personal care payment' would ensure a fair deal for all elderly people who needed personal care and would put an end to the criminal injustice of poor access to social care."
Lib Dems launch competition to find Harlow's worst pothole
Liberal Democrats in Harlow have launched a competition to find the worst pothole in the town, after Conservatives at Essex County Council voted for worse maintenance on local roads.
Conservative members of the county council's highways and transportation committee unanimously agreed to proceed with a policy that will severely lower road and pavement standards. Local Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Chris Millington said:
"The new policy set by Conservatives at County Hall allows the county council to leave potholes in roads to become more than twice as deep as now. Instead of 20mm, a pothole will have to be 50mm deep before the County Council even considers whether it needs urgent repair."The crisis measure follows the Conservatives' mismanagement of the highways budget by £10.8 million, which they are now desperately trying to retrieve by limiting repairs carried out to roads across the county. Cllr Millington said:
"Liberal Democrats will continue to defend standards and the public interest. The travelling public wants improvements to highway maintenance, not the reverse."Local residents wanting to enter the competition should visit the competition website, or send their entries (exact location of the pothole, with their name and contact details, and photo of pothole if wished) to Harlow Liberal Democrats, Freepost ANG2570, Harlow CM20 3BR, to arrive no later than Friday 29 February.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Council leader Chris Millington was among the speakers at a special reception to celebrate the progress the Gateway Project has made. Over 70 guests attended the event at the Town's new football stadium at Barrows Farm.
The Gateway Project has so far provided the new £3 million football stadium at Barrows Farm, a £1 million county-standard athletics track at Mark Hall Community School and Sports College, and the first of the new homes on Fifth Avenue. The new £25 million community leisure centre is currently being built at the junction of Second Avenue and Velizy Avenue and is due to open at the end of 2009.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
England's council tax bills soar
Council tax bills in England are set to rise by an average of about 4 per cent this year, a Local Government Association study predicts.
Since Labour came to power in 1997, the average council tax per dwelling in England and Wales has now increased by 96 per cent - from £554 to over £1,000 in 2007/08. Council tax increases this year are likely to push the increase to over 100 per cent - meaning that council tax will have doubled since Tony Blair first arrived in Downing Street. Meanwhile, public sector pay rises will be limited to 2 per cent.
Liberal Democrats say: the Government's failure to properly fund councils will mean large increases in council tax bills and cuts to services relied upon by vulnerable people. Linking local taxation exclusively to house values, as council tax does, will continue to hit pensioners and others on low incomes hard. Council tax should be axed altogether and replaced with a fair system, based on ability to pay.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
There's really no excuse for dumping rubbish, especially as Harlow Council collects most bulky rubbish for free. The Lib Dem influenced council issued 74 fixed penalties in the second half of last year - and four notices already this year. The maximum penalty for fly tipping is a fine of up to £50,000 and up to a year in prison. Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Cllr Eleanor Macy says:
"It costs nothing to dispose of rubbish using the facilities available locally, yet these individuals choose to ditch their junk in residential areas with no thought for the environment or the local community.If you have bulky rubbish to dispose of, call Contact Harlow on 01279 446655 and make a booking. It's free.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Shopping till we drop
Official surveys show that Harlow is becoming more and more popular for shopping. While footfall in UK high streets generally dropped by 8.6 per cent in the year to December, Harlow town centre footfall figures have improved by over 25 per cent in the last two years. Local Lib Dem leader Cllr Chris Millington welcomed the news:
"It's nice to see Harlow bucking the national trend for Christmas shopping. What is particularly pleasing is that footfall was high in all areas of the town centre."
Official - Tories topsy-turvy on dealing with waste
Conservatives at Essex County Council have set recycling targets that are vague and lack ambition. That is one of the findings of an independent Waste Commission hired by the county council to review its waste strategy. County councillor Ian Gale, Liberal Democrat spokesman for waste and recycling on Essex County Council, said:
"The Commission's report largely goes with the grain of Liberal Democrat thinking. We will, however, continue to question the assumed need for massive investment in large and expensive facilities. The Commission also challenges the administration's thinking and assumptions in key areas which we support.
Britain has the most expensive rail fares in Europe, Lib Dems reveal
Rail travel in Britain is more expensive than anywhere else in Europe, according to research by the Liberal Democrats. The figures show that, on average, £10 will buy a train ticket for
Monday, January 21, 2008
Several major planning applications have been submitted to Harlow Council, and are available for residents to view, reports Liberal Democrat planning spokesman Cllr Eleanor Macy. The first three are all part of the council's plans for improving the town park, and have been submitted by Groundwork Hertfordshire, with whom the council is working in partnership.
The first (HW/PL/08/00003) is a proposal to lift the war memorial at Netteswell Cross, rotate it 90 degrees to face south, move it slightly to the south and reset it on new foundations, with a two-metre high steel railing around the back of the memorial. The existing paving, surroundings and grass would be replaced with new paving with level access with a new plinth for the Burma Star Memorial nearby.
