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.

Lib Dem Success in Ethical Practices Bid

Cllr John Macklin:  Local Liberal Democrats are celebrating after councillors approved a motion proposing a rethink of Waltham Forest Council’s ethical investment and procurement policies.

As part of the resolution, Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr John Macklin asked officers to carry out a full evaluation of current guidelines and report back to councillors, highlighting both possible areas of concern and potential opportunities for improvement “in order that practices can be revised to reflect our desire to achieve the highest possible standards in these areas.”

The issue of the Council’s ethical investment protocols came to light in October last year when it was revealed  – after a Freedom of Information request by local Green Party members – that portions of the employees pension fund had been invested in companies with links to the military regime in Burma.  The Council, however, revealed that it was bound by a legal obligation to maximise the return to the pension fund through its investments.

Cllr Macklin immediately expressed his alarm at the revelations, promising in a letter to the Waltham Forest Guardian that he would “push the Treasury to get rid of the financial shackles placed on local government in this area”.

He told residents that the Liberal Democrats had long called for the removal of the legal ties that stopped public bodies making socially responsible investments

During the debate in the Council chamber, the Liberal Democrat leader told councillors that “socially responsible ethical investment is an idea whose time has come.”

Cllr Macklin continued:

“Legal obligations do exist that place restrictions on the Council with regards to our financial investments.  However residents must be confident that their Council is diligent in ensuring that it meets its ethical obligations to the best of its abilities whilst also supporting calls for the loosening of the ties placed on local government.

“I want officers to carry out a full evaluation of our current guidelines and report back to councillors, highlighting both possible areas of concern and potential opportunities for improvement in order that practices can be revised to reflect our desire to achieve the highest possible standards in these areas.

“This evaluation and possible revision of existing guidelines will enable Waltham Forest Council to reaffirm its commitment to the adoption of the most appropriate ethically responsible practices and to ensure that all Council partners are fully aware of the standards which we expect on behalf of our residents.

The motion was passed unanimously by councillors from all sides despite Tory Leader Cllr Matt Davis’ defence of the investment in Burma.  He claimed last year that such a policy of ethical investment would result in the Council only being able to put its money into “tofu companies”.

Huge Rise in Homeless Families in Leyton and Wanstead

Cllr Farooq Qureshi (right)LIBERAL Democrats in Leyton and Wanstead are calling for government action to tackle homelessness after figures revealed there has been a shock rise in the number of local families living in temporary accommodation.
Government figures show that there were 1925 households without a home of their own in Waltham forest in 2006/7. This is a rise of 1419 (over 280%) since 1997 when Labour came to power.
During that decade there has been an overall fall of 450,000 affordable houses for rent from social landlords, such as local councils, in England.
Cllr Farooq Qureshi (Leyton) said:

 “These are very worrying figures. They mean that nearly 2,000 local families are without a proper home.
“There has been a lamentable failure by the Government to address the housing crisis in England. Labour are strangling council housing. Gordon Brown has ensured only a handful of new council houses have been built during the past decade across the country.
“The rise in the number of people in temporary accommodation here in Waltham Forest is a prime example of Labour’s failure.
“In March, Liberal Democrats backed calls in Parliament to give councils the power and resources to build new houses. The measure was defeated by the Government whilst the Conservatives sat on their hands and refused to take part in the vote.
“Had the measures been agreed, we could start to address the housing shortage here in Waltham Forest. Instead, we will end up with more people in temporary housing and many others living in over crowded conditions.”

Lib Dems Want Action to Protect Playing Fields

Cllr Macklin: labour has to stop selling off our playing fieldsLocal Liberal Democrats have reacted angrily to the news that Labour is failing to live up to its promise to protect playing fields.

Figures uncovered by the Lib Dems show that playing fields deemed vital to local sport are being lost at a rate of one a week.

The government have been forced to reveal statistics, in response to a request by the Liberal Democrats, which show that on average 843 planning applications affecting playing fields are accepted each year.  Of those applications approved, Sport England believe that an average of 57 a year constitute a ‘threat’ to sporting provision for surrounding communities.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Chapel End, John Macklin, has led local calls for the better protection of grassroots sporting facilities within Waltham Forest, a problem highlighted by the cutting of lottery grants to sporting organisations ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in East London.

Lib Dems on Waltham Forest Council recently unveiled proposals for the formation of a ‘Sports Academy’, comprising existing venues within the borough, which would offer specialist coaching and training in relevant skills such as physiotherapy.

Cllr Macklin said:

“It’s an absolute travesty that the nation’s playing fields legacy is being sold off under our noses.

“The mass selling off of playing fields both in our area and across the UK was supposed to be a nothing but a bad memory of the Conservative government of the 1980’s.  Instead, we have Labour MP’s admitting that they have failed to tackle the problem, as they promised to do in 1997.”

Cllr Macklin also noted that the figures released by the government did not include smaller playing fields.

