‘A double whammy for Londoners’ – Lib Dems hit out at Labour Freedom Pass plan

Caroline Pidgeon AMCaroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Transport Spokesperson and Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, has condemned Labour government proposals to rob funding for London’s Freedom pass.

Commenting on the Department of Transport’s new consultation on the national bus concession in England, which proposes to remove almost £29 million of funding for London’s Freedom Pass, Caroline said:

“After Boris Johnson’s decision to hike bus fares by 20% Londoners now face a double whammy with this savage cut in funding for the Freedom Pass. 

“London is the only major city in the country to be hit by these Government proposals.   Hard up London council taxpayers, who are already facing a steep rise in fares, will now have to pay even more in their council tax to maintain London’s Freedom Pass.”

“This is an outrageous proposal by the Labour Government who are insulting London’s pensioners, disabled people, as well as council taxpayers across the capital.”

Labour say of Pool and track threat: “There is no confusion”

Labour Report No 1:            

Pool and Track site to be sold to fund leisure  centre at Arcade site.

Labour Report No 2  (Just days later…)

Now land at Pool and Track or  other “unidentified assets” to be sold

Labour Leader says:   

Pool will be closed but not track

Labour councillor responsible for sport says:                                  

We never suggested the track would close

…and that:  

“There is no confusion”.

* * * * *

Users of local sports facilities have been left anxious about the future of the Pool and Track in Walthamstow after Labour Leader Chris Robbins appeared to confirm that at least part of the facility will be shut down.

Liberal Democrat councillors are fighting Labour plans to rescue the Arcade site development by borrowing millions of pounds and selling off land and council assets. 

Labour’s proposals — which were published on the Council website – involved the “disposal of the Pool and Track site for a replacement facility with the Arcade development”, including a Leisure Centre “to replace the current indoor facilities at the Pool and Track”.

However after protests from Liberal Democrat councillors and residents, definitive references to the sale of the Pool and Track were quickly removed from the final Cabinet report, with mention only being made of the sale of “either land at the Pool and Track site or alternative assets to the same value that have not yet been identified”.  Labour councillors forced through the report despite Liberal Democrat opposition in the Cabinet meeting.

Hopes for the future of the Pool and Track seem, however, to have been dashed after comments from Labour Leader Chris Robbins suggested that at least part of the facility will still be closed.

In trying to quell public protests at the handling of the closure, Cllr Robbins confirmed to the local press that the pool will be closed once a “replacement” leisure facility has been built.  This would seem to leave the borough’s athletics track as a stand-alone facility.

Lib Dem Cllr Bob Carey, a member of the affected Chapel End ward, has now raised the issue with Cllr Geraldine Reardon, the Labour councillor responsible for sport in the borough, at a Full Council meeting.  He sought clarification over the future of the pool facility, investment in the track and raised resident concerns about accessibility to a pool facility at the Arcade.

Cllr Reardon told councillors that there was “no confusion” over the future of the facility, but refused to confirm the Labour leader’s comment that the pool would be closed once a replacement was built, claiming that no decision had been made.

Local Liberal Democrat councillors will continue to seek answers over Labour’s handling of our Pool and Track.

Lib Dems welcome new action on High St traffic

Cllr James O'Rourke (Picture by Roy Tillett, Yellow Advertiser)High St councillor James O’Rourke has been speaking to the local press about a ban on traffic along Walthamstow High Street.

An ‘experimental traffic order’ was introduced by the Walthamstow Town Centre Task Group — a group set up by the high St Liberal Democrats – in August which stops unauthorised vehicles using the High Street in a bid to improve safety for pedestrians.

New signage and barriers have been put up to further enforce the order, which only allows vehicles loading and unloading to market stalls and shops along the High Street.  Street cleaning vehicles are also able to use the High Street to clean the area after the market has been held.

Speaking to Martyn Dalton of the local Yellow Advertiser, Cllr James O’Rourke welcomed the latest additions to the High Street.

Cllr O’Rourke said:

“The experimental traffic order clearly demonstrates that we have listened, engaged and acted with residents, visitors and traders who have asked us to make the High Street a safer environment.

“Unfortunately it was very difficult to enforce the order as there wasn’t proper signage, but now motorists and pedestrians can see that the order is in full operation.”

Cllr O’Rourke has told local people that his long-term aim for the area is to see an enforceable pedestrian zone introduced in the High Street in order to protect residents and shoppers.

