Don’t Let Children Go Hungry in Hertfordshire

Stephen Giles Medhurst

At last Tuesday’s (October 20th) Herts County Council Meeting, the Conservative- run Council rejected a LibDem motion, which was supported by Labour, to call on the government to support Marcus Rashford’s call for free school meals during school holidays.

Later in the week the government similarly rejected that move for England. Shocking given Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are!

Following this is it was great to see so many businesses and voluntary groups stepping up and offering meals and support so that children do not go hungry. A number of education authorities such as Essex County Council have stepped up to the mark and agreed to provide and support such meals.

With 19,820 children entitled to free school meals in Hertfordshire it is only the county council, as the education authority, that can ensure every child and family in need can be reached.

We called on the Conservative administration to step in and so far they have refused. To force them to listen and act the Liberal Democrat opposition have called an Extraordinary County Council Meeting (we wait for Tory Chair to agree a date which is required to by next week) to consider the following motion.

“In light of the government’s decision not to provide support for continued free school meals for those in receipt of these during the school holidays this Council commits to such provision through its facilities with or without the support of community groups up to and including the Easter holidays in 2021.”

The Labour group on the county council backs our move.

There is also now no a non-political petition calling for that on the county petition site: its here https://democracy.hertfordshire.gov.uk/mgEPetitionListDisplay.aspx?bcr=1

No child, whatever their situation should be forced to go hungry over the school holidays, let alone during a global pandemic. Let us not forget that 32% of families have lost income during this pandemic. Other education authorities have stepped in to help and we need Hertfordshire to do likewise. The Conservative Deputy Leader is as saying they provided additional support to more than 3,500 children and young people and some grants to families in need. That is not good enough.

I urge your readers to sign the non-political petition asap and to lobby Conservative county Councillors and to support opposition ones. We need to make our views known loud and clear that no child shall go hungry, if the government refuses to act then we must and indeed can

A post by Stephen Giles Medhurst Liberal Democrat Leader of the opposition on Hertfordshire County Council

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

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

Introducing David Payne, Your Liberal Democrat Candidate for the Goffs Oak and Bury Green By-Election on the 22nd of February

I have been fortunate to live in Broxbourne for over forty years, sending my 3 children to excellent local schools and enjoying the Lee Valley’s green spaces. Together with my wife Val I have been actively involved in local school and church activities.

The Conservatives who have run Hertfordshire County Council since 1999 have become ever more remote from the needs of local people and without an effective opposition ill thought out changes and cuts to local services will continue to be bulldozed through.

If elected I intend to be a hard working councillor and any voter with a problem or an improvement they would like to see locally can get in touch with me on libdemdavep@yahoo.com.

A message from Jan Metcalfe from Hoddesdon Against Incineration

Dear Campaigners,

Herts CC’s planning officer’s report on the proposed incinerator is now available. A copy is attached. Surprise, surprise it recommends that the incinerator goes ahead.  County Councillors on The Development and Control Committee will be meeting on 20th Dec to vote on this.

 

Now we must concentrate on getting it called in by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, to ensure we get a fair hearing.  Our MP Charles Walker has been working to ensure this happens, but needs your support.

PLEASE WRITE NOW to Sajid Javid  [details below]

Ask for it to be called in for some of the following reasons (Clarity and brevity are key.  We are asking for an independent judgement).

  • The proposal disregards National Planning Guidance, Herts CC, Local Waste Plan and Broxbourne Council’s Local Plan. [no need to explain this]
  • There is a conflict of interest because Herts CC has a contract with Veolia and are also determining Veolia’s planning application.
  • A biased and misleading report from Herts CC officers confirms fears about Herts. CC having vested interests.
  • The entire region across two counties are united in objecting to the proposal. This includes Broxbourne Borough Council, Epping District Council, the Lee Valley Park Authority, The Canal and River Trust, Amwell Magna Fisheries, The Lee Valley Growers, and 6 Parish Councils   [ No need to list:t Nazeing, Roydon, Stanstead St Margarets, Stanstead Abbotts, Hunsdon, Hertford Heath].
  • Will damage long-term economic growth in the area of SE Herts and SW Essex. 
  • Will have a huge impact on our environment including Green Belt and our well being so merits an independent judgement.

Write to:

Rt Hon. Sajid Javid MP

Secretary of State

Department of Communities and Local Government

Fry Building

2 Marsham Street  London SW1P 4DY

Email sajid.javid@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Got 5 mins to look at the report?

The summary is on p 2-3 [section2],  the conclusion is on p157 -161 [Section 23].   Some points which show bias are highlighted, you will be able to spot many more!

Please be at County Hall, Hertford 10.00am 20th December to demonstrate  opposition to the incinerator.

With thanks,

Jan and the campaign team

Don’t forget to join us for the march against the incinerator in Hoddesdon tomorrow!

We plan to congregate in Barclay Park Car Park (off Cock Lane) 10.30 to 10.45 the event will begin at 11.00. If possible, please wear Lib Dem colours gold/orange/yellow are all acceptable.

There will be entertainment in Barclay Park beforehand and at 11.00 there will be the opening address and the walk will begin.

Route: through the town centre down Burford Street (alongside Morrisons), across the Dinant Link Road at the pedestrian crossing to continue along Burford Street to Pound Close Recreation Ground. At Pound Close there will be further entertainment and closing speeches.

The March will take around 1 hour as it’s a whole community event with all ages welcome. We hope to see you there.

Conservative county council set to agree current highways contractors can carry on for another five years

Opposition councillors at County Hall have been shocked and angered to hear that Herts County Council are intending to extend the contracts of much-criticised highways contractors Ringway for a further five years.

Councillors were informed in a short email sent on Monday afternoon, with the news that the full decision would be made in November.

“This was a bolt out of the blue,” said Leader of the Opposition, Liberal Democrat Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst. “Over the past six years there has been considerable criticism and many justified complaints from residents and councillors about the poor state of our roads and pavements. Despite the poor performance of the highways contractor it seems that Conservative councillors and county council officers are prepared simply to grant Ringway a further five year contract.

“I was surprised to be sent a very short email giving the reasoning of ‘ongoing service evolution and service improvements’. Residents have not witnessed any of these improvements so far. There are no plans even to test the market, let alone a full tender, yet the Conservatives say they are in favour of using competition to drive down costs to the public.

“Being a leading critic of the poor performance of Ringway and the subcontractors week in week out has resulted in some improvements but things are still not right after six years – one has to question if this extension is the right choice. There still has to be a massive improvement in efficiency, communication and service delivery before the county council should be looking at simply handing a Ringway a new contract. It seems that the Conservatives are in denial about the failings of the highways contract.

“The Liberal Democrats are not convinced that this decision will deliver the best deal for Hertfordshire’s residents, nor that it is a wise way to spend over £30 million of council taxpayers’ money each year.”