New Budget for Cheltenham

This is a difficult time for council finances - not just in Cheltenham, but across the country. 

We have already seen one council in the country effectively declare itself bust by issuing a notice to stop all non-essential spending because the government hasn’t given them enough to make ends meet – we won’t let that happen here.

What our town deserves right now is strong and clear leadership that is not afraid to propose and make difficult decisions. 

So under the new leadership of Cllr Rowena Hay, Cheltenham Borough Council has re-evaluated its budget to make sure that the numbers add up and our investment is heading in the right direction to take us through this difficult period. 

The Government said it would give us money to cover additional spending and lost income as a result of Covid, but we are still facing a budget deficit in this financial year of £1.831m. The Government's numbers just don't add up.

The grant this council receives from the Government to provide vital services to you has fallen to zero since 2011 – so we’ve made savings of £9.6million since then to make sure we can still deliver those services without their support.

While we have had to reconsider our finances, we haven't compromised on doing what's best for the people of our town.

We have set up the Cheltenham Economic Recovery Taskforce to support the town’s ambitions to rebuild from the crisis caused by the pandemic. 

We are investing a further £1.5m to realise our ambition to make Cheltenham the cyber capital of the UK through the Golden Valley Development.

We are continuing with our major house building investment programme worth £100 million.

We are continuing our work to achieve a carbon-neutral council and carbon-neutral borough by 2030.

We're investing even more into our work to reduce child poverty through the No Child Left Behind scheme.

 

 


Govt plan for Green Industrial Revolution doesn't live up to the hype

The government has unveiled its latest plan to fight the climate emergency - a goal that we all share across party lines for the sake of our environment and safeguarding the future we owe to the next generation.

Of the £12bn of 'new' investment promised for this vital task, just £4bn of it is actually new investment. The rest is funding that has already been announced previously.

A £12bn investment also pales in comparison to what other countries are investing in tackling the climate emergency - with Germany planning to invest €42bn and France €35bn. What the government is promising just doesn't live up to the hype.

With limited plans to extend the Green Homes Grant, and little in the way of funding for improving biodiversity and protecting the peatlands, boglands and woodlands that are vital to our ecosystem and any work needed to tackle the emergency in the UK, this plan will not deliver the change we need here in Cheltenham to protect the environment and improve lives. 

Hopes for greater investment in active travel in Gloucestershire have also been dashed by mismanagement of previous funding by the Conservatives in Shire Hall.

The Government recently released the final tranche of Active Travel Funding – a pot of money to spend on walking and cycling infrastructure to encourage people out of their cars. Despite requesting £10milion, Gloucestershire has received just £864,750.

When discussing the allocations earlier in the year, the Government confirmed the money would be awarded to those councils who had best-reallocated road space to people walking and cycling during the first phase of funding.

To receive so little for the final round shows their own Government doesn’t trust Gloucestershire Conservatives to spend the active travel funding well. This failure has cost all residents dearly, resulting in a £9 million black hole for walking and cycling schemes. 

Responding to the Government's "Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution", Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Cheltenham, Max Wilkinson, said:

"We need to go much further, much faster, in our efforts to tackle the climate emergency.

"As the local council cabinet member responsible for driving forward projects on this, I want to see much more done to make local buildings more energy-efficient, enable local sustainable energy production, support green transport and so much more.

"We also need so much more help for businesses who want to make positive changes too and in Cheltenham we are working hard on making our economic recovery green and sustainable.

"At the moment, the progress is just too slow and those of us trying to make things happen on the ground need much more support."

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

"This plan fails to undo the damage the Conservatives have done to the UK's progress on climate change over the past five years. It pledges to continue selling fossil fuel-powered hybrid cars past 2030 and promises to extend the Green Homes Grant by just one year.

"We need a long term plan, backed by meaningful funding, to tackle the climate emergency and kickstart a green recovery from Covid-19, alongside a new Department of Climate Change to coordinate this plan and a significant devolution of powers across the UK, not more piecemeal pledges. 
 
"Liberal Democrats are calling for £150 billion in funding for a Green Economic Recovery, with investment across every sector of the UK economy to fuel sustainable growth."

Back in Lockdown

Councillor Steve Jordan provides an update on lockdown in Cheltenham.

Sadly we are back in lockdown. In Cheltenham Covid cases are running at about half the national average but have increased compared to the low levels during the summer. With the increasing numbers of cases across the county it had looked inevitable for weeks that there would be a new lockdown in England. While there is now positive news about an effective vaccine it will be some time before that is widely available and with winter coming things risk getting worse before they get better.

Read more

Rowena Hay – a woman with a plan for our town

A plan for Cheltenham from Councillor Rowena Hay, the new leader of Cheltenham Borough Council.