Another Lib Dem success story in the bag!

Cllr Patrick Smith, Farid Ahmed (parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow) Cllr Bob Belam, Cllr James O’Rourke and Cllr Bob Wheatley joined residents at the launch in exchanging their plastic bags for linen bags.Liberal Democrat councillors were out in force at the weekend to help launch the borough’s Plastic Bag Amnesty at the Energy Fair in Walthamstow Town Square.

Cllr Patrick Smith, Farid Ahmed (parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow) Cllr Bob Belam, Cllr James O’Rourke and Cllr Bob Wheatley (all pictured right) joined residents at the launch in exchanging their plastic bags for linen bags.

The initiative is a result of a Liberal Democrat motion to Full Council in December 2007 introduced by Cllr Bob Belam and local Lib Dem leader Cllr John Macklin, which will see a raft of ‘green’ measures introduced by the Council, including a ‘climate change impact assessment’ in every council report.

Speaking after Labour and Conservative councillors agreed to accept the Lib Dem recommendations, Bob Belam said:

“These are simple but effective measures that will make the way the Council works cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

“Local authorities are now rightly being put under pressure to deliver practical results with regard to the environment.  Waltham Forest residents are already playing their part through their excellent uptake of waste recycling.

“A Climate Change Impact Assessment will make transparent the Council’s commitment to addressing residents environmental concerns, ensuring that the consideration of climate change issues are at the front and centre of everything the Council does.

“Liberal Democrats want to take a lead on this issue and become standard bearers for our residents, businesses and other local authorities.”

The Council’s plastic bag amnesty runs until 14 November, and during this period the Council will take ten of your environmentally unfriendly plastic carrier bags, send these to be recycled, and give you a neat new reusable cloth shopping bag in exchange.

Sound good? Well, you can make the trade at any WFD shop or, alternatively, have the amnesty brought to you when Waltham Forest staff greets shoppers this Thursday (5 November) outside Leytonstone bus station and tube entrance, or Saturday14 November at Albert Crescent (intersection of Chingford Mount Road and Old Church Road) in Chingford.

To find out more about the plastic bag amnesty call 020 8496 3000 or visit www.walthamforest.gov.uk

RECKLESS..with YOUR money!

Labour councillors have forced through a proposal to build a swimming pool and leisure centre on the Walthamstow Arcade site by borrowing £35 million and selling off the Pool Money Down the Drainand Track site in Walthamstow.

Labour councillors ignored the recommendation from the all party Scrutiny committee which said that, before any decisions were made, the Council should obtain a financial appraisal to see if the proposal was affordable and a study as to whether the High Street was the right place for a swimming pool.

Lib Dem Cllr James O’Rourke, who sits on the Scrutiny committee, said:

“I’m amazed that anyone could make a decision costing residents millions without any financial appraisal. I agree totally with my Lib dem colleague and chair of the scrutiny commitee, Cllr Bob Sullivan, when he says that anyone doing this is “Damn reckless” with ratepayers’ money.”

High Street Focus Team says:

· Why does Labour refuse to allow a proper financial check of the plans to borrow £35 million to fund the proposal?

· Why haven’t local people been asked whether they want a swimming pool on the Arcade site?

· What does this plan mean for the future of our competition pool and the Borough’s only athletic track in the run-up to the Olympics?


Planned Town Hall reforms the “least worst option”, say Lib Dems.

Waltham Forest councillors have recommended that a new model of governance for the borough be adopted called the ‘Strong Leader model, despite the Government proposal being described as “the least worst option” by Liberal Democrat leader Cllr John Macklin.

Councillors have been told that they have to choose between a ‘Strong Leader’ model, or a directly elected mayor, such as that seen in neighbouring Newham.  Lib Dem councillors hit out at both proposals in a heated debate at the latest Full Council meeting, claiming that neither option was good for local decision making as they both concentrated power in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals.

Cllr Macklin commented in the meeting that the Lib Dems would reluctantly support the ‘Strong Leader’ model, as it was the one that allowed a Council leader to most easily share power and give responsibility for the future of the borough to all councillors and residents.

Hale End and Highams Park councillor Jane Morgan has led Lib Dem opposition to the Government proposals, claiming that the plan represented “another example of the way in which local democracy is being centralised and local power being shrunk”.  Read her full statement on the reforms here.

