Local Lib Dems Sound Warning Over Personal Debt

Lib Dem Treasury Spokesman Vince CableThe Waltham Forest Guardian is reporting that people living in ‘E’ postcodes such as Walthamstow, Leyton and Leytonstone are ranked by the survey as having the worst debt status in the country.

Callcredit, a credit reference agency, assessed the debt status of 124 UK regions, ranking E1 as the worst, followed by Uxbridge, South East London and Liverpool.

The news follows warnings from Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats that house prices have fallen more sharply in Waltham Forest than anywhere else in London and reports that London will suffer a higher net percentage of job losses in the recession than the rest of England.

Earlier this year Liberal Democrats Treasury spokesman Vince Cable warned about the problems of excessive personal borrowing.

He said:

“There is a real complacency about the extent to which millions of people are getting out of their depth with mortgages and unsecured borrowing.”

Residents with concerns about their levels of debt can contact their local Liberal Democrat team for guidance about who can help.

Local Lib Dems Solve the Case of the Disappearing Bus Stop!

The Lib Dems Transport spokesperson in the London Assembly, Caroline PidgeonLiberal Democrat activists in Waltham Forest have been busy – solving the case of the phantom bus stop!

Investigative work by on behalf of bemused local residents has revealed that a bus stop which disappeared in Cathall Road had never been put there by Transport for London – but by an enterprising public transport user!

Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman at the London Assembly, said: “I was contacted by Paul Olford, a long-term Lib Dem activist in Leytonstone, about a bus stop which had mysteriously disappeared from Cathall Road.

“I contacted TfL and after some investigating, they discovered the bus stop was never meant to be there in the first place.

“The sign had just been stuck on a lamppost and bus drivers were mistaking it for the real thing.”

And bus passengers will be disappointed to learn that there are no plans to replace the phantom with a real stop, as it’s located on the brow of a bridge and would be too dangerous.

TfL confirmed: “Someone had stuck the round London Buses sign on a lamp column so that it resembled a bus stop.

“We do not know who did this but it was not with the permission of London Buses.”

Illegal Fly-Tipping in High Street Ward

Fly tipping residents and traders who treat High Street ward like a dustbin have been warned they face huge fines and up to five years in prison when they are caught.

Efforts to clean up the Borough are being undermined by people dumping rubbish on our streets, and Cllrs James O’Rourke and Johar Khan has called for High Street residents’ help.

Cllrs James O’Rourke and Johar Khan said:

“If you have any information about fly-tippers please let us know. Our local area is being plagued by illegal fly tipping”.

Residents can help dispose of their rubbish responsibly

* Every household can have three bulky waste collections every year. Just contact the Council to have your rubbish collected from your doorstep.

* Take your larger waste to a household recycling centre near you

* The Council can provide more black recycling boxes — go online to order them!

* Fly tipping is a crime — Report it!

You can contact the Council to report fly tipping or to find out how to dispose of your waste responsibly on 020 8496 3000.

Local Lib Dems Celebrate Government U-Turn Over Post Office Card Accounts

Cllr Patrick Smith: the Labour Government “attempting by stealth to wind up traditional Post Office business in order to then make the economic case for more closures.”Local Liberal Democrat post office campaigners are celebrating after a Labour u-turn on the future of the Post Office Card Account (POCA).

The Government announced on Thursday that it is now cancelling its procurement process and awarding the contract for the Post Office Card Account (POCA) to the Post Office for a further five years.

The Lib Dems had led attempts to block the removal of the contract from the Post Office, claiming that it amounted to a deliberate attempt to encourage people to switch payment to direct debit and remove the role of the Post Office.

It is estimated that around a third of the income of many post offices comes from the POCA and Post Offices benefit additionally from the ‘footfall’ of shoppers.

Lib Dem Higham Hill councillor Patrick Smith, who recently attended the National Post Office Conference, claimed that the u-turn would come as a relief to post office employees and customers, calling the decision to put the contract out to tender the latest example of the Labour Government “attempting by stealth to wind up traditional Post Office business in order to then make the economic case for more closures.”

Cllr Smith continued:

“This Government has been running down our post offices, removing the services that local communities rely on.