This has been a time of great upheaval for us all. Our communities face many and varied challenges. As the new leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, I will make sure our communities are able to not just recover from the pandemic, but also prosper in a way that respects our environment too.  We have a plan for this.

Read more

Chalk must vote to welcome refugees

The Cheltenham Liberal Democrats have called on local Conservative MP Alex Chalk to this week vote in favour of safe and legal routes to sanctuary for vulnerable refugees.

In a letter to Alex Chalk, Cheltenham Liberal Democrat spokesperson Max Wilkinson argued that safe and legal routes are the best way to “combat people smuggling and human trafficking” and to prevent “dangerous attempts to cross the Channel.”

This Wednesday [04/11/2020] Alex Chalk will have the power to protect vulnerable refugees by backing an amendment to the Immigration Bill, just days after four people, including children, tragically lost their lives trying to cross the Channel.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

"Within just the last few days, yet more people have tragically lost their lives trying to cross the Channel. It is utterly heartbreaking, especially for the friends and families left behind.

"It’s hard to imagine how desperate people must be to climb into these boats in search of a better life. It just isn't right that vulnerable people are left no choice but to make these perilous attempts.”

Liberal Democrat spokesperson Max Wilkinson for Cheltenham added:

"Our priority must be to save lives, and that means providing safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK for refugees.

"For Alex Chalk, that means doing the only decent thing and voting to maintain the rights for refugees in Europe to be reunited with their families and ensure that unaccompanied child refugees can be resettled in the UK.“Our MP is a patron of GARAS but his voting record hasn’t been in support of helping refugees. It’s about time he did the right thing.“I’m proud that Cheltenham has such a strong record of supporting refugees and I hope our MP will match the town’s commitment.”

Support our call to protect vulnerable refugees? Sign the petition

 


Community unites to #FeedCheltenham after local MP votes against free lunches for thousands of hungry children

This week, Cheltenham's Conservative MP, Alex Chalk, voted against extending funding for free school meals into the school holidays - leaving thousands of children from low-income backgrounds in our town at risk of going without food this Christmas.

16,750 children across Gloucestershire are in low-income households entitled to free school meals. For many families facing financial challenges at this difficult time, free school meals are a lifeline that can make the difference between a child having a hot meal every day or going to bed hungry. But food poverty doesn't end when the school term does.

But community organisations in Cheltenham are uniting to support children and families in Cheltenham - through a holiday hunger scheme that will run throughout the half-term holiday.

The scheme, organised as part of the #feedcheltenham network, provides a range of options including food parcels, a home-cooked, family-sized meal or supermarket vouchers to families who might otherwise go without.

The work is part of a wider effort to ensure people have access to affordable food throughout the year, with a particular focus on supporting people during the pandemic. However, local community food providers are already reporting that food supplies are starting to run out and would like to remind people how important it is to keep on donating, either food or cash.  

The work also forms part of the Cheltenham Borough Council-led collective commitment to No Child Left Behind, a programme of work that is raising the issues of child poverty in the town and promoting the ethos of compassion and kindness within many of the town’s schools and organisations.

Cllr Roger Whyborn, mayor of Cheltenham, thanks the community food network for their incredible work: “During the pandemic, the community food network was providing the equivalent of over 2.5k meals per week to vulnerable people in Cheltenham, demonstrating how kindness and compassion flourished even in difficult times.

“I want to make sure that our local community food banks and food projects have access to sufficient food and money to meet food needs and I’m asking Cheltenham people to once again demonstrate their kindness by continuing to donate.”

Councillor Flo Clucas, cabinet member for healthy lifestyles, said: “I’m so proud of the tireless work of our community food providers – without them, so many people would struggle as many children and families would go hungry. But they are dependent on the kindness and generosity of local people for donations of food or cash. As winter approaches, I’m asking Cheltonians to come together and once again demonstrate the kindness for which they are renowned.”

For more information on the scheme including how to get help and support, download the Holiday Hunger leaflet.

 

Monetary donations can be made in the following ways: www.cheltenham.gov.uk/holiday-hunger-donations.

By small standing order, ideally weekly, to Mayor of Cheltenham’s Charity: account 00610720, sort code 20 20 15, reference: MFBank.

The Mayor of Cheltenham’s Food Bank Fund: https://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/payments

Feed Cheltenham crowdfunder: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/mayors-food-bank-fund-cheltenham

Buy Cheltenham Lottery tickets at www.CheltenhamLottery.co.uk and search for Foodbank or at 01242 396124. 50% of ticket sales go to The Mayor’s Food Bank Fund, and you could win up to £25,000.

Cheque to Mayor of Cheltenham’s Charity, PO Box 12, Promenade, GL50 1PP
Please ensure that MAYOR’S FOOD BANK fund is written on the back of the cheque along with your address.

