Author Archives: Keith Aspden

Our achievements in York

Since 2015 and the formation of City of York Council’s Joint Administration, York has continued to develop as a leading city in the UK, receiving much praise and attention along the way.

However, it is important to reflect on what we as Liberal Democrats have achieved for local residents and for the City.

In 2015, in a difficult set of elections for the party nationally, we gained four councillors in York. This was a great achievement and in this article, I outline seven of our major achievements to date, both in administration and in serving our local communities. I also outline our Fair Deal campaign for the future. 

  1. Frontline investment: 

Frontline services have been our number one priority in administration. Despite the massive cuts to the Council’s budget by the Conservative Government, we have launched an ambitious £20 million investment programme in our roads, footpaths and public spaces, as well as ensuring that residents continue to receive their first green garden waste bin at no cost. More recently, in June 2018, we committed a further £1 million investment in waste and recycling, green spaces and support for our local high streets.

  1. Clean Air Zone:

In 2017, York became the first city in the UK to have a fully electric Park & Ride fleet, thanks to a £3.3 million investment. Building on this, City of York Council is now well on its way to delivering the UK’s first Clean Air Zone, thanks to the efforts of Liberal Democrat Councillors. The Clean Air Zone will aim to introduce Ultra Low Emission standards as a minimum requirement for all buses on busy routes.

  1. Community Stadium:

Construction is well underway on the new Community Stadium and Leisure Complex, which will be a great facility for football, rugby league and leisure in York. Steel frames are now in place to construct the leisure site and stadium stands. This achievement builds on our record with leisure and swimming, having saved the Edwardian Yearsley Swimming Pool from closure in 2015.

  1. Local Plan: 

After decades without one, we have submitted a Local Plan for York to the Planning Inspector, avoiding the risk of Government intervention in York’s future. Our Local Plan, if passed by the Government, will deliver the housing we need in the city, whilst protecting York’s unique character.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Cllr Keith Aspden writes…Tackling homelessness in York

Last week the York Liberal Democrats were delighted to welcome Sir Vince Cable for a flying visit to his home city.

Vince was born and brought up in York and many local members have fond memories of the two energetic general election campaigns we fought when Vince was Parliamentary Candidate for the old York constituency in 1983 and 1987.

York is an interesting city politically in that the three main parties each have roughly the same number of councillors. Since 2015 the Liberal Democrat Group has formed part of the joint administration running the Council.

One area in which we can take pride in the Council’s record is homelessness. York’s services for preventing and managing homelessness have been awarded the National Practitioner Support Service’s Gold Standard award. At the time of the award we were only the third local authority to have achieved this. Gold Standard requires the service to have a focus on early intervention and prevention of homelessness at its core.

On Sunday 30 July Vince joined our Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Councillor Carol Runciman, and myself for a tour of the Peasholme Centre on Fishergate. Many members will be familiar with this part of the city since it is very close to the Novotel and the Barbican Centre where the party has held three successful Spring Conferences.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Welcome back to York and join us campaigning!

As the countdown to party conference continues, I would like to say how pleased I am to be welcoming Spring Conference back to York.

Visit York estimate that the weekend will boost the city’s economy by more than £600,000. And I know that pubs, hotels, B&Bs, guest houses, and restaurants will be reporting soaring demand. Added to the short-term economic boost is the long-term impact that the continued national exposure will bring. It is a showcase for York as a destination for conferences and events. York is a beautiful, well-connected city with the potential to hold many more big political and business conferences.

It is also a chance for our members in York to meet our MPs and peers as well as councillors and campaigners from across the country. And as we all know, a chance for local party members to actually debate and decide national party policy.

In York, our councillors and members have been working hard since we formed a joint administration in May 2015 to run City of York Council.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

York responds on unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

 

Around this time last year, I posted on Lib Dem Voice about York’s role in responding to the refugee crisis. I am very pleased that over the last year, York has been active in the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme and in welcoming refugees to the city. We have a proud history of offering a home to those fleeing persecution and will continue our work to meet our humanitarian commitments.

A closely associated issue, increasingly prominent over the last few months, has been that of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Tim Farron and Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords have campaigned strongly for the government to do a huge amount more on this front. Early this year, Tim slammed the government’s response as ‘cold-hearted’ and ‘callous’. He was absolutely right – we were failing people who are the least able to help themselves. After months of pressure, the government accepted a commitment to resettle ‘up to 3,000’ children from within Europe.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

York: Getting residents and communities involved

york-keith-aspden

Keith Aspden at Heslington Sportsfield which benefitted from Ward Committee funding

I’m back in York after a very enjoyable conference in Brighton. From a local government perspective, I was pleased to participate in important discussions around education, housing, the impact of Brexit, the environment, devolution and more! I was pleased to speak (together with Cllr Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council) at an ALDC training session about how Liberal Democrats can make best use of Area and Ward Committees. I’ve written up my notes from the meeting about York’s Ward Committees below, which I hope might be useful food for thought for other Councillors and campaigners.

What are Ward Committees?