“This welcome climb down over the future of Post Office Card Accounts perhaps suggests that Labour are finally beginning to realise that they cannot any longer simply ride roughshod over the wishes of the communities served by these crucial facilities.”

Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Jenny Willott said:

“This announcement comes as a huge relief to the millions of Post Office Card Account holders, thousands of Sub Post Masters and the countless communities that may have lost their post office if the decision had been different.”

“The Government has wasted time and money and caused immeasurable heartache by dragging this process out for so long.

“This could all have been avoided if, as the Liberal Democrats have long argued, the Post Office Card Account had never been put out to tender in the first place.

“However, cancelling the procurement exercise is a peculiar means of arriving at this decision and Ministers have some explaining to do.”

Lib Dems Want More Resident Power

Cllr James O'Rourke launches the Waltham Forest resident consultation at parliament with Don Foster MP

Local Liberal Democrats are celebrating after opposition councillors gave their support to a Lib Dem proposal that could see aspects of the management of arts, sports and cultural venues in Waltham Forest handed over to user-led groups.

In a motion that went before Full Council, the Lib Dems asked officers to produce a report outlining the viability of, and the procedures needed to establish, a series of ‘Local Management Boards’, groups of service users who would be given areas of responsibility for “implementing ambitious and innovative ideas in our local libraries, sports facilities, museums and galleries to ensure that they fully reflect users’ needs.”

The plans first appeared as a policy commitment to residents made in Waltham Forest Lib Dems 2006 local election manifesto.

Lib Dem Leader Cllr John Macklin said that he believed local authorities “have a responsibility to let their residents take part in the process of shaping local services.”

Cllr Macklin continued: 

“The proposals we are asking officers to look at would mean real involvement and responsibility for residents, not membership of a toothless body unable to provide real management and implement inventive ideas.

“The future of our local cultural services, such as museums and libraries, is obviously one of great concern to many residents.  There is a diverse range of valuable expertise going untapped amongst those who use, lobby and campaign for these services”.

Cllr Macklin added that “although councillors and residents may not always agree, I have made it a priority to meet with and listen to as many resident and user groups as possible.

“Local management boards could provide a platform in order to give those in our Borough with progressive and ambitious ideas a way in which to turn these into practical solutions.

The motion is the culmination of a local Lib Dem campaign backed by parliamentary Culture, Media and Sports spokesman Don Foster MP, pictured above with High St councillor James O’Rourke.


Olympic Chiefs Quizzed Over Games’ Legacy for Waltham Forest Youngsters

Cllr Laura Sheppard (Cann Hall) with Olympian Jonathan Edwards

A local Liberal Democrat Councillor has used the party’s annual conference in Bournemouth to tackle Olympic chiefs over plans to use the 2012 Games’ to engage with young people in the Borough.

Cann Hall ward councillor Laura Sheppard attended the event alongside other local councillors and party activists from across Waltham Forest who had travelled to the South Coast to hear Nick Clegg’s first conference speech as Liberal Democrat leader.

During a packed question and answer session hosted by Olympian Jonathan Edwards, Cllr Sheppard asked for assurances that, with the 2012 Games now just four years away, opportunities for Waltham Forest youngsters to get involved were being provided.

Members of the panel of leading representatives from the London Games, including Chief Executive of the London 2012 Organising Committee Paul Deighton and Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority John Armitt, highlighted the work that was being done within schools to raise awareness of the Games.  However they acknowledged Cllr Sheppard’s concerns regarding their ability to engage with local youngsters who had become harder to reach.

Cllr Sheppard said that the London Games represented a “once in a lifetime opportunity to better the lives of young people in our Borough”.

She added:

“I was pleased that the panel acknowledged the difficulty in reaching some of our younger people and the need to come up with innovative and imaginative ideas to ensure they are engaged. 

“Some excellent work has been done to raise awareness of the Games but it is those young people who are outside the traditional means of communication who would be able to gain the most from the benefits the Games will bring to the area.”

Earlier this year local Liberal Democrats unveiled proposals for a Waltham Forest Sports Academy, a plan which would see existing venues able to join together to create a federation of independent, borough-based ‘Centres of Excellence’. 

Local Lib Dems believe such a project could see each facility providing affordable specialist training in individual sporting activities whilst also allowing users to study for qualifications such as coaching badges.

