Mione Goldspink's article for the Flyer, March 2021
By Mione Goldspink in The Flyer, March 2021
Local Matters with Mione Goldspink March, 2021.
Town, District and County Councils have been busy setting their Budgets and the size of Council Tax for the next financial year. Central Government has given financial support for some of the Covid-related expenses, but funding for some other services has been reduced, so District and County Councillors have faced difficult choices. As a Liberal Democrat, I question the wisdom of the Conservative administration at East Herts in saddling the District Council with so much borrowing repayment in order to fund its enormous capital programme. Was it not risky to have a £122Million programme for Old River Lane, Grange Paddocks, Hertford Theatre and Hartham Leisure all at the same time? I realise that no one could have predicted the Corona Virus pandemic and its detrimental effect on the Council's finances. Nor could anyone have anticipated Central Government's very sudden changes in the rules about public sector borrowing. These changes instantly disqualified part of the East Herts programme. However, there was one negative effect which could have been predicted, and that was the extra expense caused by Brexit, causing increase in costs.
The reactions to the District Council's decision to charge for the Garden Waste Collection are still being voiced. Some people cannot afford the charge and it seems most unfair that there are no concessionary rates. Some people lack access to the internet, either for information or for paying, so they are badly disadvantaged. People are worried about what to do with their Food Waste - putting it in the Black Bin, from where it will go to Landfill and generate more methane seems a very bad idea. Lib-Dems proposed delaying the imposition of charges until all these problems had been resolved -that would have been so much better- but the Tories ignored us.
The controversy over plans for the development at Old River Lane still continues. It is good that our local Independent Newspaper seems happy to facilitate the exchange of ideas. There are concerns over the future of cinemas generally, whilst some professional theatre groups would like a bigger performance space in the New Building. Other people would like to see a College of Further Education. All these ideas deserve consideration, and I do hope that the ruling executive will give them serious thought.
Looking ahead, there will be County Council Elections in May. It is disappointing that normal, campaigning will not be possible because of Covid-19 restrictions. Liberal Democrats will be aiming to make Hertfordshire a Fairer, Greener, and Healthier County. We acknowledge that some good work has already been done on these 3 themes, but we would like to see greater effort and faster speed of activity. We would like to see a definite commitment to funding Free School Meals during ALL School Holidays for all the children who normally receive them during term-time. We would like to see much better maintenance of pavements, to enable people to walk in safety. We would promote more Buses, looking at Demand-Responsive-Buses(like Dial-a-Ride) and possibly Hydrogen fuelled . We would plan to construct Cycle lanes wherever possible - aiming to reduce the use of the private car.
Meanwhile, I am sure that we all feel enormous gratitude to our marvellous NHS, and everyone else involved, for the roll-out of the Vaccine, which will help to protect us. Thank You All so much.
East Herts District Councillor
Lib-Dem Group Leader, EHDC.