Tag Archives: Local government

Ros Scott’s closing speech to ALDC Kickstart

The newly elected President of ALDC, Baroness Ros Scott, closed the ALDC Kickstart event yesterday afternoon. She has kindly made available the text of her speech…

I hope that you have all had a wonderful weekend.

These are the most difficult and unpredictable political times that I can ever remember. There’s no way of knowing what the backdrop to next May’s elections will be.

But some things never change.

When I joined in 1991, I was a community campaigner in my home town of Needham Market. The only political party who were really engaged with the community were the Lib Dems, and that’s …

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LibLink: Cllr Robert Aldridge: Whatever happened to joined up thinking?

This Budget has meant that local government is going to be taking even more of a hit in England. In Scotland, too, councils bear the brunt of SNP cuts.

A Lib Dem Councillor in Edinburgh, Robert Aldridge, who, for five years from 2007-12 was the city’s finance convener, has written an article for the Edinburgh Evening News about what a total mess the Labour/SNP coalition is making of running Scotland’s capital.

Their cuts have not been done in a  strategic way and, in fact, generate more costs in the future:

He set out the problems:

As the scale of council cuts grows we are seeing fewer and fewer staff struggling to try to provide the same level of service with smaller and smaller budgets. More and more we see staff having to focus on their part of a task rather than the best way of achieving the best service for the citizen.

And the impact they have on people’s lives:

For the want of a janitor in a community centre we are likely to see more people having to move to residential care, at enormous expense. We are focusing limited resources on those with highest needs, but at the expense of low-level support which prevents problems becoming acute. We are facing an obesity crisis amongst our young people. But we are increasing the costs for voluntary groups to use council facilities in the evening, making it likely that they will either have to increase charges (excluding young people from poorer families) or meet less frequently, or for a shorter period.

And what’s the solution?

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Power for people and communities

I am very pleased to be presenting the policy paper Power for People and Communities at Conference, having chaired the group that developed the paper.

The proposals set out a strong agenda for devolution and localism within England. We are arguing for greater financial autonomy for local authorities, STV in local elections, making it easier to establish Town or Community Councils in urban areas, strengthening the powers of local government over issues from education to health to planning, and also reforming the Social Value Act to encourage the use of public or not-for-profit providers when commissioning local services.

Judging by the amendments submitted, a focus of the debate will be on devolution within England. The paper develops and strengthens existing policy on this since the last major policy debate in 2014. We set out a clear ambition to achieve a comprehensive devolved tier within England, while recognising that the appetite for devolution is different in different areas and we need to take people with us.

Our approach is to enact permissive legislation to empower groups of local authorities to come together to establish devolved governance in their areas. We will proceed by consensus as far as possible, but will not allow one local authority to veto a coherent proposal.

The geographical makeup of the devolved authorities should reflect local opinion. The decision should reflect local views, traditional boundaries and community identification as well as economic units, current council boundaries and travel-to-work areas. In some areas this could be city regions, in others sub-regions or a whole region as one unit. 

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My first 100 days as a Councillor

When I joined the Lib Dems in April 2017, little did I know that a year later I would be the first BAME Lib Dem councillor elected in Merton.

I have many people to thank for my journey, but essentially this happened because I was trusted by my new Lib Dem family to help lead our success in Merton and show our values by the way I serve – which is what I’ve tried to do.

The election campaign was intense and emotional. West Barnes was a top target ward and a lot rested on us winning. But it wasn’t easy. Early on the two sitting Conservatives were still confident, delighting in using social media to patronise and ridicule us. Labour brought out their big guns: the neighbouring MP, local parliamentary candidate, Momentum activists and the Leader of the Council who made our ward his second home. He claimed he would ensure there were no Lib Dems on Merton council. This was a battle!

At times it was nasty. I was shouted at by Labour activists when I talked to residents, and people who declared they would vote for us were heckled in the street.

But our campaigns were local, relevant and consistent. We listened and acted on what we were told, committed to real change, and a fresh start. As candidates we were on the streets nearly every day for nearly 2 years, building on years of work by our sitting and former councillors and others. We were not here just to win, we were here to serve.

By the count I was exhausted, and there were moments I felt we may have lost. By midnight as the votes piled up it was clear it was between us and the Tories. By 4am, a recount. The Tories just couldn’t believe we had beaten all their candidates for the first time in 18 years. But we did! We won all 3 seats in West Barnes and had a real breakthrough with our first wins in Dundonald and Trinity wards too. Our best results ever, with a group of 6 councillors.

