Covid-19 response - it’s time to seize the moment on walking and cycling

If you carry on doing things like you’ve always done them and expect a different outcome, then you’re fooling yourself.

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The High Street gradually coming back to life

Many more shops have now reopened and it is good to see that the High Street is gradually coming back to life.

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Update from the Cheltenham Liberal Democrats regarding the use of racist words by councillor Dennis Parsons

The Liberal Democrat Group on Cheltenham Borough Council have voted to suspend the group membership of Dennis Parsons, effective immediately.

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Statement by the Cheltenham Liberal Democrats regarding the use of racist words by councillor Dennis Parsons

During a debate on racial bias in an online Cheltenham Borough Council meeting on the 15th of June, Lib Dem councillor for Pittville - Dennis Parsons, repeatedly used a racist word when recalling an anecdote from his childhood.

The use of that word and related statements were completely unacceptable, and I immediately received a number of complaints from fellow Lib Dem councillors. I spoke to Dennis on Monday evening and discussed the incident in detail. Dennis has subsequently issued an apology.

While I accept that Dennis did not set out to cause offence, that in itself is not enough to excuse the use of such language, and as Liberal Democrats we expect our members and councillors to behave with the utmost sensitivity to racial and cultural issues.

When institutional and unconscious bias is a daily reality for the black community, along with the appalling incidents of overt racism and violence that continue to blight society on both sides of the Atlantic, we all have a duty to choose our words with care and sensitivity at all
times.

Senior figures within the local Party have requested that Dennis consider his position and resign. He has not chosen to follow that path, and as a result complaints procedures have been initiated locally within the Cheltenham Liberal Democrat party and council group, and in parallel, a separate complaint has also been lodged with the national party HQ.

I will be working closely with relevant bodies to ensure that these complaints are dealt with fairly and as a matter of urgency.

Nick Baird

Chair, Cheltenham Liberal Democrats


‘Black Lives Matter’ isn't a statement of the obvious

The death of George Floyd happened thousands of miles away in Minneapolis but has had a big impact here in and in many places round the world.

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Local Lib Dems win award for helping people amidst coronavirus crisis

The Liberal Democrats have announced that local councillors Peter Jeffries and Suzanne Williams have been added to the Liberal Democrat Community Champions Hall of Fame for their work to help some of the most vulnerable in Cheltenham during the coronavirus crisis

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We aren’t taking the government’s Covid grant…but are you eligible for help?

We have just made a big decision.  Cheltenham Liberal Democrats were eligible for a grant as part of the Conservative government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.  

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Dominic Cummings & The Coronavirus Lockdown - Max Wilkinson's letter to Alex Chalk MP

In response to the news that Dominic Cummings, advisor to the Prime Minister, took a series of journeys from London to the North of England while ill during the Coronavirus lockdown concerns have been raised by many in Cheltenham that he may have defied the Government guidance that keeps us all safe - damaging public trust in the scheme. As Conservative MPs responded to the news, Max Wilkinson, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Cheltenham and Oakley Ward borough councillor, reached out to our local Conservative MP Alex Chalk for a response. We will share it when it comes in.

 

Max's letter, in full, is reproduced below:

 

Dear Alex

I hope this email finds you well and that your family is doing OK during the lockdown.

It’s a few days since the news broke about Dominic Cummings and his trip to Durham, while he was suffering suspected Coronavirus.

Many opinions about this have been expressed and I cannot add much to what has already been said.

While some have said they are sympathetic, many more have expressed anger at what appears to be actions that risk the national effort against Coronavirus, without believable mitigating factors. I tend to take a generous view of the actions of those under stress and pressure. We all know that things can sometimes go awry – we are all human. Furthermore, many people may have moved around under lockdown with good reason, whether that may be a relationship breakdown, moving house or the need to get to a safe place. Nobody would seek to deny those people their rights to do those things, in line with the rules. However, it seems that Dominic Cummings made at least one unnecessary trip, despite his position as a senior advisor to the Prime Minister. People rightly expect that those in government who set the rules should also follow those rules.

