Our reaction to BLM protestors being racially abused in Hoddesdon

We are outraged and saddened by the racist abuse targeted at Black Lives Matter protesters in Hoddesdon in recent days, and shared on social media. These racist views do not represent the wider Broxbourne community, which we know to be stronger for its diversity. Racism should have no place in our society.

The murder of George Floyd is a disgraceful injustice and a tragedy. Now rightly we are reflecting on the scale of racism within our own society as well. With inequality in housing, health, opportunities and incomes, there are numerous hardships which disproportionately affect black communities, and which the UK Government should be working at a pace to address. Not least, in the last week, evidence has shown how BAME communities have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. The health and economic inequalities that have led to this need to urgently be addressed to protect lives going forward.

At this time it’s particularly important to be responsible if protesting and follow social-distancing. We are heartened to see that Black Lives Matter protesters in Hoddesdon were following this guidance, and hope any further protests can continue peacefully and safely.

Broxbourne is not a place for hatred.  We express our heartfelt solidarity with the Black Lives Matters protestors who had to experience this racism first hand. We should do everything we can to educate ourselves, our children and our communities, and to consign such views as a part of history.

Broxbourne Liberal Democrats

#BlackLivesMatter

Deaths in Herts Care Homes a Mounting Concern

Although there are 235 deaths listing COVID 19 registered in Hertfordshire between 10th April and 15th May according the Office of National Statistics, Herts Liberal Democrats have calculated that as many as 500 deaths are likely to have occurred according to figures that the County Council has collected from care homes. The Liberal Democrats have also raised concerns that a far higher number of deaths have occurred in care homes in Watford and Hertsmere than in other districts.

Adult Care Health Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, County Cllr Ron Tindall added.  “We are concerned that the policy choices by Government, which may well have contributed to deaths, through the discharge of COVID positive patients to care home settings which could not cope with the infection control. County council staff have also confirmed that due to the lack of testing they cannot be certain that asymptomatic patients were not admitted to care homes without proper isolation measures. ”

County Councillor Ron Tindall
Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Public Health and Prevention, and Adult Care & Health

“Hertfordshire Council officers have confirmed that the NHS discharged COVID positive patients to care home settings where ‘isolation’ is possible, but evidence that care homes were unable to adequately isolate discharged residents is building, suggesting that such discharges may have led to care home outbreaks and unnecessary and preventable deaths.” said Cllr Ron Tindall.

“I and my colleagues are concerned as we are across the country that the government acted too late and without taking on board the concerns of those in the care sector. This whole process needs a review and investigation once the COVID 19 crisis is under control. Lessons must be learned. It does on the face it seem that in the desperate rush to free up beds in hospitals,  patients who may have had COVID 19 were discharged to care homes with no testing and inadequate infection control. “

“The County Council itself purchased 250 care places to help with this at some considerable cost. It does seem that at the last minute the government panicked instead of fully planning. Hence we have the rush build of the Nightingale Hospital that was never really used. Instead, the elderly and vulnerable were shoved into a care home setting, where due to no fault of their own, they just could not manage. We have all heard of the shortages of PPE and vital equipment in our care homes.”

“Guidance from Government on care home visits and how to treat those who had been in contact with COVID positive patients was not modified until 13th March, leading to very significant risk of transmission in care home settings. Further changes have improved the situation but until the government has introduced a comprehensive testing regime, discharge outcomes cannot be certain.”

“From the information and reports we have seen lead us to believe hundreds of deaths may have occurred in care homes in our County which may have been preventable.   It was clearly wrong to accept any hospital discharges to care homes until we were certain they the patient was COVID free and had not been in contact with a COVID positive person for 7 days prior.  We have asked that the County Council officers to refuse to accept any further discharges to care home settings unless this assurance is given.  Whilst we are pleased that the death rate is now dropping in our view it is clear some mistakes were made here led by the national instruction to clear hospital beds. We also want to know why there is a difference in death rates in our districts which may well be linked to this or to locations being nearer to London.  Changes throughout the NHS and Care sector are needed now.”