My first week in I did as I promised and started to make a difference. I organised an inter-faith Iftar (the meal Muslims have to end the day’s fast) during Ramadan – the first ever organised by Merton Council – for local community and faith groups at our local library. At my first Council meeting I proposed a plan to keep local parks free for a football charity, following a big campaign we had run in the election. Residents came to the meeting and brought banners and posters in support. We lost the motion but the next day we were on the front page of the local paper, and more importantly we’re still fighting!

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Upset in East Herts, solid hold in Cornwall…

Another Thursday, another unlikely result…

Yes, that’s a 51.7% swing, for the aficionados out there.

For the Conservatives, who had previously held all fifty seats on the council, they’ll just have to get used to having an opposition in the Council chamber. Well done to Sophie Cook, one of our younger members, and her team in a part of the county where success has been traditionally hard won.

Elsewhere, a solid defence in Bude, on Cornwall Council…

See, not all gammon is bad… Again, congratulations to David Parsons and the North Cornwall crew – a lovely bunch from my memory as Presidential consort.

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ALDC Campaigner Awards 2018

The annual ALDC Campaigner Awards provide a way for us to recognise the outstanding work of local Liberal Democrat campaigners and campaign teams. And nominations for 2018 are now open (closing 26 August), sponsored by our print partners, Election Workshop. You don’t have to be an ALDC member to enter (but you can find out about membership here).

THE CATEGORIES:

Best local election campaign – We’re looking for local parties that have fought effective and strong 2018 local election campaigns – how did you win, what innovative new ideas did you use, …

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Devolution to the English Regions is not just a good thing – it’s absolutely essential.

The problems of the UK will never be solved while the whole of the Country is dominated by Westminster and Whitehall. I have believed that for all the 51 years I have been a member of our Party (or its predecessor!) I believe it now and that is why I am more than a little disappointed with the policy paper and motion being sent from the FPC to Party Conference. It just isn’t strong enough, urgent enough or angry enough!

Whilst still a Liberal member I was asked on Radio 4 to respond to the parody often created then of the average Liberal member being a long-haired, real ale drinker in sandals. My parody is somewhat different. I said then and I say now of our Party we protest with a campaign song which goes:

“What do we want?”

“Gradual Change”

“When do we want it?”

“As soon as possible please if that’s all right with you old chap”.

I’m afraid that is just not good enough for me. For almost all political life I have been a campaigner in Liverpool. I have held all sorts of positions when we controlled the Council and for my first 22 years as a Councillor represented some of the poorest communities in the Country. I have always been aware during that time that the needs of the poorest of our communities have been held back by policies devised by nice people, often well meaning, in Whitehall and Westminster but who have absolutely no ideas what it is like to live in a ‘Toxteth’ or a ‘Sparkbrook’.

Policies are created to look at the needs of those who live in the London Evening Standard catchment area – and not even the poorest bits of that.

The centralisation of power in London has dragged many of the brightest, most capable and most articulate away from using their talents in the great Northern Cities and Towns. This has reduced our capacity to create good jobs in good businesses. The creative talents of the North fuel what has been an overheating economy of the South East. This is not good for the South-East. Staggering house prices; long commutes and a poor environment are the price paid for that overheating.

At Conference we will be debating a motion supported by a policy paper that I have had a hand in creating. The motion is looking at the way that the UK is governed with a particular look at the way England is governed. It’s not that there is anything in the paper that I disagree with. It’s just that it’s all a bit anaemic. It’s just not angry enough about the Stalinist control that Westminster and Whitehall have over ‘the provinces’.

Arguably, England is the most centralised state in Western Europe. Bureaucrats in Whitehall and politicians in Westminster micro manage communities throughout the country. They do it by the creation of laws and Statutory Instruments and enforce their rule through a series of inspectorates and regionally based bureaucrats such as Children’s Commissioners.

This is rigorously enforced by the financial controls that Westminster imposes. The theory of localism and do what you think is right is supplanted by ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’.

Liberal Democrats think that this centralisation is wrong. Liberal Democrats believe that decisions over policies and spending should be made at the lowest possible and practical level. These levels will be different for different types of activity. 

A more muscular liberalism would want urgently to break the power of Westminster and Whitehall over issues of a domestic nature which should rightly be decided by those who have a clear understanding of the nature of problems and can devise local solutions.

  • The lowest level would be the neighbourhood perhaps 5,000 people
  • Then the district around 100,000 people
  • Then the Town or City – between 250,000 and 750,000 people
  • Then the County or Conurbation – between 750,000 and 2,500,000 people
  • Then the region which, following the devolved governmental system could be up to 5 million people.