I would be interested to know whether you support the actions of Dominic Cummings and whether you feel it is appropriate for him to remain in his role as advisor to the Prime Minister. In line with the views of many local people, I’m not interested in an apology from Mr Cummings, nor am I interested in further explanations of his actions.

His lack of apology and his explanations are all on the record for people to judge. I’m interested in whether you support the principle that those who set the rules, including Mr Cummings, should follow them. Do you support his continuing employment by the government of our country?

Many Conservative MPs have said they think Mr Cummings should resign and one Minister has already resigned in protest.

As well as being a member of the government, you are our local MP. Cheltenham people deserve to know what you think.

We await your response.

Yours sincerely

 

Cllr Max Wilkinson

Oakley ward
Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Cheltenham


Mental Health Awareness Week in the Coronavirus era

The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year is kindness. One of the real positives among all the bad news has been that there have been so many acts of individual kindness and so many people trying to help. Can we capture that and keep it going for the future? I very much hope so.

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Changes to Household Recycling Centres - Cheltenham Borough Council Leader's Coronavirus update 13/05/2020

As the government makes the first moves in relaxing the lockdown there will be many difficult decisions to be made. Everyone is trying to prevent a new surge in COVID-19 while allowing the economy to recover, but the messages in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are now all slightly different.

That reflects local decisions based on local circumstances and it may be that what happens in different parts of England could also vary as things progress.

This week in Cheltenham, we reopened the Household Recycling Centre at Swindon Road. It was initially closed along with the vast majority of HRC’s in the country as it was impossible to ensure appropriate distancing. Ubico, the council-owned company that collects our rubbish, put all their effort in to keeping the kerbside collection going. They have done a remarkable job in achieving that despite all the difficulties not least a big increase in rubbish collected with so many more people at home all day.

Over the last few weeks we have been working out how the HRC could reopen safely. It is something the government has been encouraging but made clear residents should only take waste to the HRC if it cannot be stored safely at home with no alternative ways to dispose of it.

Ubico have the right number of staff with the right equipment as well as applying restrictions to try and prevent too many people turning up at once. It was also done at the same time as the county council reopened their HRC’s at Hempsted and Wingmore. As with everything else, it also relies on the goodwill and common sense of people using the site. So far things are going well.

The HRC is a valued service but currently costs thousands a week extra to run safely. It is just a small part of what we as a council aim to do to help with the recovery process locally but that will depend on government honouring their promise of continuing support for local government or there will be more tough decisions on what we stop doing.


Hope in the community: Springbank Community Food Bank

Coronavirus has changed our lives in so many ways, keeping us apart as we stay home to protect the NHS and those we love. But it has also brought us closer together, inspiring incredible volunteer projects across Cheltenham that have sprung up to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our community. One such project is the Springbank Community Food Bank.

The foodbank, now based at Springbank Community Resource Centre, was set up by local volunteers to meet the increased demand for support created by the Coronavirus crisis. Over the past six weeks, the newly established food bank has supported over 1000 requests for help, helping 1246 adults and 806 children through the delivery of food parcels.

Most of the parcels have been delivered in the West of Cheltenham, but volunteers have also responded to requests from all over town and further afield.

As well as volunteers, the Food Bank has also received support from several supermarkets, local businesses, charities and both Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Borough Councils.

Local Councillor Suzanne Williams, who has been helping to deliver parcels said: “People and families using this service are from the whole demographic range, young care leavers, older couples, average families, single parents, single adults, couples, large families and everyone in-between."

Lyam Galpin and Faith Rooke-Mathews have been coordinating the volunteers.

Lyam said “We have been continually amazed at the response we have had in our calls for help since we started back in March. We now have a great pool of volunteers who are packing and delivering food parcels, collecting donations, sorting donations and investigating ways of sustaining the project for as long as possible.

"The public have been incredibly generous with their donations of both food and money and for that, we are incredibly grateful – we really couldn't do this without your help.”