“We raised concerns back in April about discharges into care home settings. We weren’t alone.  Without the assurances, that rightly families need, the risk is simply too great, it needs to stop now,” demanded Cllr Ron Tindall for the Liberal Democrats.

Making Space for Active Travel: County lacks a clear focus and ambition

County Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Highways & Environment

“Must do better and be more pro-active” was the message from opposition Liberal Democrat councillors at County Hall to the four pilot schemes announced by the County Council that they brought in last weekend to encourage active travel and support for social distancing as more retail premises open.

Levels of walking and cycling have increased dramatically across the UK during the lock down.  The Government recently announced a package of £250m of support to councils for changes as more people begin travelling to work again and there is an easing of restrictions, while capacity on public transport is still significantly reduced due to the ongoing need for social distancing.

The health evidence indicates a significant link between Covid-19
recovery and physical fitness. The health benefits of choosing more active travel options are even more important than ever, as are the reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality.

The four new schemes in Watford High Street, Hertford Fore Street, Borehamwood Shenley Road and Bishop Stortford Town Centre were introduced from this Saturday aiming to reduce motorised traffic and allow for better social distancing whilst encouraging cyclists.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader and Highways Spokesperson, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst said. “I welcome these initial moves and it’s great the county is doing something but they seem to lack ambition.  I know county officers have been working on up to 16 schemes. However none of these have been discussed with elected county councillors first, not even those for the areas these schemes cover.  At the last minute in my own area that covers Watford High Street I got hold of the plans and had to point
out errors and omissions so changes and additions had to be made as they had not used my local knowledge. Not consulting local councillors is unacceptable.”

“The Liberal Democrats fully support more improvements and changes to support active travel by walking and cycling. We have raised this at every county budget in the last 10 years with the need to invest more in footway improvements, tackle neglected cycle routes and bring in lower speed limits on residential side roads”.

“The COVID crisis could lead to a social and health change but
only if we move quickly and act now.  At the start of the lock down I and my colleagues highlighted, yet again, that many designated cycle routes and overgrown footways that needed cutting back. In most cases the county has done nothing. It’s normally the excuse of no money or “it does not meet our criteria for action”. I’ve been told where there is a verge next to an overgrown path people should walk or cycle on that instead! This is unacceptable. All to often we have cycle lanes and routes incomplete or end at a road junction with nowhere to go. The result is
they cannot be used.”

“It’s time to ignore the county rule book and improve our footways and cycle routes that currently hinder people in keeping to social distancing rules!”

With fewer people using buses at present we need to look at what
temporary changes to routes and bus stops could be made to better allow for social distancing in town centres. We need to look at what would be cycle commuter routes into our key areas to encourage people not back to their cars but on a cycle. We need to make those routes happen over the Summer. We must look at places like Watford that now has a cycle hire scheme to get similar in place in other key centres like Stevenage, St Albans, Hemel.” said Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst.

The Liberal Democrats said they would have a five point plan to meet the governments and health and social distancing objectives.

1. Prioritise maintenance/repairs of existing cycle and pedestrian
routes including cutting back overgrown vegetation and trees, repairing crossing points that are damaged or flood and installing new dropped kerbs in high pedestrian footfall areas.
2. Investigate, install and complete existing cycle routes and introduce at least temporary ones that assist commuter cycling.
3. Give greater priority to pedestrians at traffic lights and crossing
points – to prevent bunching and assist slow walkers.
4. Move quickly to introduce a 20 mph zone and limits as the norm for residential roads in Herts towns.
5.Consult and involve local county councillors for their ideas for their communities.

“It’s time to think positively, to think green and promote a heathy
safer environment, let’s do it.” said Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst

Introducing Julia Bird, your Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Broxbourne

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After more than fifty years with a Conservative MP, now is the time for a change. The Liberal Democrats in Broxbourne are demanding better for our community.

