The forthcoming County Council Elections are almost upon us (Thursday 2nd May). I am taking this opportunity to publicly declare my support for Cllr Richard Smith. Richard has been a County Councillor for the past 20 years, and I have known him considerably longer than that. Party politics aside, he is an excellent County Councillor – working for the benefit of the community regardless of party. In this respect, he has been of great support to me in several projects over the past year and I can honestly say that I would not have achieved what I did without him. Welwyn and surrounding districts have benefitted from Richard’s commitment to working closely with local councils and community organisations and I sincerely hope that he will be returned to office with a resounding majority!
Stepping down from my soapbox, I now continue with my monthly update!
Monday 4th March: At 7.00pm I attended a session for councillors at Campus West on Welfare Reform and how WHBC was planning to deal with the anticipated problems that this would bring up once implemented. It was an interesting and informative session and I was impressed with the amount of work that had already been put in place.
Thursday 7th March: I went to the Local Government Association Headquarters in Westminster to take part in a Regional Master Class for Councillors on the collective and cooperative approaches to service delivery. Local authorities increasingly need to explore new ways of delivering local services more efficiently, whilst effectively meeting the needs of the community. The master class was a mixture of informative presentations, peer challenges, interactive discussion and networking with other councillors throughout the Eastern Region. It was extremely interesting to learn what other councils have done to cut costs by sharing services with other boroughs and still providing good service to residents. The LGA provide several such events during the course of the year and I have attended those for Independent councillors and as many as possible of the general ones. I am surprised that, on all but one occasion, I was the only councillor present from WHBC!
Saturday 9th March: I went to the junction of Danesbury Park and North Ride to see whether new signage had been installed. The van was on site, but work had not yet started so, as it was very cold, I decided to return on Monday!
Monday 11th March: The new road signs are up. They look excellent and hopefully will resolve the problem that the residents have had with vehicles driving into Danesbury Park by mistake. This was yet another issue that was helped to a satisfactory conclusion by the invaluable assistance of Cllr Richard Smith.
Thursday 14th March: I attended the Hertfordshire Water Summit at the Fielder Centre, Hatfield Business Park. This was a one-day summit for key stakeholders in Hertfordshire to explore water related issues within the county and was aimed specifically at senior, strategic leaders across a range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations in Hertfordshire. The event considered the availability of water resources in Herts and how future planning and management can support economic growth. The sessions included presentations from central Government, industry and other key organisations. In the afternoon the attendees divided into working groups to brainstorm ideas and solutions to the existing problems, after which summarised points were discussed in general session. It was extremely worthwhile and I look forward to the follow up in a few months’ time.
Friday 15th March: I set off with a large group to attend an event in Bruges, and to visit the Flanders Battlefields. Just as I was entering the Channel Tunnel, I received a phone call from a local resident who was having problems over repairs to his CHT property and was desperate for some action to be taken. I called another councillor with responsibilities for CHT housing and asked him to follow this up on my behalf. I then picked up the case again on the Tuesday 19th.
Monday 18th March: I went into Campus West to discuss a planning matter with one of the senior officers.
Tuesday 19th March: At 7.30pm I attended the Highways Liaison Meeting at Campus West, chaired by County Cllr Richard Smith. This was a very useful and informative meeting and it was encouraging to see the improvements that have been made to the highways fault reporting facility on the HCC website. I raised the matter of litter in the County, specifically along the A414 opposite the Hatfield Tesco where shredded bags hang from bushes, together with a plethora of other litter, along the side the road between the roundabouts. From the discussions that followed it transpired that this area could be “no man’s land” in that responsibility for cleaning it was unclear and this will be looked into and reported back at the next meeting. I have already noticed some attempt to clean-up since then, so it was well worth making the point!
Wednesday 20th March: Day spent at home on paperwork and outstanding phone calls.
Thursday 21st March: Planning Control Committee Meeting at 7.30pm.
Friday 22nd March: I attended a function in the evening held by the Welwyn Anglo French Twinning Association at Welwyn Civic Centre.
Tuesday 26th March: An afternoon of correspondence and emails.
Wednesday 27th March: Visited a CHT property in Hawbush Rise, Welwyn where, for several months, there have been problems with roof repairs and damp. The repairs were due to be carried out that day, so I went to check. I did feel sorry for the contractors as the temperature was almost zero, with snow flurries!
I was pleased to note also that the central green at the top of Hawbush Rise has had the corners rounded off and grass protection put down. This was my suggestion to Cllr Richard Smith several months ago, and true to his word, he has carried out the improvement. This has helped with the parking congestion on the corners and hopefully will ease the circulation of traffic around the green for the future, without the need to mount the grassed areas.
Thursday 28th March: At 6.45pm, I attended a briefing by Ian Grout of Hertfordshire Police at Campus West. This advised councillors of the changes that are being made to Safer Neighbourhood Policing throughout the county and specifically how these will affect Welwyn Hatfield. With respect to Welwyn, this will mean that our local PC Ben Satchfield will no longer have sole responsibility for the area, but will work as a team with other PC’s, covering the northern section of Welwyn Hatfield. Although we will no doubt miss seeing so much of Ben, Welwyn will benefit from full-time coverage from the team and hopefully we will soon get to know his colleagues as they take their turns of duty here. Our PCSO coverage will remain unchanged as far as I know.
My update in April will bring to a close my first year as an Independent Councillor. I have done my best throughout this interim period to keep the promises I made on my election material and I hope that residents are happy with my performance so far.
A couple of years ago, if anyone had told me that, approaching 70 years of age, I would be launching myself into local politics and enjoying it as much as I do, I would have found it hard to believe them! But I am, for I care deeply for Welwyn and its community. It is a lovely place to live and I am happy to dedicate time and energy into doing all that I can to keep it that way.
PS: I do not wish to stoop to the level of exchanging insults, but in the interests of truth and accuracy, I feel it is necessary to respond to the statement by Cllr Langley in the WHT of 27th March.
As an elected Independent councillor for Welwyn West ward, it goes without saying that my primary concerns are with Welwyn and the needs of its residents. However, it is totally out of order to accuse me of “having no real interest in other areas of the Borough”. I have, in response to direct requests, dealt with matters in wards far outside my own, including concerns over the Hatfield Swim Centre and its lack of crèche facilities. I am as diligent in my approach to these matters as to any within my own area, and just as concerned to help in any way that I can. As I do not inform Cllr Langley whenever I take up an issue, she cannot know the extent of my caseload.
With regard to my vote on works for the Hatfield Swim Centre that Cllr Langley raised: let us look at the facts. WHBC has a very expensive contract with Finesse Leisure for maintenance of the Swim Centre, which was subsequently allowed to run down to the point where a major piece of equipment had to be replaced at considerable cost. My questions were: (a) why had this not been budgeted for so that a major outlay would not have to be made at short notice at the expense of the tax payer? and (b) why had Finesse not earmarked the problem earlier on during routine servicing and maintenance and so avoided the build-up of mould and damp in the Swim Centre? My argument was that the management of the facility was at fault and I did not feel that I could vote in favour of continued bad management and poor budgeting. I was never, at any time, against providing a much needed facility for the residents of Hatfield – my objective by voting against the motion was to publicise that an expensive fiasco had taken place and to bring it to public attention.