Food parcel donations are also welcome at individual food projects:

Cheltenham Open Door: cheltenhamopendoor.org.uk/donate/

Cheltenham Food Bank Trussell Trust): cheltenham.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-food/

CCP (Caring for Communities and People): www.ccp.org.uk/donate-food

Springbank Community Food Bank: uk.gofundme.com/f/springbank-community-food-bank

Cornerstone Centre: www.cornerstonecentre.org.uk

St Peters and The Moors Big Local – Reduce Food Waste Project: sptm.org.uk


Max Wilkinson slams Chalk for 'heartless' child hunger vote

Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Cheltenham Max Wilkinson has criticised the town’s Conservative MP for a ‘heartless’ vote on child hunger.

Max reacted angrily after Alex Chalk voted on Wednesday night against extending the free school meals scheme. The Lib Dems have joined Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford in calling for more help to end child hunger.


“People across Cheltenham will be staggered by their MP’s heartless actions in parliament,” said Max.

“Chalk has visited our town’s food banks and told the press that he knew life was a struggle, but yet he still can’t bring himself to vote to lessen the pain felt by hard-pressed families – even in a national emergency.

“I’ve visited local foodbanks and spoken to struggling local families, so I know how hard they have it.

“Our MP has shown a complete lack of sympathy for the most vulnerable people in our town and it’s a total disgrace.”

The opposition amendment was voted down by Conservative MPs. If successful, the scheme would have seen 1.4million disadvantaged children in England given £15-a-week food vouchers during school holidays until Easter 2021.

In the South West of England, 13.3% of children in nursery and primary school settings rely on free school meals - along with 11.4% of young people in secondary schools.

Click here to sign the Liberal Democrat campaign to end child hunger


Brexit - remember that?

A year ago the Gloucestershire Local Resilience Forum was meeting weekly to plan for the consequences of a no deal Brexit. This work was being mirrored across the country. However, when the government eventually made a deal with the EU the LRF was stood down and plans put on the shelf.

Read more

The threat to affordable housing in Cheltenham

The Conservative Government are planning disastrous reforms to the planning system, that will have detrimental effects to the delivery of affordable housing in Cheltenham - and on your ability to have your say on what gets built around you.

Read more

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey visits Cheltenham on his national listening tour

Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, visited Cheltenham today as part of his national listening tour.

The first stop on his whistle-stop tour of Cheltenham was a visit to Springbank community food bank, helping the incredible team of volunteers alongside Cllr Suzanne Williams distributing food parcels to those in need in the local area. Ed spoke to one of the local residents supported by the scheme about how she is handling life in our strange new COVID world, and how she is coping as a carer for her mother at a time where social care faces more challenges than ever before.

Next, a trip to local independent restaurant Bar and Wok with Max Wilkinson to meet representatives from TURF Cheltenham - a group set up by local hospitality business owners to promote independent businesses in Cheltenham and work together to tackle shared challenges.

Independent hospitality businesses have been hit hard by the new lockdown restrictions. We all need to do everything we can to keep people safe, and hospitality venues have gone the extra mile in making their venues COVID-secure. However, one issue facing these businesses sticks out like a sore thumb. the 10 pm curfew.

Scenes of pub-goers getting kicked out onto the streets and on to public transport in large groups at 10 pm have shown that the curfew is bad for public health and bad for business. With Ministers failing to publish any evidence that the 10 pm curfew works, people are right to raise questions when it appears to be undermining other public health measures and is putting their jobs on the line.

Our Lib Dem spokesperson for Cheltenham has written to Alex Chalk, calling for him to vote against the curfew and work with government ministers to find a better solution to reducing the risks of transmission in hospitality settings. The Government must provide tailored support for the industries impacted by the COVID restrictions to save jobs and businesses in Cheltenham.

It wouldn't be a Lib Dem visit without some door knocking - so local activist and council candidate Alisha Lewis took Ed to meet some residents in St Paul's ward. From health and social care to education and unemployment, Ed spoke with residents about the work Liberal Democrats in Parliament are doing to tackle the issues they're facing in their daily lives.

Alisha and Ed also discussed the work Lib Dem run Cheltenham Borough Council is doing to support residents, from COVID impact support to pavement politics like potholes and street cleaning. It is clear that the Conservative government is letting down so many residents in the area, with residents who have reached out to local MP Alex Chalk for support finding an unsympathetic ear.

Ed's listening tour is all about listening to you and understanding the different challenges communities across the country are facing as we lead the fight for a fairer country. 

We want you to be part of that fight.

More than 100,000 people are Liberal Democrat members. Help us build a greener, fairer, more caring Britain by joining today.

Join the Liberal Democrats


Decline in walking in Cheltenham demands climate-first approach, Lib Dems say

The Liberal Democrats have used their Autumn Conference to agree a series of measures to build a green recovery and tackle the climate emergency, including encouraging active travel through walking and cycling.

