Tag Archives: Local government

My first three months as a Liberal Democrat Councillor

On the day after I won my first election in May, while still elated and shattered in equal parts, my agent told me that is it typical for the first three months after election season to be relatively quiet and that I would have plenty of time to adjust to my new role. I can think of many words that might apply to these last three months in politics. ‘Typical’ and ‘quiet’ are not among them.

Nationally, as the EU referendum has triggered both a change of government and an opposition leadership election, the mood of our country is uncertain and fearful. Locally, in East Surrey, this is as true as anywhere. It was saddening but not surprising that our residents voted to leave the EU as many people took their opportunity to vote for something to change. Immediate worries for residents are about public services and infrastructure. Deep cuts to local authority budgets over recent years have meant reductions to just about every public service that people notice. Fewer bus services, shortened library opening hours, earlier closing times at the recycling centre and less regular grass cutting in public green areas are among the factors that all add up to make life less pleasant than it used to be. Meanwhile, a couple of decades of intense house building in my ward means that the population of our compact geography has more or less doubled while investment in infrastructure has failed to keep up. Roads are now overwhelmed and there aren’t enough school places and doctors’ appointments to service the community. On doorsteps people have been regularly asking how long before breaking point?

We found our breaking point in Caterham on the Hill on 7th June when we experienced the worst flash floods for 40 years. Local drains failed and properties were swamped with rain and sewer water, making too many families temporarily homeless. Given the political maelstrom, the media have not had a chance to give the consequences of our storm much attention. Not for our families the COBRA committees, armed forces response and additional funding that have been made available previously for other communities. Our Conservative MP did not even bother to make a statement. He was too busy in Westminster. This left a massive void of leadership with just us Councillors left to fill it.

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Last chance to book for a discounted place at top election training event

Today is your last chance to get a discounted place at the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaingers’ premier training event, Kickstart, which is taking place in Staffordshire from 2-4 September.

If you are thinking of standing for election next May, you will not find any better training available anywhere in the party. Over the course of a weekend, ALDC give you 30 hours of training, including individualised one to one training for your particular council area.

Here are some more details:

Kickstart is the highly regarded annual residential training weekend organised by ALDC that brings together some of the party’s most experienced and successful campaigners with campaign teams from across the country. The weekend offers training, mentoring, advice, networking and an opportunity to build and improve your campaign plans and knowledge to win more elections in the future.

WHAT’S INCLUDED
at least 30 hours of training with courses suitable for both new and experience campaigners
time to work as a team with an experienced mentor who can look at your plans and advise you from an independent perspective on how to make them even better
guest speaker along with a three course dinner on the Saturday night
drop-in sessions on more specialist campaign techniques and skills
in-depth strategy and review sessions on what worked for people in the 2016 elections
two-nights full board accommodation – including meals and refreshments – in a dedicated training centre with bar and leisure facilities.

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Progress in York – our report back after 12 months in joint administration

A little over twelve months ago, the Lib Dems in York entered into a joint administration on City of York Council. It wasn’t an easy decision to take, but we knew that having increased our representation by a third despite the disappointing national picture, we had a real opportunity to deliver on our manifesto commitments to the people of York.

I am very grateful to many colleagues in the city, including fellow Executive Members, Councillors, local party activists (and our very new members this week!) for their ongoing work.  A year on, we thought we’d let you know how we’re getting on.

Greenest City in the North

We promised to take steps towards York becoming the Greenest City in the North, including working with residents to reverse the decline in recycling rates and developing a plan to cut the Council’s carbon emissions. Additionally, we committed to reintroduce additional winter Green Bin collections and rule out cuts to the frequency of Grey Bin collections.

This was confirmed just two months after the election, as our Emergency Budget in July last year financed the reintroduction of 2 Winter Green Bin collections and scrapped Labour’s proposal for extra Green Bin charges. Our increased investment has funded a new recycling campaign and we have re-established a Green Jobs Task Group.

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Senior Hertfordshire Lib Dem councillors step down from leadership after 52 years of service

Two Hertfordshire Liberal Democrat council group leaders have stepped down from their leadership roles (although they remain councillors) which they have held for 30 and 22 years respectively.

In Three Rivers, Ann Shaw announced that she was stepping down after three decades in the top job as Leader of the Council, telling the Watford Observer:

It is 30 years since we took over the administration of Three Rivers District Council from the Conservatives, which is long enough for one person to be leader.

