Local Matters with Mione Goldspink February 2021
The Agenda for the Full District Council on 13th January (by Zoom of course) contained two very controversial topics. Firstly, the proposal that the Council should make a charge for the collection of Garden Waste, which we dispose of on our Brown Bins. Secondly, that the Council should accept a drastically reduced scheme for the Old River Lane site.
The single reason for charging for Garden Waste collection is that the Council is urgently in need of cash in order to balance its books. The Council's finances have been seriously affected by the Covid Pandemic, which has caused income from car-parking and other services to plummet, whilst Brexit has caused some expenses to increase. By charging £49 per annum for each brown bin to be emptied, the Council hopes to raise about £400,000 which will help considerably with bridging the gap in the Budget. However, as the Liberal Democrats pointed out, there are many serious flaws in this plan. The first is the problem of dealing with food waste for those who have chosen not to pay and who, therefore, will lose their Brown Bins. If this food waste is put into the Black Bin, it will go to Land Fill, which would increase the Council's costs. It would also have an effect on the CO2 emissions which would be contrary to the Climate Change policy. Many residents might choose not, or might not be able, to pay £49, and so will put their garden waste in the Black Bin, which would further increase the charges to the Council for using Land Fill.
The Liberal Democrats proposed that the decision to charge for the Brown Bin service should be deferred until arrangements for the collection of Food Waste had been designed, and until all the environmental consequences had been properly assessed. We also thought that the charge should be reduced for people in receipt of benefit or on low incomes. But the Conservatives rejected this amendment and voted to press ahead with charging. The Lib-Dems voted against the charges.
When it came to discussing the Old River Lane site (the present Causeway Car Park), the discussion was held in private, because private financial information was involved. It was revealed that the scheme for a large theatre was not financially viable, and that all that would be possible would be a 5-screen cinema and more housing. As Leader of the Lib- Dems, I called again for further consultation on the use of this valuable Town Centre site, but this was rejected and a revised, much-reduced scheme was voted through by the ruling Tories.
There will be County Council Elections later this year- they should be held in May, but whilst we are all in Lock-Down, and the death rate from Covid 19 is still horrific and frightening, I really hope that the Government will postpone the elections till later in the year. This would give all parties a chance to campaign properly and to meet people, and hear their views and ideas. Lib Dems will be campaigning for more 20mph speed zones near schools. And other Town Centre sites. We would also like to see much much better public transport, so that it would be possible for more people to leave their cars at home and to protect the environment. Our full Manifesto will be published in due course.
Meanwhile, I do hope that everyone is staying safe and well.
East Herts District Councillor
Lib-Dem Group Leader, EHDC.
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