Read more

"The right time to handover"

For anyone involved in politics the chance to step down at a time of your own choosing is a luxury as often other people, usually the voters, get to decide it for you.  I have that luxury so why am I stepping down as leader of the council?

Read more

Councillor Steve Jordan to step down as leader of Cheltenham Borough Council after 12 years

On Tuesday 29 September 2020, Councillor Steve Jordan leader of Cheltenham Borough Council has announced that after 30 years of dedicated service as a ward councillor and the last 12 years as leader, he will be stepping down as a councillor at the next election in May 2021.

Read more

How do you deal with an emergency during a crisis?

I don’t think anyone would disagree that the COVID pandemic is a crisis for the world, the country and for us locally. Sadly the number of cases is rising again and the government has announced a renewed clampdown on what we can do. While cases in Cheltenham are higher than a few weeks ago they are still comparatively low thanks to the hard work and cooperation of so many people. Realistically we will only solve this when we get an effective vaccine.

Read more

Lib Dems call for furlough extension

Lib Dems call for furlough extension as 5.5% of people claim Universal Credit in Cheltenham

key_extendfurlough.jpg

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an extension of the Government’s furlough scheme until the jobs market is “ready to bounce back” in the wake of “staggering job losses” across the country. 

Read more

Poverty in Cheltenham: Time to talk

Our new candidate for Up Hatherley, Dr Jermaine Ravalier, discusses poverty in the UK and how it touches our lives in Cheltenham in his first post on the Cheltenham Lib Dem blog.

It’s time to talk about people living in poverty. Poverty in the UK, and poverty in Cheltenham more specifically.

Before the COVID pandemic, Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC) found that over 4,000 children and young people in the town are growing up in poverty, with over 40% of young people in some parts living in poverty.

However, despite work that CBC has put in place to support those in poverty, it is becoming increasingly clear that Conservative government cuts are leaving more and more families in poverty.

Last year the Trussell Trust foodbank in Cheltenham gave out over 2,700 emergency food parcels to families in need. Earlier this year, the lack of funding for Cheltonians was
highlighted in that Mayor Roger Whyborn had to raise money to support our local foodbanks.

So, not only do many of our friends and neighbours have to rely on food banks because of the Conservatives, those very same food banks do not have enough money to help feed
those who need it.

In the UK more widely it is estimated that 9 out of every 30 children in any class are living in poverty. And before arguments about the ‘work-shy’ begin, 72% of children living in poverty have at least one working parent in their household. There are 600,000 more children living in poverty now than when the Conservatives came into power – and this is before the effects of COVID hit the economy.

Since the Conservatives came into government, they have drastically cut services – in Cheltenham and the rest of the country – which sought to support the poorest among us. Sure start, libraries (773 closed since 2010), universal credit, and drastically reduced support for charities – all have meant increases in poverty and reduced ability to move out of poverty (i.e. poorer social mobility).

The effects of poverty can be seen widely – it’s not just about being able to eat, clothe ourselves, and heat our homes. In Cheltenham, there is a huge difference in school grades achieved between those on Free School Meals and their peers. It took a social media campaign by a 22-year-old footballer just to get this government to agree that the poorest children in Cheltenham and beyond should be allowed to eat over the summer, with a number of Conservative MPs blaming parents for their children’s food poverty (remember: most are working).

Poverty affects health (physical and mental) and how well students and adults do in education, among many things. This government – and this Conservative Cheltenham MP – is responsible for more children and families entering into – and staying in – poverty.


Introducing - Cllr Victoria Atherstone

I have a huge passion for Cheltenham and the welfare of its people. In May 2018 I was elected to Cheltenham Borough Council to represent St Peters ward where I live.

Read more

Helping our communities to tackle the climate emergency

The climate emergency is the single biggest challenge that we face. When the horrors of COVID-19 and the pain of the fallout are over, the world will still be faced with an even graver threat.

Read more

Cheltenham Liberal Democrats call for rail fare freeze

Cheltenham Liberal Democrats call for a rail fare freeze

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the annual increase in rail fares to be cancelled, a move which would save commuters in Cheltenham around £175.55 next year, according to the Party's analysis.

£175.55 annual saving on a 2021 rail season ticket between Cheltenham Spa and London Terminals. Cheltenham to Bristol Temple Meads commuters would save £49.66 on an equivalent ticket.

key_gwrtrain.jpeg

Read more

Lib Dems strengthen efforts to tackle climate change and boost Covid recovery

Plans to tackle the climate emergency and Covid-19 recovery have been strengthened today, Tuesday 1 September with two new roles announced in the borough council’s cabinet.

Council leader Steve Jordan has assigned two new posts, economy and development, and, climate and communities to two new cabinet members: Cllr Victoria Atherstone and Cllr Max Wilkinson.

 

 

Read more

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Email.

Find us on Facebook