“Labour announced as far back as 2002 that they were reducing the size threshold for statutory consultation on playing fields.  This has proved to be yet another broken promise.

“A real legacy of the Olympic Games in 2012 would be for our budding sportsmen and women in Waltham Forest to still have the green spaces available to be able to practice and participate in sports with their friends.

“Labour now has to stop selling off our playing fields and end the empty rhetoric and broken promises regarding its commitment to sporting activity.”

Local Lib Dems Concerned by Data Loss

Cllr Keith Rayner: ID Card scheme will be Local Liberal Democrats have expressed their concern about the recent loss of personal data records, this time from Whipps Cross hospital, and repeated their call for the Labour government to abandon plans to make people carry identity cards.

Cann Hall Cllr Keith Rayner spoke out after Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg MP published figures showing that 37 million pieces of personal information on UK citizens were lost in 2007, mostly by the Government. 

Confidential patient records from Whipps Cross hospital were found on a Hertfordshire roadside last year, sparking concern amongst Waltham Forest residents.

Cllr Rayner claimed that such a massive loss of confidential information demonstrated that the Government could not be trusted with successfully administering an ID Card scheme.

“The expensive identity cards scheme is based on the government storing large amounts of information about each one of us on a central database.  This most recent loss of data from Whipps Cross simply demonstrates yet again that, no matter how securely or professionally such information is handled, there will always be breaches of security when enormous banks of personal data are created.

“For the Government to pretend otherwise is either misleading or incredibly naïve.

“In 2007 the Government stumbled from one data loss crisis to another. The worst example came in November when the Government lost the personal details of all 25 million families with children. That has put the privacy of every family in Waltham Forest at risk.”

Local Liberal Democrats successfully led a motion last year against the Labour group on Waltham Forest Council, calling on councillors to denounce the ID Card scheme.  The proposal was passed, forcing Council Leader Clyde Loakes into an embarrassing climb down as the Council was affiliated to the ‘NO2ID’ campaign against Labour’s wishes.

Cllr Rayner promised that the Liberal Democrats would continue to lead the local fight against the plans, praising Nick Clegg’s pledge that he would refuse to sign up to any ID Card scheme.

“I am delighted that the new Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg is leading the battle to end the ID cards scheme. Liberal Democrats in Waltham Forest are right behind him.

“The scheme will be a bureaucratic nightmare. It won’t prevent illegal working. It won’t help stop crime or terrorism. If this Labour government really wants to make an impact on crime, terrorism and illegal immigration, the money it has earmarked for this scheme would be far better spent on more police and intelligence officers. That is what the Liberal Democrats would do.”

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”.

Waltham Forest Lib Dems Secure Local Climate Change Resolution

Cllr Bob Belam discusses local climate change action with senior Lib Dem MP Chris HuhneLocal Liberal Democrats have expressed their delight after Councillors last night backed their plans to put climate change awareness at the heart of the Council’s agenda.

The successful motion calls on Cabinet to undertake a series of initiatives aimed at ‘greening’ the way in which the Council works.  These include a commitment to greater heat and light efficiency in council buildings, renewed efforts to maximise the use of renewable energy and a borough-wide campaign to bring about a voluntary ban on the provision of free plastic shopping bags.

After a heated debate, Lib Dem councillors angrily rejected a Labour amendment to the motion that deleted 25 paragraphs of text and removed a Liberal Democrat proposal for a ‘Climate Change Impact Assessment’ to be included in all reports produced for Council.  Councillors eventually passed the Lib Dem motion unanimously.

Cllr Bob Belam, who moved the motion on behalf of the Lib Dems, said that the introduction of a ‘Climate Change Impact Assessment’ would make environmental considerations central to the work of the Council and provide for a more joined-up approach to tackling climate change.

Cllr Belam said:

“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 the excellent uptake of waste recycling that will save significant sums of money in landfill costs.

“The Climate Change Impact Assessment is central to our motion as it will ensure transparency regarding the Council’s commitment to addressing residents environmental concerns.  It will also put the consideration of climate change issues at the front and centre of everything the Council does.

During the debate, Cllr Belam also reassured councillors and residents that the proposals outlined in the motion would actually save taxpayers money.

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

“Liberal Democrats want Council to become standard bearers for our residents, businesses and other local authorities by proving that making small changes to the way in which we live and work can make a significant difference in the fight against harmful climate change.”

Local Lib Dems Plan Waltham Forest Sports Academy

Cllr Macklin: Sport is crucial to community cohesion Liberal Democrats in Waltham Forest are calling on the council to examine proposals for the establishment of a ‘Sports Federation’ within Waltham Forest.

The proposal 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.

It is also envisaged that the venues could be expanded in order to provide training in vocational skills such as physiotherapy and nutritional management.

Liberal Democrat Councillor John Macklin claimed that the establishment of a Waltham Forest ‘Academy of Sporting Excellence’ would provide a more effective use of existing facilities and would lay the ground for new sporting venues to be brought to the borough.