Lib Dems want smarter action to tackle fly tipping

Cllr John Macklin: “I’ll be speaking to the Labour members who are responsible for fly tipping and enforcement, the cleanliness of our parks and Ascham Homes to see how all of these portfolio areas can better tackle the problem.Leading Liberal Democrat councillors are in discussions with Council officers over whether charges for the collection of bulky waste can be relaxed or even cut in order to fight fly-tipping in the borough.

The move is one of several initiatives that Liberal Democrat members are looking to bring forward in order to combat the dumping of waste in Waltham Forest.  Other measures currently being investigated include pre-advertised local skip placements for those struggling to dispose of waste items and further work with letting agents to inform tenants of waste collection services.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr John Macklin said:

“I’ll be speaking to the Labour members who are responsible for fly tipping and enforcement, the cleanliness of our parks and Ascham Homes to see how all of these portfolio areas can better tackle the problem.

“Our street cleaning is provided on a much smaller budget than some neighbouring London boroughs so we can’t afford to waste money collecting fly tipping.

“The Council’s current rates for catching flytippers are not nearly enough to put off those determined to dump rubbish, so we think that it makes sense to actually take some action now and be a bit more imaginative in how we use our resources.

“I believe that the Council needs to divert more funds to this service.  But it makes sense for all areas of the Council to work harder to ensure that the money we do currently have can be spent efficiently”.

Current Council policy offers each household three bulky waste collections a year, where commonly dumped items such as mattresses and washing machines are collected free of charge.  However a fee is charged for the collection of other items such as dismantled baths. 

Cllr Macklin continued:

“A resident who wanted to dispose of an item not on the ‘free’ list pointed out that the charge could be seen as encouraging people to fly tip in order to avoid paying the fee – and with the Council picking up the tab to clear the item up.

“Budgets are tight in this area, and that’s why I’m asking officers to look at ways to divert more funding to keeping our streets clean. 

Vince Cable in Walthamstow – This Tuesday!

Vince Cable, who will be speaking in Walthamstow on TuesdayVince Cable, the Liberal Democrats economic guru and ace ballroom dancer(!) is in Walthamstow this Tuesday to speak at an event being organised by the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and Unite Against Fascism.

The Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman provided a reassuring presence throughout the economic downturn which has hit Britain, and won widespread respect from all sides for his calm and reasoned approach to the crisis.

The event, at Mission Grove Primary School on Tuesday 6th October at 7pm, is to mark Black History Month.  Vince will be joined by Liberal Democrat councillor Milton Martin and Peter Ashan, who will speak about Walthamstow’s ethnic history.

There will be food provided, and tickets cost £8, or just £5 for concessions.  To book your place, e-mail philipjgarner@googlemail.com or call Andrew Morrell on 07740 433465.

Labour ‘trying to rush through St James St library sale’

The local Waltham Forest Guardian is reporting that Labour councillors tried unsuccessfully “to force the sale of the fomer St James St library building on to a Cabinet agenda”.

The Guardian reports that the attempt to push through the sale of the former St James St library building was stopped when Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr John Macklin refused the request and withdrew the report from the agenda.  The move came at the same Cabinet meeting as the controversial decision to go ahead with plans for an Arcade site development which raises doubts over the future of the Pool and Track facility.

Click here to see what the local press are reporting.

What now for our local sports facilities?

Orion Harriers’ junior secretary Steve Timpson. Thanks to Roy Tillett of the Yellow Advertiser for the picture.The local press are reporting resident reaction to Liberal Democrat opposition to Labour plans that cast doubt over the future of the Walthamstow Pool and athletics track.  Click here to see the full coverage!

The plans being pushed through by Labour councillors will see millions of pounds borrowed to fund a leisure pool on the Arcade site in Walthamstow.  £10 million will be raised through the sale of land at the Pool and Track site or another site that has not been named. 

Local users of sports facilities are already voicing their own opposition to the proposals.

Your local Lib Dems want to know:
· What do the plans mean for the future of our competition pool and the borough’s only athletics track in the run-up to the Olympics?
· Why do Labour refuse to allow a full financial check of the plans to borrow millions of pounds to fund their plan?
· Why haven’t local people been asked whether they want a leisure pool at the Arcade site?

Explaining the opposition to Labour’s plans, local Liberal Democrat leader John Macklin said:

“These latest plans will have a serious impact right across the area, affecting the future of our sports facilities and maybe even the planning application for the former EMD cinema.

“Creating such uncertainty for local sports users is completely unacceptable for an Olympic borough”.