Julia Bird is our Liberal Democrat candidate for Broxbourne when the next general election is called.

Committed to improving the lives of Broxbourne’s residents, Julia and the Liberal Democrat team will work hard to ensure the community’s needs are being addressed.

As an economist working in London, with a particular expertise in Urban and Transport Economics, Julia has helped develop Liberal Democrat policies, including our recently adopted

“Fairer Share for All” plan, which fights against the deepening inequalities in the UK, recognising that everyone deserves a decent income, decent services, with opportunities to make their lives better.

Julia and all the Liberal Democrat team here in Broxbourne are concerned about a number of local issues:

  • In Cheshunt, at the A10/College Road crossing, monitors have recorded the 8th worst air pollution level in the UK for any borough outside London. With a large secondary school and a nursery nearby, greater pressure is needed to reduce risks for all children and young people in this area.

 

  • We are so fortunate to be in the wonderful Lea Valley Park providing, as it does, a fabulous space for recreation. However, it is under pressure too. Julia will be vigilant in following up any changes to ensure the park is protected from further pollution.

 

  • Given the growing population of Broxbourne, we should be seriously considering either better transport to the nearest Health Centres and hospitals or perhaps invest in our own more local option – Cheshunt Community Hospital for example.

 

  • The incinerator planned for Rye Park has been rejected, but now there is a new plan to build a much larger gas fired power station on the site. Residents need to have a say in any decision. Our climate is facing critical risks and building more fossil fuel burning power stations will make that worse.

Julia says:

I am delighted to be standing for the Liberal Democrats in Broxbourne at the next General Election.

This is a real opportunity to demand better for everyone in this constituency. Thanks to the reckless behaviour of the Conservative Prime Minister, we are in a period of national crisis. We are all facedwith the real risks of No Deal Brexit - medicine shortages, higher food prices, a damaged economy and inevitable job losses. The Liberal Democrats are demanding better. We need better health care, better education for our children, and a better future. It is time to stop Brexit and focus on the real issues again. Housing in the Borough is in short supply, and often very expensive. The Borough Council, as the planning authority, has the opportunity to demand developers include “Affordable Housing” in any new housing estate. Too often they seem to be missing the chances this can offer.

This is especially important for the young people of the Borough who, of course would like to have their own place but find it increasingly hard to afford, if they want to remain in the area they grew up, close to family and friends.

I am looking forward to listening to your views and sharing the Liberal Democrat vision for Broxbourne with you over the coming weeks and months.

For more information, please contact Julia on juliabirdLD@gmail.com

Austerity and Knife Crime

According to the Hertfordshire Police, knife crimes have more than tripled across the county since 2014 . Despite knife amnesties and other local initiatives, the trend is remorselessly upwards and Hertfordshire towns are becoming as unsafe as Britain’s inner cities. Tragically, over 1,000 young people ( age 10-19) were admitted to UK hospitals with knife injuries last year and 10 teenagers have been killed in just the first two months of 2019.

Sadly, this increase should not surprise us. You can’t cut police numbers, essential services in schools, access to mental health services and youth work, and not expect there to be consequences. Beyond the tragic injuries and fatalities, there’s a climate of fear. The fear experienced by young victims and their loved ones every time they leave home. Nationally police budgets have been cut by £250m since 2010, leading to 21,000 fewer officers on increasingly dangerous streets. The police are becoming a reactive ‘blue light’ service with fewer Officers available to engage with local communities or to carry out ‘stop and search’ operations around knife crime ‘hot spots’.

Austerity driven cuts to Police Budgets are only a part of the problem. Since 2010 there has been a massive contraction in community services like youth clubs, resulting in many more young people spending time on the street, where risks are higher and the temptation to carry knives for ‘protection’ is greater.