Greyhound car park
Meanwhile there's a separate application (HW/PL/08/00015) to extend the Greyhound car park near the war memorial.
Skate park at Spurriers
Finally for the town park, there's an application (HW/PL/08/HW/PL/08/00013) to redevelop the temporary skate park facility at Spurriers - raising the ground north of the terrace, removing the skate park hard standing and walls, putting in a new curved ramp and retaining wall, and putting in a new rose garden, paths, seats and litter bins.
And in Harlow Common, there's an application (HW/PL/08/00008) for four houses, thirty-three flats and two retail units, as part of the redevelopment of the hatch on which the council has been working with residents for some time.
As usual, all these applications are available for public inspection from Monday to Friday 09:00 to 17:00 at the Civic Centre.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Roads in Essex more congested than ever before
Figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats in Parliament show that over the past decade, the number of vehicles on roads in Essex have increased by 12 per cent.
It means that congestion on local roads has gone up since Labour came to power in 1997, despite promises to reduce the number of people relying on cars to get about. Harlow Liberal Democrat leader Chris Millington said,
"These figures show a worrying increase in the amount of traffic on roads in Essex. The reality of the situation is that travelling by public transport is now more expensive but relatively speaking, the cost of travelling by car has fallen.
Friday, January 18, 2008
New signs salute Harlow's fibre optic history
Following a suggestion from Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Chris Millington in March last year, new signs on the way in to Harlow now welcome visitors to Harlow "Birthplace of optical fibre communication".
There are six new signs in total - one near the Gibberd Garden, one on the A1184 from Sawbridgeworth, one on the A414 near the Hastingwood roundabout, one on the way to Jacks Hatch, on the Roydon Road near East End Farm, and one on the A414 after the Eastwick roundabout.
The development of optical fibre, for use in telecommunications including the internet, began at STL, which later became Nortel.
Eleanor welcomes new babies to Pets' Corner
Cllr Eleanor Macy has welcomed the first lamb and litter of rare Essex piglets to be born at Pets' Corner this season. Eleanor says:
"Children are always excited by the prospect of seeing baby animals and this year they will have plenty to enjoy.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Harlow pensioners face winter fuel payment wipe-out
Llocal Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to protect pensioners in Harlow from energy price rises. They have made the call after figures showed that recent increases in the cost of electricity and gas are set to wipe out pensioners' winter fuel payment.
Figures received by the Liberal Democrats from the House of Commons Library show that since 2004/5, and taking into account recently announced price rises:
"Elderly and disabled people are hardest hit by the fuel price hikes, which more than wipe out the value of the Winter Fuel Payment. There are, according to the last census, approximately 15,000 pensioners in the Harlow constituency. The recent fuel cost rises will put them in a financially difficult position.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Serious about dumped trolleys
More than 130 dumped shopping trolleys are to be crushed after local supermarkets failed to collect them. Since Harlow Council introduced a £70 charge to shop owners to cover the costs of collecting, storing and disposing of their dumped trolleys, nearly 250 trolleys have been collected and stored by council partner Kier Harlow.
When the trolley has been collected, the council keeps it for six weeks; during that time the owner can have it back if they pay the £70 charge for each trolley. Cllr Eleanor Macy says:
"We need to see more action from local stores as we're still collecting a large number of dumped trolleys from the town's streets. There are systems and processes stores can introduce to stop the problem but at the moment these are not in place in many cases. Whilst some stores have paid for the return of their trolleys, some retailers have ignored the requests for payment, and the council is now entitled to crush them."The council will still pursue the owners for the £70 charge for the 130 trolleys being disposed of. Kier Harlow still has another 69 trolleys in store.
The council can also take action against individuals dumping trolleys. The maximum penalty is a £50,000 fine, or 12 months imprisonment if the matter goes to court. You can report dumped trolleys to Contact Harlow on 01279 446655.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The first four weeks - Nick Clegg as Lib Dem leader
Nick Clegg has now notched up four weeks as leader of the Liberal Democrats - so what do the pundits think?