This does not mean any reduction in my commitment to TRDC and the community. In fact I need to be able to spend more time working to sort out some local problems and issues.

Ann is replaced by a familiar face, Sara Bedford.  I first knew Sara on the first Lib Dem online conferencing forum, Cix, way back in the day and I wish her well. In fact, I first heard of her when she was involved in NUS even before then. She has long experience as a councillor. She said of Ann:

Ann is going to be a difficult act to follow, but I will have my own ways of doing things. It’s a good time to become leader after the huge vote of support for the Lib Dems at the elections earlier this month.

I look forward to working with residents, local organisations, staff, and other councillors across the district, to keep Three Rivers as the top rated council in Hertfordshire, delivering quality services that are value for money.

In Watford, Iain Sharpe has stood down after 22 years as Group Leader. His successor is Peter Taylor, who I first knew when he worked for Alistair Carmichael. I am particularly grateful to him for his hard work in filthy weather at the Livingston by-election in 2005 when he came up to help. Peter told the Watford Observer:

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Tim Pickstone writes… 45 gains must only be the start

For the first time in quite a few years Lib Dems in many areas have spend the post-election weekend in a good mood. 45 net gains in the English council elections ain’t bad, the first time we’ve made gains in local elections since 2008. Coupled with some great results in Scottish constituencies, many Lib Dems have spent the weekend smiling.

The good news is far from universal. I know that colleagues in London and Wales will be devastated by the results and losses. Behind the gains in many areas are colleagues who lost seats or missed out on gains. Many places we didn’t win will have moved forwards as a springboard for future gains.

Thursday’s success is down to the hard work of Lib Dem activists up and down the country. Small teams working long and hard to win individual wards with an enormous amount of dedication, time and energy given freely to the party. Thank you to everybody who contributed to this success.

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Great election results for LDV team members

Two members of the LDV team were standing for election on Thursday.

Joe Otten has faced the electorate two years running. He was up for election at the end of his four year cycle last year and Sheffield had all-ups this year after new boundaries came in.

The result was impressive:

Joe Otten result

The three Liberal Democrats were 2000 votes ahead of their nearest Labour rivals. That’s a vote of confidence if ever there was one.

Joe wasn’t so lucky in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, but he put up a good, …

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Local Government doing less to achieve more

Darlington Borough Council is skint. One of the smallest local authorities in the country, Darlington was created as a Unitary Authority in 1997. Since then, it has been governed (like many Northern councils) exclusively by Labour, and it now stands on the verge of bankruptcy (the two facts may not be unrelated).

Specifically, the Council have calculated the need for £12.5m in spending cuts over the next four years. To go: Darlington’s historic indoor market, the public library (both of which were donated to the town by the Pease family), the town centre’s Christmas lights and floral displays, several children’s centres, and multiple other social, environmental and cultural services. Streets will be swept less frequently. Charges will be introduced for blue badge holders.

Are these cuts to local services best blamed on central government, with its reduction in funding for local authorities, or on incompetent and profligate local councils? Certainly, cuts in central government funding have been made, with the provision of local services affected; certainly, other local authorities facing similar cuts are not broke. The truth of the matter is probably somewhere between the two!

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarStevan Rose 26th Aug - 1:33am
    "though I wasn’t a member during the (alleged) destruction of the party." Me neither, left the Liberals in the early 80s, rejoined Lib Dems in...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 26th Aug - 1:05am
    Barry does say some things above in response to Matthew, that must be said , if the left of our party are ever going to...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 26th Aug - 12:05am
    Caron, thank you , yes , of course what you say makes sense on the Tories UK wide and in the rest of the countries...
  • User AvatarJohn Roffey 25th Aug - 11:56pm
    Barry Snelson 25th Aug '16 - 11:16pm "As to the view that market forces are the work of Satan, well that’s a pity as the...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 25th Aug - 11:54pm
    Lorenzo, Ruth Davidson did well up here by decoupling herself almost completely from the Conservatives down south. I don't think she'll get away with that...
  • User AvatarSimon Shaw 25th Aug - 11:52pm
    @Dave Orbison "So please point me to the articles in Guardian, Indy, Telegraph or others where the official LibDem response has been made and where...