Cllr Sheppard said:

“One of the main issues raised by Lib Dem councillors during the debate was the need to ensure that young people benefited directly from a sporting legacy that would help to foster a culture of sporting participation both before and after the Games.

“The creative use of our sporting facilities would help bring residents from all backgrounds together whilst creating opportunities for young people to learn new skills and qualifications as they enjoy their leisure time.”

Lib Dem Council Team Speak on Tesco Plans

Hale End and Highams Park councillor Sheila Smith-PryorThe Lib Dem team for Hale End and Highams Park have said that “any proposed developments should absolutely have to compliment existing buildings and services in the area”

At a recent residents meeting, Cllr Sheila Smith-Pryor and the Hale and Higham FOCUS team spoke of the need for any development in the area to meet strict requirements regarding its environmental impact and the knock-on effect of the quality of life for all residents.

A FOCUS survey conducted by former Liberal Democrat councillor John Beanse and the local team showed that, out of over 500 resident responses, there was a range of opinions expressed regarding the proposals.  Many residents said they were concerned about the size of any proposed Tesco development.

Cllr Smith-Pryor said:

“Residents will remember that the Lib Dem team worked hard to ensure their voices were heard during the previous Tesco application.

“We will do the same again to ensure that all residents views are represented on this important issue”.

“Attendees at the recent meeting wanted to hear the views of the local councillor team, and I was pleased to be able to report back on the work that we have been doing on behalf of residents.”

Waltham Forest worst hit in London as housing crash begins to bite

The Walthamstow Lib Dem TeamLiberal Democrats in Waltham Forest have reacted with concern to new figures which reveal that Waltham Forest has suffered the biggest “negative change” in property prices of any London borough.

And Lib Dem Council Group Leader John Macklin is asking for reassurances that the collapse in property values will not further delay long-awaited redevelopment schemes across the borough.

The news comes after Lib Dem councillors warned earlier this year that Walthamstow homeowners faced an “above average” risk of suffering from negative equity.

The new figures, published in HotProperty magazine, show that Waltham Forest has suffered heavily from the collapse in property prices in comparison with other London boroughs.  The latest Land Registry figures show that the average property price in the borough is down 9.4% in the last year, with a huge 5% fall being suffered in the last quarter.  The rapid collapse means many local homeowners are now at risk from negative equity.

Local Lib Dems sounded a warning over the heightened risk of negative equity for local property owners back in March after figures released by credit rating agency Experian predicted that Walthamstow residents could be amongst the worst sufferers of the economic downturn, with those who had bought property within the last 12 months expected to be the worst hit.

At the time, local Liberal Democrat leader and Walthamstow councillor John Macklin urged government intervention to prevent mass repossessions, which, he said, would only worsen the housing crash.

Now this week he has expressed his concern about the effect that the crash in property prices will have on building projects within the borough.

Cllr Macklin said:

“The collapse in property prices is bound to have an effect on regeneration projects in the borough, and I will be looking for clarification from the relevant portfolio holders regarding the timetables for work on these projects.

“As I have said before, a series of unused ‘land banks’ across the borough awaiting regeneration is just not acceptable”.

Fellow Walthamstow councillor and deputy Lib Dem leader Cllr Johar Khan has spoken out about the situation in Waltham Forest, noting that the collapse in house prices would “cause misery for those who could end up owing more on their mortgages than their property will be worth.”

Cllr Khan continued:

“Waltham Forest looks like it will be hit particularly hard by this recession and the collapse in house prices.  Sadly, the anguish this will cause local homeowners has been all too easy to predict.

“The government has allowed house prices and irresponsible mortgage lending to rocket alomost unchecked, and this competely irresponsbile approach is now resulting in dire consequences for residents. 

Labour MP Gerrard accused of hypocrisy over Post Offices

Local Lib Dems campaign against the Labour government's Post Office closure programmeLabour MP for Walthamstow, Neil Gerrard, has been accused of hypocrisy after he signed a Parliamentary motion supporting Post Offices only to then vote against it in the House of Commons.

Post Offices face a bleak future if the Government gives another company the contract to pay out pensions and benefits instead of the Post Office. They currently deliver this through the Post Office Card Account (POCA), which is used by around 4 million elderly and benefit claimants.

