Local Lib Dems Hit Out at Gerard Over Post Office Snub

Cllr Bob Carey (left) and the Liberal Democrat team for Chapel EndLiberal Democrats councillors in Waltham Forest have slammed Walthamstow MP Neil Gerrard after it was revealed that he ignored a letter backed by councillors from all parties asking for support in opposing local Post Office closures.

The letter was sent by the Council’s interim Chief Executive after councillors unanimously backed a Liberal Democrat motion criticising the support of Labour MPs for the Government’s closure programme. 

However, in an answer to a written question from Lib Dem Chapel End councillor Bob Carey, Council Leader Clyde Loakes told fellow members that no responses had been received from Neil Gerrard or Chingford and Woodford Green MP Iain Duncan-Smith.

Cllr Carey, though, reserved particular criticism for the Labour MP for Walthamstow, accusing him of a “total lack of respect” for the Council or the views of local residents on the issue of Post Office closures.

Responding in the meeting of Full Council, Cllr Carey said:

“I am absolutely amazed, and hugely disappointed, that in the four months since this motion was passed, not one of our three local MPs has had the good grace to reply to the letter that was sent with the unanimous support of all members of this Council.

“The Government closure programme has moved on apace since the motion was passed and my own ward, Chapel End, has been hit particularly hard.

“Therefore, I would like the Leader to write back to Neil Gerrard asking why, in the last four months, he has had the time to write two-faced press statements mourning the loss of the very local post office branches which he has repeatedly voted to close but has not had the time or the courtesy to address the concerns of Walthamstow residents by responding to this Chamber — of which he was once a very prominent member.”

Cllr Carey claimed that local Labour MPs should be “embarrassed both by their record on this issue and their apparent attempts to deceive local residents who want their local representatives to fight for the protection of their local services”

Lib Dem Leader Criticises Ministerial Visit as “Inappropriate”

Ed Balls local visit Waltham Forest Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr John Macklin has explained his decision not to attend a high profile Government event in Waltham Forest, claiming the visit was “completely inappropriate”.

Government schools minister Ed Balls’ visit to Kelmscott School in Walthamstow came just a week after he caused anger by placing two other local schools — George Mitchell in Leyton and the new Walthamstow Academy — on a ‘hit list’ of “underperforming” schools that could face closure.  The move has been greeted with anger from both head teachers and parents.

Cllr Macklin, the Deputy Leader of Waltham Forest Council, chose not to attend the event, which he called “enormously ill-timed.”

Cllr Macklin, who is also a senior university lecturer in education, continued:

“Whilst it is welcome that the excellent progress being made at Kelsmcott is being recognised, it almost defies belief that the Minister feels it is appropriate to put the boot into local schools one week and then, days later, turn up in Waltham Forest to use the borough for a government press launch.

“His hit list has caused a lot of anger locally and has apparently been based on completely arbitrary targets that take no account of any of the highly individual circumstances that schools such as George Mitchell work under.

“When the Lib Dem education spokesman David Laws MP visited Walthamstow Academy earlier this year he was hugely impressed by the hard work being put in by the head, Fiona Cordeaux, and her staff.

“How on earth can threatening these schools with closure under such apparently random criteria help in their future development?

“Ed Balls’ announcement has unsettled teachers, staff and pupils who I’m sure will see the Minister’s decision to go ahead with this visit in the wake of such an announcement as entirely lacking in tact.”

The Ministerial visit came on the same day that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg set out plans to give schools greater freedoms, promising to strip Ministers of their power to “meddle and micro-manage”.

Local Liberal Democrats Want Arcade Site Progress

High St councillors Johar Khan (left) and James O'Rourke (right) with Walthamstow parliamentary candidate Farid Ahmed

Liberal Democrats in Waltham Forest are seeking reassurances from the council regarding progress on the long awaited Walthamstow Arcade site development.