In York, each ward is given a budget to spend on local projects and offer grants to community groups. Meetings are chaired by local councillors who work with residents and ward teams to decide collectively where money is spent.

Our 2015 Manifesto

Key campaigning themes for us in the run-up to the 2015 local elections were the Labour Council being out-of-touch with residents, taking all decisions centrally, and ignoring communities in the suburbs and villages around York. Ward Committees had suffered significantly under Labour – as a result of their cuts, wards had a total budget of just £75,000 across the city.

Our manifesto promised to change this and ‘re-establish proper Ward Committees as a way to put power and budgets back in the hands of local residents’.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Bosnia’s Nasa Stranka visits York

Nasa Stranka in YorkOne of the highlights of this year’s Spring Conference for us as a Local Party, led by our deputy group leader Cllr Ann Reid, was hosting some representatives of our Bosnian sister party, Nasa Stranka.

Nationally links between our two parties are already well-established, with joint working around campaigns, training and promoting women in politics. But for anyone who doesn’t follow Bosnian politics as closely as we do….

Nasa Stranka (‘Our Party’ in Bosnian) was founded in 2008 to offer an alternative to the dominant nationalist parties, and over the past six years has established itself as the leading socially liberal and progressive voice in Bosnian politics. Nasa Stranka is also a shining example of achieving gender equality, with 46% female representation at the local level.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 1 Comment

Lord Jonny Oates at the Pudding Club at York

Lord Oates

I was delighted to welcome Lord Jonny Oates to York last month for a visit to our annual Pudding Club – one of the highlights of our local parties social calendar!

Lord Oates, who was recently made a life peer after serving as a councillor in Kingston Upon Thames and later as Chief of Staff to Nick Clegg, highlighted his concerns about proposed cuts to Universal Credit to local party members in York.

As readers will know, last year George Osborne was forced to re-think cuts to working tax credits after a local and national campaign by the Lib Dems. The changes were set to hit 8,000 families in York, but the Chancellor said households claiming the benefit would be helped by “transitional protection” as they moved to the new single Universal Credit.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, claimed that “nobody will lose any money on arrival on universal credit from tax credits”. Many residents in York were reassured and pleased that a U-Turn had been made.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Welcome back to York…

The timing of Spring Conference’s return to York is particularly significant for the city.

York Members and supporters 2015

As many will know, widespread flooding hit parts of the city over Christmas as residents and businesses were evacuated from their homes in the worst flooding seen since 1982.

The TV cameras and politicians who descended on York soon left, but the long hard clean-up operation has taken many weeks and for some will take many more.

The way local residents (as well as groups

Posted in Conference | 1 Comment

York Floods: As the clean up commences, questions must be asked

York Flooding 1Over recent days the news has been full of images of York underwater. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes after the city’s two rivers burst their banks, flooding houses, shops, businesses and threatening historical buildings. The River Ouse peaked at over 5 metres above its typical level, while the River Foss has hit record heights.

We of course owe a debt of gratitude to all the staff and volunteers from the City of York Council, the emergency services, Environment Agency, armed forces and voluntary organisations, for the hard work they have put in (and continue to do with the clean up) to try to minimise the impact of the floods and assist those affected. After the damage this has caused to our city we must now focus on helping residents and businesses through the cleanup. There are however questions that need to be answered including on the planned levels of investment in both flood defence schemes and maintenance of existing defences.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 30 Comments

York welcomes refugees

Refugee-March-York

From left to right:  Lib Dem Cllrs Ashley Mason, Andrew Waller, Keith Aspden, Stephen Fenton, and Keith Orrell from City of York Council.

In the late 1990s, York offered a place of safety to 90 Kosovan Albanians as they fled conflict in their homeland. They were living in overcrowded camps in neighbouring Macedonia, and our country heard their cries. Today, thousands of Syrians face a similar plight and once again cities like York are preparing to help.

Initially, David Cameron was very slow to react to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. In contrast, Tim Farron was quick to grasp both the seriousness of the situation and the need for swift action. Cameron’s reticence also contradicted strongly with the view of many residents I spoke to in York, including those who I joined on a ‘Refugees Welcome’ march back in September.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

York’s Liberal Democrats secure future of local swimming pool

York swimming pool successAs I wrote on this site previously, here in York we recently entered into a joint administration with the local Conservative group to run the city. This has posed us with the large challenge of ensuring that our distinctive voice is heard locally and that we deliver on our promises to residents at a very difficult time for local government.

In the run up to the election we made it a key manifesto promise to protect Yearsley Pool, a valued community facility, from Labour’s proposed local cuts.  We then also managed to secure this as a key priority for the Joint Executive.