Maintained Schools and Corporate Academies, focused on tests and targets are excluding 40 ‘disruptive’ or ‘under achieving’ children a day. Small wonder that bored young people, lacking positive role models, are targeted by criminal gangs who use Social Media to paint a beguiling picture of drug dealing and violence. 90% of young people serving sentences in youth offending Institutions have previously been excluded from School.

The epidemic of knife violence can only be countered when schools, police, health and youth workers work together, intervening early to support young people at risk of being sucked into knife crime. This approach has been used by the Scottish Government to reduce violent deaths in Glasgow, once “The Murder Capital of Europe”, from 41 in 2005 to 0 in 2016.

The continuing spate of stabbings involving young people amounts to a national crisis requiring a sense of urgency and strong leadership. This is not being provided by a government obsessed with the Brexit end game. Theresa May is in denial insisting that “there is no direct correlation between crime and police numbers”. Phillip Hammond thinks that the police should “become more efficient” but will not commit to extra funding. This country and our young people deserve better!

A piece by David Payne, a local campaigner and prospective candidate in the local elections in May

Suffragists and Suffragettes

December 2018 marked 100 years since women first voted in the 1918 General Election. Even then, only women aged over 30 could vote (40% of the electorate) as an electorate evenly divided between men and women was politically unacceptable! Women had to wait another 10 years before Electoral Equality was finally achieved in 1928.

Of course, Electoral Equality did not just happen. The women’s suffrage movement was born out of the frustrations of those tired of not having their voices heard. It required tireless effort by several generations of women who were not afraid to speak out.

In 1897, various local women’s suffrage societies came together to form the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (lead by Millicent Fawcett).” The law-abiding suffragists “of the NUWSS promoted their cause by debate, petitions and peaceful demonstrations. Possibly the most spectacular was the Great Pilgrimage of 1913 from Cambridge through Hertfordshire to a rally in Hyde Park. Not all went smoothly; The Pilgrims had to be rescued by the police from a hostile mob as they tried to march through Ware.

Frustrated at the glacial pace of progress a group of women (lead by Emmeline Pankhurst) broke away in 1903 to take a different path. The Women’s Social and Political Union or the “Suffragettes” used more disruptive tactics, including civil disobedience and arson. Emily Davison, from Sawbridgeworth, was one of the most daring and reckless of the militants, enduring repeated imprisonments and forced feeding. She became a martyr to the cause by throwing herself in front of the Kings Horse during the 1913 Derby.

100 years on, let’s celebrate what the women’s suffrage movement achieved. However, we should not kid ourselves that because women have the vote, they have equal citizenship. Women still earn 81p for every £1 earned by men, less than 30% of our MP’s are women and violence against women remains a stain upon society. We still need to speak up for equality because everybody benefits – even men.

A piece by a local Liberal Democrat campaigner, David Payne

Housing Crisis in Broxbourne

The leafy Borough of Broxbourne has one of the worst rates of
homelessness in the Country (ranked 22nd in a recently published list of
50 homeless hot spots around the UK)

There is no night shelter
in Broxbourne and, at the Council’s estimate, you can expect to find
three or four people sleeping rough within the Borough most nights. It’s
easier to become homeless than you might think. Lose your job or your
partner, face a period of illness or unemployment, fall behind with the
mortgage or the rent, and you and your family could be on the way to
losing your home.

Sleeping rough is only the tip of the iceberg.
There are many more homeless in temporary accommodation, more than 200
households in Broxbourne alone. Homelessness is particularly tragic for
children. If your childhood is blighted, you never get it back and the
effects can last a life time.

If you have a job and an income you
should at least have a home. Time was when local authorities and
housing associations built 200,000 affordable homes nationwide each year
but since 1980 construction of social housing has plummeted. House
prices in affluent areas like Broxbourne have soared to an unaffordable
8* average salary. “Generation Rent” must struggle to rent privately in
a market where rental costs are increasing faster than pay. Small
wonder that this poorly regulated sector has grown by 38% in Broxbourne
since 2000.