It is believed that up to 6,000 Post Offices could close if the POCA is taken away from them. Ministers are expected to announce their decision on POCA shortly.

The Parliamentary motion expresses worries about the damaging results on Post Offices if they lose more business. Ministers and government agencies are currently putting huge pressure on people to get pensions and benefits paid directly into bank accounts instead of through the Post Office.

The motion called on government departments and agencies to use Post Offices to make services available through Post Offices to help both the Post Office network and the people who rely on it. MPs could sign the motion over the summer and autumn. Liberal Democrat MPs then brought it to the House of Commons to debate it on Monday 10th November.

Local Liberal Democrat leader Cllr John Macklin has now accused Neil Gerrard of displaying “an almost unbelievable level of hypocrisy”.

Cllr Macklin said:

“Residents of Walthamstow will have every right to feel let down by Neil Gerrard’s flip-flopping on the future of our local Post Offices.

“This is just another example of local Labour members saying one thing about Post Offices and then voting the exact opposite way.  Their behaviour on this issue over a long period of time has been nothing short of insulting to residents.

“Neil Gerrard has chosen to vote to throw out a motion expressing concerns about the future of our local Post Offices and replace it with praise for what this Government has done to our Post Office network.”

Waltham Forest has been hit hard by local Post Office closures, and local Labour councillors faced criticism over their apparent opposition to the closure programme after it emerged that they rejected a Full Council motion from December 2003 that called for the Post Office Network Reinvention programme to be halted.  The motion, moved by the Liberal Democrats, also expressed concern at the effect of the closures on the elderly and vulnerable.

Liberal Democrats have called for the Post Office to be allowed to continue to pay out pensions and benefits. They have also called for £2 billion of investment in branches, paid for by selling part of the Government’s shareholding in Royal Mail.

They also want more Government departments to use Post Offices to provide services, to free branches from restrictions on doing business with other parcel delivery companies and to broaden the range of commercial services available across the counter.

Waltham Forest Lib Dems Speak on Future of ‘The Stow’

Waltham Forest Lib Dems are

Cllr John Macklin
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Waltham Forest Council

Like the many residents who have written to us expressing their views on the closure, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I are enormously disappointed at the recent turn of events regarding the future of Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium.

The huge show of support from residents and punters alike demonstrates the obvious affection that local people have for the Stadium. A quick straw poll in a recent meeting suggests that you would struggle to find a local Liberal Democrat councillor who has not at one point enjoyed a visit to ‘The Stow’!

Farid Ahmed and myself recently met a team from Save Our Stow at the Town Hall to hear about their plans to keep the Stadium in business as a greyhound racing venue.

We are, of course, fully in support of their efforts to keep the Stadium as both a greyhound racing track and a sport and leisure venue. As we told the team from Save Our Stow, we believe that the stadium is an iconic London venue and, perhaps more importantly, an enormously valuable part of Waltham Forest’s evening economy.

The success of our leisure venues is an integral part of building a sustainable community in Waltham Forest and ensuring that we are attractive to both our residents and visitors. There is no long-term sustainability in forcing residents out of the borough to spend their leisure time.

I am more than happy to work with Save Our Stow as I believe that ambitious and enterprising local residents and groups deserve to have their ideas listened to and fully considered.

Farid Ahmed
Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Walthamstow

What impressed me about the Save Our Stow proposals was the obvious research that had been undertaken into the viability of the business. A lot of work has gone into securing the means of funding to reopen the track and attracting additional investment to upgrade the facilities and establish Walthamstow as hub for the sport.

I discussed with Save Our Stow my disappointment that a new business model could not, apparently, be made to work by the previous owners in the way it has done at successful greyhound racing venues both in the UK and overseas, where the tracks still enjoy healthy support as family venues with a greater focus on hospitality and catering for parties and group events. It was very encouraging to hear their proposals to modernise and widen the appeal of the Stadium, adapting the facility into a modern leisure facility.

What Walthamstow absolutely cannot afford to have is yet another ‘land bank’ awaiting regeneration.

I am particularly interested in such a user group led bid for the track, as I have long believed that local leisure facilities are very often better run by those who use them and who have a locally based commitment to their ongoing success