I recognise that this will mean systems that look different in different parts of the Country. This is right. The way you provide services in a heavily rural area should look very different to the way they are provided in a heavily urban area.

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In praise of being a by-election candidate

It’s 18 months since Jamie Reed resigned as the MP for Copeland, forcing a very unexpected by-election.

I’d never intended standing for parliament.  I was very content running my own business and being a local (lowest level – unpaid) Councillor, campaigning on a local issue I was passionate about (keeping our maternity services).

Copeland was not a winnable seat (we had no Lib Dem councillors there and all the Lib Dems were in Stoke fighting Nuttall) but by-elections command a lot of party and media attention, so being the candidate gave me the chance to do many things I couldn’t have done in an unwinnable seat in a general election for example:

– Copeland contains Sellafield – the hub of the nuclear industry.  Our nuclear experts were very worried about the consequences of the UK pulling out of the Euratom agreement as part of Brexit.  Lord Teverson and Baroness Featherstone helped me get this issue rapidly on the Westminster agenda.  Because I was raising it in Copeland, the main party candidates had to know about it so their parties had to help them and this issue quickly gained cross party attention.

– I was also very concerned about a particularly toxic academy issue we faced.  The other candidates didn’t properly understand it but by raising it again and again and explaining it in depth at hustings I was able to make sure they did.  To her credit, Trudy Harrison (the elected Conservative MP) has got herself onto the Education Select Committee and is working hard on this issue.

– I was able to drive forward my work on our maternity issues with the help of Norman Lamb, Baroness Brinton and the local media.

 – I was able to be a role model for the kind of evidence-based inclusive democracy I believe in, for example I was able to set up hustings in areas that felt neglected.

I got high level training on working with the media and plenty of experience.  I got the support of very experienced politicians and my fantastic agent Andy Sanger and so was able to learn a great deal very quickly.

The credibility I gained during the by-election meant that I was elected to Cumbria County Council last May.  From there I’ve been able to continue to protect maternity services and I’ve been able to have a positive impact on more issues than I can count.  

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Have you ever thought of becoming a Parish councillor?

Now I fully accept that, for many of our readers, the idea of Parish Councils is all a bit redolent of “The Vicar of Dibley” (albeit the cause of confusion between Parish Councils and Parochial Church Councils), but they can be a key element of rural campaigning.

I ought to declare an interest first, in that I’m a Parish councillor in mid-Suffolk, and have been for about six years. Mine is a small Parish, population about 270, with an annual precept of less than £6,000. But this tier of local government is widely varied, ranging from the likes of Hereford City …

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Devolution – what is it good for?

The idea of devolving power to the “lowest possible level” is about as unifying an idea as there is for Liberal Democrats. But, as often happens with the best ideas of politicians, the current system of devolution to the regions is failing spectacularly.

This is because politicians, across both old parties, who become mayors, when they fail to deliver an improvement, have the get out clause of claiming its all the fault of central government for not funding them properly.

The latest example of this trend is the recent declaration by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, that the blame for the current …

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Lib Dems lead in Portsmouth, confidence and supply with Labour in Trafford

Gerald Vernon-Jackson is back in charge of Portsmouth City Council tonight, leading a minority administration. He served in this role from 2004-14 so he certainly knows the ropes. He now leads a minority administration with Labour backing:

From the BBC

“I will work as hard as I can to make sure the city of Portsmouth always comes first,” Mr Vernon-Jackson said.

“We need to be building more council houses and affordable homes for local people… I want to make sure we make the city a better place in terms of transport,” he told the meeting.

He added that for family reasons, his leadership

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Former Conservative Councillor joins Liberal Democrats

Former Torbay Conservative Councillor Mark King has joined the Liberal Democrats. He left the Conservative group on the Council 6 months ago and has now joined us. From Devon Live:

He said: “It is about the failures of the Conservatives to understand the impact of their policies on the bay and the fresh start the Liberal Democrats promise in Torbay and across the UK. I want to see them take control of the bay in 2019.

“I am very concerned about the increasing economic decline of the resort, the increased poverty and deprivation and the growing housing crisis I have tried hard to counter in an Executive role.

“The Liberal Democrats understand the need to generate business and build economic success from the grassroots while ensuring council services meet community needs with the protection of the vulnerable being paramount.

“Anyone who agrees that Torbay needs to see change will know that only the Liberal Democrats can beat the Conservatives under our electoral system. Votes for anyone else just help the Conservatives win.”

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ALDC’s Kickstart Weekend: my experience attending as a newbie

Adam Bambrough, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Clock House, Bromley Council in May’s local elections, has shared his experience of attending November 2017’s Kickstart Weekend.