I am now really pleased that we have now been able to deliver on this promise and have secured the long term future of this much loved community facility. We have put in place a clear commitment to Yearsley Swimming Pool, as part of the councils 13 year leisure contract – ensuring its future well beyond the next local elections.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 5 Comments

How should we approach the devolution debate? A perspective from York

York Liberal Democrat Council GroupSince the elections in May Liberal Democrats in York have been faced with ongoing questions surrounding devolution. The recent Summer Budget announcements on devolution pose us with many challenges however they also gives us a welcome opportunity to ensure that decisions can be taken closer to the communities they affect, rather than in Whitehall.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has paved the way for devolution in England with Nick Clegg announcing their City Deal in March 2012. They will hold the first elections for a directly elected metro-mayor in 2017. Authorities across the country and in Yorkshire now have the opportunity to follow this path and submit a bid to gain similar access to devolved budgets and power.

Yorkshire is an enormous geographical area which already has two Combined Authorities and three Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) in its boundaries. The number of possible deals is almost endless. There are debates raging about which towns and cities should and should not be included in any proposals to government.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Opinion: Lib Dems take power in York

York swimming pool successThe last few weeks have been an intense time for all Liberal Democrats not least here in York.

After a gruelling campaign and against the national trend, we made gains in the city’s ‘all up’ local elections increasing our seats from the 8 won in 2011 to 12 this time.

These results were down to the hard work and dedication of our candidates and volunteers, such as Local Party Chair Stephen (now Councillor) Fenton, Print Room Supremo Richard Hill, Citywide Agent Derek Wann, along with countless others.

It was also down to a local party which (as I wrote on this website back in June 2013) was forced into a “period of serious self-reflection” following disappointing losses in the 2011 local elections.

What eventually sprung from this was a very localised campaign. Street-based issues filled our Focus, glossy leaflets and target letters with ‘Stronger Economy, Fairer Society’ perhaps getting less of a mention.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 16 Comments

Opinion: York welcomes Spring Conference

yorkAs the countdown to this weekend continues, I would like to say how pleased I am to be welcoming Spring Conference to York. I have been speaking to local party members, businesses and organisations like Visit York about the conference and it is clear that anticipation is building.

 Visit York estimate that this weekend will boost the city’s economy by more than £600,000. And I know that hotels, B&Bs, guest houses, and restaurants are reporting soaring demand.

Added to the short-term economic boost is the long-term impact that national exposure will bring. It is a showcase for York as a destination for conferences and events. York is a beautiful, well-connected city with the potential to hold many more big political and business conferences. This weekend should just be the beginning….

It is also a chance for our members in York to meet our ministers and MPs as well as councillors and campaigners from across the country. And as we all know, a chance for local party members to actually debate and decide national party policy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

The Tour De France is great news for York but also needs a business case

Tour de France logoHosting the Tour De France is a huge opportunity for York and Yorkshire, but a time of cuts to local government budgets the delivery plans must be watertight.

When it was announced last year that York was to host Stage 2 of next year’s Tour De France, I was excited. So were most residents of the city.

The Tour is the most prestigious cycle race in the world and reckoned to be the biggest annual sporting event on the planet. With 188 countries broadcasting the event, the media exposure is probably only beaten by the Summer Olympics and the Football World Cup.

Anyone who has watched the event, either in France or when it last crossed the Channel in 2007, will know size of the event and the passion of the fans.

I could go on… for the bigness of the race and the glory of the event is indisputable. However, it appears that in the excitement of ‘the biggest race in the world’ coming to town many key questions and issues have been overlooked.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | Leave a comment

Rebuilding our campaigning base in York

Image courtesy of freefoto.comYork is a classic example of an English city where the Liberal Democrats developed a strong local base as voters became disillusioned with both the Conservatives and later Labour in the 1990s and 2000s. After two decades of Labour control we won a landslide victory in 2003 and formed the administration on City of York Council for eight years. As elsewhere, in 2011 we took a hammering from the voters, our first electoral test as a party of government.

The unitary authority of York is split into two parliamentary constituencies including the marginal (famously ‘doughnut-shaped’) York Outer, a seat that the Conservatives won with a majority of less than 7% over us at the 2010 general election.

Within months of a disappointing general election result, we rightly anticipated a tough fight in all-up local elections in 2011, especially against the unfavourable national picture. A resurgent Labour Party took eight council seats from us to win overall control, including five seats in York Outer that they won from third place.

Posted in Campaign Corner and News | Tagged | 8 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoeB 17th Oct - 12:41am
    I never failed to be impressed by the sheer energy of Merlene and hats off for taking a crack at breaching the edifice that is...
  • User AvatarJoeB 17th Oct - 12:09am
    A wag once commented "It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future." In 1798 Thomas Malthus predicted that population growth would bring famine...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 16th Oct - 10:10pm
    Democracy needs more consultation and representation of mainstream opinion.
  • User Avatarsuzanne Fletcher 16th Oct - 10:08pm
    Well yes, Mark, but I was thinking of all the work one person had to do as well. radical idea - post them all on...
  • User AvatarMark Valladares 16th Oct - 9:54pm
    Suzanne, I entirely see your point, but can see an advantage to having them all in one place, especially for non-Liberal Democrat readers and those...
  • User Avatarsuzanne Fletcher 16th Oct - 8:53pm
    Dear Mark, but if the press office sent to people who asked for them ( and I presume someone at HQ is clever enough to...