Walthamstow councillor John Macklin, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Waltham Forest Council, stressed that the Arcade development “must fit in with the local area”. 

He is also urging local traders to get involved in ensuring that the development will “compliment and not damage existing Town Centre businesses” whilst acknowledging residents concerns over the residential building that will form a centrepiece of the development.

Cllr Macklin said:

“Whilst I accept the need for the development to be high density, this doesn’t mean that it has to be exclusively achieved through height.  I have been meeting with campaigners to make it clear that the Liberal Democrats want a landmark building that will be a source of pride for residents and a focal point for a properly regenerated town centre.

“We also echo the views of the many people, in particular our younger residents, who are desperate to see a cinema return to the borough.

“However, I am acutely aware that regeneration projects, if not handled properly, can be detrimental to existing businesses.

“Regeneration is not just about big new buildings.  It should also be about enabling local people and businesses.”

“I absolutely do not want to see any new facilities simply competing for existing trade with our current shops and market traders.  They must compliment each other if the development is to be a success.

Cllr Macklin is encouraging local businesses and traders to get involved in making sure that the Town Centre is compatible with the new facilities that will arrive as part of the development. 

“We want to see local traders and businesses taking the lead in ensuring that a regenerated town centre is mutually beneficial to both new and existing businesses.

“We need imaginative ideas from business leaders to ensure that the market, as part of a modern Walthamstow Town Centre, can provide an attractive product that shoppers will want to use.

“This could be achieved, for example, through the establishment of a Business Improvement District or a more prominent role for the Market Traders Association.

“The Liberal Democrats will strongly support any such involvement from local businesses and make sure that their voice is heard in Council.  The best way to ensure that local people are satisfied with the outcome of the regeneration project is to involve them every step of the way in the decision making process and communicate progress on the site to residents more effectively.”

Fellow Liberal Democrat councillors for High Street Ward, James O’Rourke and Johar Khan, added to Cllr Macklin’s calls by claiming that, as part of the regeneration project, the council needed to have deliverable plans to bring the EMD building back into use in a way that complimented the development and provided “a worthwhile community facility for residents that will bring them back to the High Street”.

“We want to see the council work with interested parties to bring the EMD into use as soon as the Arcade development has been accepted by the Mayor of London.”

The Lib Dems efforts in encouraging greater community involvement in decision-making is the latest part of plans to increase resident participation in the running of local facilities.  Earlier this year the party called for Local Management Boards of service users to take over the running of local cultural facilities.

Senior Lib Dems Visit Walthamstow Academy

(l-r) Farid Ahmed, Cllr Sean Meiszner, David Laws MP, Annette Brooke MP and Cllr Peter WoollcottLiberal Democrat Education Spokesman David Laws MP was in Waltham Forest on Monday morning to pay a visit to the Walthamstow Academy.

Mr Laws, the Shadow Secretary for the Department of Children, Schools and Families, was joined by Lib Dem parliamentary colleague Annette Brooke MP in a tour of the school which saw them chat with pupils and view the new buildings that students are soon to move into.

Lib Dem Councillors for Higham Hill, Cllr Sean Meiszner and Cllr Peter Woollcott, the Chair of Waltham Forest Council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Cllr James O’Rourke, and the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow, Farid Ahmed, also took part in the visit.

Mr Laws took the opportunity to talk with Principal Fiona Cordeaux about Academy schools across the UK, education in the Waltham Forest area and the progression of the school since its establishment in 2006.

Fiona Cordeaux said:

“It is a privilege to have the Shadow Secretary of State come to Walthamstow Academy to view our new facilities and hear about some of our successes.”

Councillor Sean Meiszner used the visit by the Shadow Secretary of State to raise issues affecting educational attainment in the borough.

Cllr Meiszner commented:

“I really enjoyed being able to tour the Academy and speak to pupils and staff.  This was an excellent opportunity to discuss challenges facing schools in the area and how the Academy will fit into the borough’s overall educational provision in the future”.