Unfortunately, the government seems intent upon
making a bad situation worse for the most vulnerable renters. The roll
out of Universal Credit will replace Housing Allowance paid directly to
the Landlord with an, inadequate, capped monthly benefit payment to the
claimant after an initial five-week delay in payment. The process seems
designed to create further arrears, debt and distress.

Housing has become a national crisis and solutions are urgently needed at both national and local level.

  • The Government must commit to building 300,000 new homes nationwide by 2022. That’s affordable and energy efficient housing within well planned new towns, not speculative “premium” developments shoe horned on to land filched from the Green Belt.

  • Local authorities need additional powers to require affordable homes within all new developments and to prevent developers from reneging on commitments.

  • Renters in the mushrooming private sector need better protection, to end discrimination by landlords and insurers against tenants on benefits and to outlaw “no fault” evictions.

Safe, secure and affordable housing is a basic human right and we deserve better.

A piece by a Broxbourne Liberal Democrat campaigner, David Payne

Broxbourne in top eight of the UK for illegal air pollution.

Broxbourne suffers with some of the highest levels of illegal air pollution in the country. A government air pollution plan, ordered by the High Court earlier this year, revealed air pollution in Broxbourne to be much worse than previously feared, in fact it is amongst the eight worst areas in the country outside of London.

The main pollutant in the air is nitrogen dioxide and the main cause of that is traffic.

Amongst the worst air in the borough is along the A10 in Cheshunt but there are several others in the borough including Waltham Cross and Wormley that well exceed the minimum accepted levels.

The area has been above the legal limit for some time but originally it was expected to be able to get down to the legal limit by 2019. After reviewing just how bad the problem is, Broxbourne Council revised that date to 2028.

The most likely way the Council will address this problem is by implementation of a charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) ie vehicles entering the area that do not comply with the specifications required will be charged a fee. They are hopeful this would enable the area to get to minimum compliance by 2023. This still leave us all breathing dangerous levels for another four years.

A final plan on how they intend to address the issues must be with Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by October 2019.

Broxbourne council currently ask residents in the area not to make short car journeys – I would suggest better, and more frequent bus routes should be implemented so short car journeys are less necessary.

In addition, Broxbourne District council are in direct opposition to Hertfordshire County council. Herts instigated the proposal for a 350,000-tonne incinerator that will pump further nitrogen dioxide into the Broxbourne Lea Valley and generate another c98,000 lorry movements – so huge potential for even higher levels in the north of the borough.

A Piece by Elaine Thatcher – Chair of the Broxbourne Liberal Democrats

Upcoming Dates for your Diary

Hoddesdon Incinerator Public Inquiry Tuesday, June 19th

The Public Inquiry re the proposed Hoddesdon Incinerator begins at High Leigh Conference Centre, Lord Street Hoddesdon EN11 8SG on Tuesday 19th June at 10 am. There will be a brief protest by individuals and groups opposed to the development outside at 9.20 am Please come along to represent the Lib Dems at the protest as it is most important for people to attend in large numbers to send a clear message to the inspector.

Lib Dem Pint

There will be a special Lib Dem Pint on Monday 25th June at 8.00pm in The Red Lion 1 High St, Stanstead Abbotts SG 12 8AA. Kate Beajeux who works in the pharmaceutical industry will be coming along to talk about Brexit as it affects the industry. As the talk is likely to prove popular please let me know if you plan to come along.

EU Final Say March

A lot of us will be going to the march for a peoples vote in London on Saturday 23rd June. It is very important this gets a high turnout and is reported widely. If you are going please don’t forget to RSVP to the party event so they can update you when the meeting point is known

We also hope to meet up locally and travel down together so if you are planning to go, please email andrewporrer@ntlworld.com with which station you will be going from and he will try to coordinate times.