Cllr Macklin said:

“Sport is crucial in enhancing and encouraging community cohesion, and one thing that many Waltham Forest residents have in common is a love of sporting activity.  We should be harnessing this shared passion as a way of bringing residents from all backgrounds together whilst creating opportunities for young people to learn new skills and qualifications as they enjoy their leisure time.

“Using facilities to develop untapped potential and allow young people to complete coaching badges or take courses in related skills will enable them to use their talents and their enthusiasm for sport in a constructive way.

“Local young people could then use these qualifications to have a hands on involvement in training and coaching at the London 2012 Olympics and beyond, ensuring a real, homegrown sporting legacy in Waltham Forest”.

Local Lib Dems Claim ‘Crisis’ in NHS Dentistry

Local Liberal Democrats have slammed the Government’s record on dentistry after the release of a damning survey which revealed that 6% of those left without a dentist had resorted to pulling out their own teeth.

The Dentistry Watch survey, which was conducted by the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, also revealed that a third of those who were not registered with a dentist claimed that there were no surgeries nearby, whilst 20% of those with NHS dentists had been forced to refuse treatment because of the cost.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Laura Sheppard (Cann Hall) met with the party’s Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb MP, to discuss the crisis during the recent Party Conference in Bournemouth, and she was quick to express her concern at the ongoing problems patients are facing.

Cllr Sheppard said:

“Many residents have told me of the difficulties they are having with accessing an NHS dentist.

“Last year the government promised to sort out the lack of NHS dentistry, which has been a real concern for those with dental health problems.  A new contract was introduced for dentists in April 2006 that was meant to address many of these issues.

“But the reality is that the contract has failed to stop the decline in NHS dentistry.  One in twelve dentists have actually opted out of the NHS since the contract came in.”

Liberal Democrats are leading the call for reforms to be introduced to the contract so that dentists are encouraged to stay in the NHS.

Commenting on the Dentistry Watch survey, Norman Lamb MP said:

“The Government is in denial about the crisis in the system. Ministers must admit the failings of the contract and admit the case for a thorough and urgent review of the system.

“The failure to improve access to NHS dentistry is yet another broken promise by this Government, which has lost all credibility on health issues.

Local Lib Dems Call for Rethink of Crime Reduction Methods

Cllr Rayner: Figures suggest surveillance society isn't workingLocal Liberal Democrats have called for Britain’s ‘Surveillance Society’ to be curtailed.

The campaign comes after figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats under the Freedom of Information Act suggested that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of CCTV cameras than in those boroughs with less surveillance technology.

Waltham Forest, one of the 5 boroughs in London with under 100 CCTV cameras, secured a ‘clearup’ rate in line with the national average of 20%.  Nearby Tower Hamlets, meanwhile, returned similar figures despite having nearly ten times as many cameras on their streets.

London’s 10,000 CCTV cameras are estimated to have cost the taxpayer nearly £200 million, yet 81% of Leyton and Wanstead residents participating in a survey conducted by the Liberal Democrats suggested that they still felt unsafe after dark.

The figures appear to confirm research by the crime reduction charity NACRO, who claim that greater investment in alternative measures such as extra street lighting would be more effective in tackling criminal behaviour.  95% of local residents also wanted more police on the streets, whilst 77% backed greater night patrols.

Liberal Democrat  councillor Keith Rayner (Cann Hall) said:

“These ‘clearup’ figures suggest that the ‘surveillance society’ we are living in isn’t helping in the fight against crime.

“We need to think again to ensure that we are implementing the most effective methods for tackling criminal behaviour.  Residents have told us that they want to see police officers and wardens on their streets.

“Whilst CCTV has a part to play, the sense of security that visible street patrols give residents is crucial.

The plea for a revision of current crime prevention tactics comes after the Liberal Democrats pledged to ‘roll back’ what Cllr Rayner called an “erosion in the liberties of the British people”.

“This Government has given the state unprecedented powers to invade the lives of its citizens.  The Liberal Democrats are committed to the immediate repeal of the Identity Cards Act, the destruction of all DNA samples taken from those not charged or convicted and a greater regulation of CCTV”

Leyton and Wanstead Crime Survey Results:

Q1: Do you feel more or less likely to be the victim of crime?

More:  62%
Same: 31%
Less:  5%

Q2: Do you feel safe after dark?

Safe: 15%
Unsafe: 81%

Q3: Have you been the victim of crime, or no someone who has?

Yes: 61%
No: 33%

Q4: Do you support LD plans to abandon ID Cards and put more police on the streets?

Yes: 75%
No: 20%

Q5: What are your priority areas for policing?

Night patrols: 77%
Shopping areas: 41%
Open spaces: 27%

Q6: Should residents have more say in policing?

Yes: 89%
No: 6%

Q7: Should residents have the power to close pubs and clubs?

Yes: 92%
No: 5%

Q8: Are there enough police on patrol?

Yes: 2%
No: 95%