I am fairly new to the party and I’ve been fast-tracked to be the candidate in May for the Bromley Council seat of Clock House in Beckenham. I have always been full of determination and drive, but before attending Kickstart, I was unsure whether my instincts in this new environment were correct. I also lacked the knowledge, strategy and technique to win my ward.

However, the training delivered everything I had hoped for and more. I left the weekend feeling more enthused than ever; knowing that my hard-work could now be channelled in the most effective ways.

I learnt to trust my instincts, which I have begun to do, and it helped me write my ward’s campaign plan and develop a coherent message to send to voters. The weekend also taught me to know my ward, which although seems obvious now, I had neglected a little at the time and have spent the months since getting to know every road!

My two mentors were so knowledgeable and went above and beyond the call of duty to help me and my team. I also met so many lovely fellow attendees over the course of the weekend. People I will be friends with and support for a long time.

I cannot speak more highly of my time on the course and I’ll certainly be recommending that other people from my local party go along this year. So don’t delay, if you have elections in 2019 and beyond, book on today to ensure your campaigns have the best chance of being successful.

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Former Conservative Camden Council Deputy Leader joins Liberal Democrats

Welcome, Andrew Marshall.

Andrew, who is still a Councillor in Camden but who resigned from the Tories last year, explained his reasons to the Ham and High

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Tories require senior Lib Dems to stand down from Council Executive pending investigation

There’s trouble in the Council administration in York as the Conservative leader of the Council required two senior Liberal Democrat coalition members to stand down temporarily pending an investigation on which there is precious little detail. The rest of the Lib Dem group boycotted a meeting of the Executive in protest on Thursday night.

From The Press:

Cllr Andrew Waller, a one time council leader who is now executive member for the environment, tweeted: “Lack of meaningful response to questions today following the actions of Cllr Carr&snr officers mean that I will not be at Executive tonight.”

A statement from the Lib Dem group confirmed that Cllr Waller and the party’s other remaining member on the ruling executive had sent their apologies.

“Councillors Waller and Runciman sent their apologies to this evening’s Executive Meeting. Councillor Runciman briefly attended the meeting to speak to one item relating to her portfolio,” the statement said.

It said that following the day’s events, Liberal Democrat Councillors were “pressing for assurances as to how the joint administration will continue to function in the best interests of the city.”

“The Liberal Democrat Group will now meet to decide the best way forward and we will continue to work hard representing our residents,” the statement added.

Watch this space for further developments. It certainly seems odd that no details of the alleged issues under investigation have been made public.

The Liberal Democrats have clearly been doing a lot of good work in York, Keith Aspden, one of the suspended councillors, wrote here last month about efforts to tackle homelessness, not notably a priority of the Conservatives.

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Not all hanging together

Back in the late 1990s, the various local government associations for county councils, district councils and metropolitan authorities decided that it would be best to work together rather than in separate silos: so the Local Government Association was born.

The principle is obvious: local government, unprotected by a written constitution and loathed by much of the press, needs to make its case with central government, which can legislate away its powers and much of its money at the drop of a hat, regardless of the consequences on services or communities. MPs know best, after all, and Whitehall knows even better than MPs.

Conservative-controlled Surrey County Council seems keen on tearing up this approach. Like all shire counties it is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to social care: government grants have been cut, as part of never-ending austerity, while the demand for services rises annually as we all live longer.

The proposal for a 15% increase in the council tax precept drew intakes of (sometimes admiring) breath from around the country but we all suspected that the referendum necessary to approve such a large increase would be lost. It must, we thought, be principally a political move to put pressure on Tory ministers with seats in Surrey.

Amazingly, this cynicism proved to be close to the mark. Accidentally leaked texts showed the Surrey Tory Leader negotiating some sort of deal on behalf of his council (good for his council but bad for other councils who don’t have this sort of access to government). Ministerial denials followed as news got out: and the Government pretended that the contacts were just routine – not specific deals for Surrey.

Sadly the accident-prone Tory Leader of Surrey has been caught out again (see Guardian) because someone secretly recorded the Tory group meeting on 7 February.

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Supporting vision rehabilitation

All councils in England provide a service called vision rehabilitation which offers crucial training and advice to people living with sight loss. Evidence shows that many blind and partially sighted people are failing to receive vital vision rehabilitation support. RNIB’s current campaign, See, Plan and Provide, is calling for improved access to vision rehabilitation assessments and support.

