Cheltenham Liberal Democrats have selected a new leadership team to deliver on the commitments made in the party’s local election manifesto.
At the Cheltenham Borough Council Meeting of 22 March, a Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill motion was passed, proposed by Cllr Martin Horwood and seconded by Cllr Angie Boyes.
The motion was voted in favour by Liberal Democrats, but the Conservative Councillors abstained.
The climate emergency is the biggest threat to humanity. We have to act fast. Rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes are required in all aspects of society.
As the world slowly starts to recover from the Global pandemic, which has and will have long lasting and deep impacts especially on the most disadvantaged in the world, climate change and ecological renewal must be at the centre of the recovery.
This week sees an exciting step in the Minster Exchange Project that I have been working on, the council has entered into a pioneering joint venture between the public and private sector, with a group of local entrepreneurs, who brought forward the concept of a modular construction to provide a workshop space to support small business, over the last two years this has evolved into something altogether bigger.
Alex Chalk slammed for backing “dangerous & draconian” Police Bill The Cheltenham Liberal Democrats have called for the bill which takes away our freedoms to be stopped in its tracks.
In a letter to Alex Chalk, Liberal Democrat spokesperson Max Wilkinson for Cheltenham urge the Conservative MP to “stop the dangerous and draconian Bill in its tracks”
1% pay rise is an insult to our NHS heroes says Lib Dems.
Liberal Democrats have slammed the Conservative Government's insulting pay offer to NHS workers.
Our town’s response to the pandemic is something we can all be proud of. Our NHS staff, teachers, key workers and volunteers have put in so much effort and helped so many. It’s right that Cheltenham remembers this – so much compassion deserves a lasting legacy.
510 EU citizens in Cheltenham are stuck in limbo as ‘Settled Status’ backlog soars.
These are hard times. Anyone who is furloughed and unable to work because of Covid restrictions, or who has been made redundant or is on a reduced income will be finding it tough right now. Things are not going to get easier for some while.
It can also be particularly hard if you are home-schooling children or looking after elderly relatives.
That is why organisations across Cheltenham have come together to help those who are finding life really hard at the moment. #FeedCheltenham and our community food banks and pantries, along with Cheltenham Borough Council, Churches and Cheltenham Borough Homes, and yes, even local supermarkets are all here to help.
Funding worth £3million secured by Cheltenham Borough Council to develop 200 town centre homes on the site of Portland Street car park will have to be handed back to Homes England as the plans have fallen through.
The funding was secured to help facilitate the delivery of around 200 homes, 40% of which would have been affordable, on the site of the town centre car park - which would not have happened without this funding due to the potential additional costs of developing on this site.
But after the developer who owns the site, MF Freeman, put the site back on the market as a car park and little prospect of work beginning before the funding deadline of March 2022, we had to withdraw from the agreement and give the money back because the conditions attached to the funding could no longer be met.
This is a disappointing result for what looked to be an ambitious scheme to transform this part of the town centre and provide much needed affordable housing in a popular location.
A new Foodbank has been launched to help struggling residents across the south side of Cheltenham.
We all rely on utility companies for Water, Electricity and Gas, but the winter weather reminds us that some people are more vulnerable than others, and may need extra help or support, especially if there is a supply interruption.
Did you know that this support is there via the Priority Services Register?
If your household is eligible, you just need to sign-up.
This May, directly elected mayors, police commissioners and councillors across England are up for re-election. In Cheltenham, we’ll be electing all our county councillors and half our borough councillors.
When this happens, it’s really important that the records of the individuals involved and their parties are put under scrutiny. And it’s also an important test of how people think the government is doing too. And for that scrutiny to be applied, candidates and incumbents need to be able to campaign. It’s a democratic tradition going back hundreds of years in this country and we are rightly proud of it.
This year, however, the Conservatives are doing everything they can to put the mockers on a free and fair election.
One of the few bright points of the recent difficult times is the obvious strength we have in our communities.
We can all be proud of how our town has pulled together to look after our most vulnerable neighbours.
Whether it’s been community efforts to provide food for struggling families when the government failed to step up, or neighbours looking in on one another, we all know moving stories about local generosity. We have watched friends and families pulling together, neighbours and whole streets supporting each other.
So many people are doing all that can be done to support and protect our most vulnerable residents.
The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Chancellor for failing to introduce a comprehensive plan to save jobs after it was revealed that 3450 people in Cheltenham are currently on Universal Credit.
Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine criticised Rishi Sunak's "constant chop-and-change approach", urging him to put in place a proper plan to protect jobs as the Government still struggles to get a grip over rising cases of coronavirus.
The figures revealed that 5.2% of people of working age in Cheltenham are on Universal Credit.
Following this, Liberal Democrats urged local Conservative MP Alex Chalk to join their calls for the Chancellor to ensure the furlough scheme remains in place until at least June 2021, as well as overturning their decision to ignore the 3 million individuals still locked out of any Government coronavirus support schemes.
This follows the Liberal Democrats' call for the Prime Minister to negotiate a 6 month Adjustment Period for businesses, giving them crucial breathing space once the UK leaves the transition period.
The Cheltenham Liberal Democrat-run Borough council is working with local schools to involve young people in the town in taking positive climate action by planting trees on school land.
The borough council declared a climate emergency earlier this year and has an ambitious target of becoming a carbon-neutral town by 2030.
As part of this, a huge effort is underway to plant more trees, and the council is urging schools to gain support from The Woodland Trust’s Trees for Schools scheme and help children to get involved.
Naunton Park Primary School has already signed up and has started planting 150 trees at its school in Leckhampton; Warden Hill School’s Eco Committee pupils and teachers planted around 200 trees on 8 December; Holy Apostles School is planting trees in the coming weeks, and Rowanfield Junior School is also planting 400 trees as part of its forest school sessions.
Cllr Max Wilkinson, cabinet member for climate and communities, said: "I’m inspired by all the children and teachers at schools across our town who are taking part in tree-planting to help draw attention to the climate emergency.
"Some of my earliest memories are of attending tree-planting projects. I know that it instilled in me a lifelong commitment to the environment and I hope it will do the same for pupils in Cheltenham schools.
"Our Carbon Neutral Cheltenham report highlights tree planting as one of the ways we can offset carbon emissions, everybody should have a chance to play their part, not least the children who are the future custodians of our town and our planet.
“It would be lovely to see trees being planted at every school in our borough, no matter what space is available. We’d like to support every school to sign up to the Woodland Trust’s scheme and our expert officers can give advice on tree-planting if support is needed.
For more information on the Lib Dem council’s climate emergency work visit the council’s website: www.cheltenham.gov.uk/climate-emergency.
Our hospitals and those who work in them have been at the heart of the Coronavirus fight. They have done a great job. We thank them and all NHS and Care Staff for their work and commitment. They are why the future of our Hospitals is so important to all of us.
Recently, Cheltenham councillors met the Hospitals' Trust to talk about reorganisation proposals currently being discussed. These proposals are of great concern, not least because of the timing of them and implications for services.
We are in the midst of a pandemic. Our medical services are at the edge of being able to cope. Is this really the time to be concentrating on shifting departments, facilities and staff around?
Young Liberal Jessica Jeffries has added her voice to the campaign to end period poverty, calling on Cheltenham's MP Alex Chalk to take action.
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.
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."