First appearance at Prime Minister's Questions (Wednesday 9 January 2008)
Clegg... made a confident first appearance at the weekly question time as leader. ePolitix 9/1/08
He was solid and serious and chose a topic - fuel poverty - that will reinforce his credentials as a progressive politician. Andrew Sparrow, Guardian 9/1/08
Commentators later described his manner as brisk and businesslike, as he made his mark at the weekly ritual. Times, 9/1/08
Confident performance ITN 9/1/08
Nick Clegg did pretty well at prime minister's questions yesterday, making a solid start as Lib Dem leader. Guardian 10/1/08
MPs of all shades seemed impressed by Nick Clegg's first performance at Prime Minister's Questions. No stumbling, clear delivery, strong choice of subject. Sam Coates, Times, 9/1/08
Confident, assured, he will see today as an auspicious start. Sky News 9/1/08
Speech to one day manifesto conference (Saturday 12th January 2008)
Plans to liberate schools from excessive state interference and guarantee hospital treatment to patients within a set time will be set out today by Nick Clegg. Guardian, 12/01/08
The lowest GCSE grades should be abolished to drive up school standards, according to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg. Sun Online, 12/01/08
This was Clegg back to his formidable best - I think he is spot on in trying to make his party the authentic voice of public service reform, committed to the real priorities of the 21st Century electorate and the challenge of linking our expectations as consumers with our role as citizens ... This was an impressive and robust beginning. Matthew d'Ancona, Spectator, 12/01/08
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said MPs' pay rises should be linked to the state pension. ... [He] called for an end to the "unseemly spectacle" of MPs voting for their own rises. BBC News Online, 14/01/08
Mr Clegg has announced a flurry of initiatives since his narrow victory over Chris Huhne last month ... He has established a Commission on Social Mobility, which will be chaired by Martin Narey, the chief executive of Barnardo's. Its remit is to come up with policy plans to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds to fulfil their potential. Guardian, 12/01/08
[A] poll, undertaken over the weekend [of 5-6 January], shows that the election of Nick Clegg as Liberal Democrat leader has given his party a three-point boost to 19 per cent, all at the expense of the Tories, down to 37 per cent. The Times, 8/1/08
The poll shows Nick Clegg, the new Liberal Democrat leader, retaining the extra support his election gave his party. Telegraph, 12/01/08
Nick Clegg this week seemed to me to be responding to [an] anxiety for honest clarity. Matthew Parris, The Times 22/12/07
Mr Cameron's closest colleagues admitted ... that he [Clegg] was the result they most feared. George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, told one MP ... that Mr Clegg would be very effective in challenging for Tory votes ... They did not want to admit, and do not now, that their real bete noire was the youthful, normal-sounding, guy-next-door-looking Mr Clegg. Telegraph 26/12/07
It seems the only person speaking up with a broad sense of [the dangers of ID cards] ... is Nick Clegg ... I have to say I cheered when I heard this, not only because I agree, but because it is entirely salutary, in these sheepish times, to see a British politician express his personal feelings so strongly. Andrew O'Hagan, Telegraph 1/1/08
Mr Clegg's relative youth and ability to communicate with ordinary voters will cement him in the job. His party will pose a major threat to the Tories. Sun 19/12/07
A senior Conservative MP has admitted that Nick Clegg ... could hurt David Cameron's leadership by appealing to traditional Tory voters. Patrick Mercer, a former Tory frontbencher, has warned colleagues that Mr Clegg is able to make an "extremely favourable impression" on Conservative supporters. Telegraph 17/11/07
But if [Labour] despondency continues ... it might actually be Labour votes that Nick Clegg takes, that he's the sort of nice guy the Labour voting public might actually decide to back. Senior Labour MP Frank Field, BBC, 4/11/07
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Local Lib Dems back hospital trust proposal
Liberal Democrats in Harlow have given their support to proposals from Princess Alexandra Hospital to apply to become a Foundation Trust.
In addition to supporting the Trust application, the Lib Dem response also argues for
"Hospitals serve the public and are funded by the public through taxes, so I believe they should be accountable to the public. We elect district and county councillors to make decisions about local services like education, housing and social services. I believe local health services should also be run by people that we can vote for at the ballot box.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Harlow Liberal Democrats call for end to ID cards
Liberal Democrats in Harlow have backed calls to the government to abandon plans to make people carry identity cards.
Leading the call locally is Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Chris Millington. He decided to voice his concerns after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP published figures showing that 37 million pieces of personal information on UK citizens were lost in 2007, mostly by the Government.
The law bringing in ID cards has already been passed by Labour and soon most citizens will have to pay for an identity card. Chris Millington says:
"The expensive identity cards scheme is based on the government storing large amounts of information about each one of us on a central database. But in 2007 the Government stumbled from one data loss crisis to another. The worst example came in November when the Government lost the personal details of all 25 million families with children. That has put the privacy of every family in Harlow at risk.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Tories slash pothole maintenance
Proposed changes to Essex County Council's highways maintenance strategy will mean that people in Essex will have to get used to bigger potholes being around for longer, as ruling Conservatives at County Hall fail to balance their road maintenance budget.
The proposals come just weeks after the Conservatives announced a £10m overspend on the highways budget. Cllr Keith Francis, Essex County Council Liberal Democrat spokesman for highways and transportation, said:
"The report outlining changes to the way potholes and other damage to roads and footpath are to be dealt with is riddled with inconsistencies, and it is hard to see how it will be of benefit to residents here.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Local trains show the strain
Overcrowding on trains run by local operator One is getting worse, figures released by Liberal Democrats reveal. In 2006, 'One' carried 3.9 per cent of passengers in excess of capacity, compared with 2.9 per cent the year before. Local Liberal Democrat councillor and regular commuter Chris Millington says:
"Commuters are returning to work after Christmas only to face massive fare hikes and overcrowding. We already have the most expensive rail fares in Europe, with rail travellers facing further inflation-busting price rises.