Vision rehabilitation provides crucial training and advice to people experiencing sight loss. This includes support to help them live in their home safely and negotiate the many obstacles and risks in the external environment. It gives people the skills and confidence to maximise …

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Who dares wins: we dared in Sheffield and won

Gail Smith Mosborough‘Who Dares, Wins’ was our catchphrase used by my campaign manager and Leader of the Sheffield Lib Dems Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed to motivate the many members and supporters who came to Mosborough to support my campaign to be elected as Councillor for the Mosborough Ward on Sheffield City Council. It was a stunning victory that saw us go from 4th place to 1st, increasing our vote share by a whopping 32%.

I have lived locally in Mosborough for 25 years, I’ve brought my children up here and feel passionately about the community. I have been fortunate enough to represent this area once before from 2008-2012. People remembered the hard work I put in during my time as a Councillor previously and appreciated that I knew the area. Labour, on the other hand, selected a candidate who lived 20 miles away on the opposite side of the city.

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How computer-driven cars are likely to transform planning in your town

 

It’s 2026 and you’re heading to your local town with the family. Not owning a car, you tap your phone and within a few minutes a self-driving taxi pulls up. You relax in comfort as it drives to your destination, then drops you off by the shops and heads off for its next fare.

Your neighbour is heading to the shops too. She prefers to own and drive her own car. Having got to her destination, she taps a button and her car drives itself off to park in in out-of-town car park, where it waits for her to call it back to meet her.

The technology to do all of this not only exists today, but is in use on public roads. Uber has been testing self-drive taxis on the streets of Pittsburgh for months and Tesla and Google have self-drive cars on the roads. Right now a driver has to sit at the wheel, ready to take over if something goes wrong. That won’t be the case for long. Tech giants like Google, Apple and Uber along with traditional car makers like Ford are investing billions to bring genuine self-drive cars to our roads.

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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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Kate Parminter: There should be compulsory community engagement before planning process begins

Public consultation meeting photo by Craik Sustainable Living Project CCL FLickrThis week, Liberal Democrat peer Kate Parminter took place in a debate organised by the Town and Country Planning Association on the subject of planning for people. She emphasised the importance of engaging communities at every stage in the planning process:

Parminter said a number of local authorities still have a problem with local plans and with giving planning permission by appeal. This does not, she said, offer any incentive or encouragement to local communities to “think that a neighbourhood plan is going to work for them because they see in so many areas that it about planning by appeal. Therefore, the mood is not conducive to more planning”.

Parminter said Liberal Democrats are “struck by the need” for formal community engagement early in the planning process. While neighbourhood planning is something that can be built on, it isn’t a formal enough way to engage the community in a large development to ensure that the design is right, that the needs of the community are met, not just the need for more housing.

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Good news from Cornwall – Liberal Democrats hold council seat

Great news from Cornwall where the Liberal Democrats have held on to the Launceston Central ward on Cornwall Council with a whopping 63% of the vote:

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Liberal Democrat councillors withdraw from East Dunbartonshire administration

Liberal Democrat Councillors in East Dunbartonshire have withdrawn from the Council’s administration. The three councillors had been in coalition with Labour and Conservatives since 2012. The move leaves Labour and Conservatives with 11 councillors facing an opposition of 13. The two parties will continue as a minority administration.

From the BBC:

It said it would withdraw from the arrangement amid an ongoing row related to a sports complex in Bishopbriggs.

If the move goes ahead, Labour and the Conservatives will continue as a minority administration.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Councillor Ashay Ghai, said: “When we entered coalition in 2012 all parties agreed that we would not put forward recommendations unless all three groups agreed.

“However, Labour and Conservatives broke the agreement by forcing through proposals to underwrite a further £4.4m for the Huntershill sports complex when there were so many unanswered questions.

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Labour Lords give up on votes at 16 in local elections

Yesterday in the House of Lords, during Parliamentary ping pong on the Cities and Local Government Bill, the Liberal Democrats tried to secure votes at 16. Labour peers, though, didn’t bother to turn up. This is yet another example of them being much more craven than you would expect of an opposition, especially one that thinks itself to be of a more radical hue than Labour has been for a while. This is a policy which was in their manifesto and they should have turned out to support it.

Ever since the tax credits vote in October, Labour peers seem to have got cold feet, allowing themselves to be intimidated by ministers.

Lib Dem peer Paul Tyler was far from impressed, saying:

This no show from Labour means that over a million people will not get a voice in future local elections.

Despite vowing to give 16 year olds the vote in their manifesto the Labour party are now shying away from standing by their policies.

It is clear that Labour do not have the drive or determination to act as the opposition that this country needs.

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    Thank you for your post Geoff. The main lesson I’m taking away from this is that you and two other Lib Dem councillors represent a...
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