If you, or someone you know, need support from the Food Bank, you can contact the team on: 07545 324225 or email: [email protected]

If you would like to support the team, they are accepting donations via GoFundMe to help them buy the goods they need to keep delivering these vital food parcels. You can donate here: Donate to Springbank Community Food Bank


We can get through this together

Margaret Thatcher famously once said ‘There’s no such thing as society.’ She was wrong. 

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Funding needed to avoid future cuts to local services

Dealing with the immediate impact of COVID-19 continues but this needs funding by central government to avoid later cuts to local services just when they are needed most.

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Cheltenham Mayor launches Food Bank Fund

This week the Mayor of Cheltenham Councillor Roger Whyborn has launched the ‘Mayor’s Food Bank Fund’ which aims to raise funds for local food banks who are struggling to cope amidst a fall in donations and limited supplies.

Councillor Roger Whyborn said: ‘’As some residents’ financial situation has become extremely difficult we’ve seen demand at local food banks going up by more than three times during the Coronavirus lockdown.

‘’Many people have also found it difficult to donate to food banks in the Coronavirus crisis, sometimes because they cannot leave home themselves. So the Mayor’s food bank fund aims to raise vital funds to ensure these services can continue to help individuals and families across Cheltenham.’’

Councillor Peter Jeffries on behalf of Springbank community food bank said: ‘’Like other food related projects across our town, Springbank food bank are supporting those that need food right now. Volunteers sort through donations, packing and delivering hundreds of food parcels across the west of the town every week. However, we are donation dependent and this can sometimes be unpredictable, so if people can support the Mayor’s appeal these funds can be turned into much needed support across the town.’’

Anyone who wants to donate to this fund can do so in the following ways:

  • Making an online donation to www.cheltenham.gov.uk/payments and choose ‘Mayor’s Food Bank Fund’. It is a great way to support people while staying safe.
  • 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.
  • Send a cheque payable to Cheltenham Borough Council and send it to The Mayor’s Parlour, PO Box 12, Promenade, GL50 1PP. Please write ‘Mayor’s Food Bank Fund’ on the back and your address.

For more details on the Coronavirus health guidelines, and the support available from Cheltenham Borough Council, check out the latest resources on their website: https://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/coronavirus


"What we can all do to tackle the Coronavirus and save lives"

"At the start of my Mayoral year I could not imagine I’d be writing this: I said in a speech half-way through the year that Cheltenham was in rude health materially; now we face a very unexpected challenge."

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Back our frontline support package

Day after day, our NHS and care staff are putting their lives at risk to keep us safe and care for the critically ill, suffering from coronavirus.

Working long shifts, often isolated from their families, the sacrifices they are making for us all during this pandemic are incredible.

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Cheltenham Borough Council Leader's Coronavirus update: 16/04/2020

The team at Cheltenham Borough Council have been working tirelessly over the past few weeks to protect local people, services and businesses at this uncertain time.

Read the latest update from Steve Jordan, Leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, on the council's work in response to the Coronavirus:

"As for many others, the last few weeks for the council have been a frenzy of activity. I would break this down into 3 main areas.

"The first has been to understand rapidly changing national government guidance and new schemes such as grants for businesses and then working with others to decide how best to implement them locally as quickly as possible. While perhaps understandable, it has often taken government longer to roll out detailed guidance or circulate key data than they had originally hoped.

"The second area was physically changing how we do things. This has involved everyone altering how they work but the biggest impact has been adapting to home working and the huge increase in conference calls. While the technology already existed for this, ramping up the capacity and making sure everyone can use the kit has taken time.

"Finally, there have been decisions about individual services. Some have been shut down to comply with the latest government guidelines, others have had more people allocated to increase capacity while some, such as the Gloucestershire Community Help Hub, have even been created from scratch.

"Nobody has known an Easter weekend like it, but it did give a brief time to take stock. The work so far does seem to have brought a level of stability and we can perhaps hope it marked ‘the end of the beginning’ of the battle with COVID-19.

"While the virus has spread very quickly beating it will still be a long haul. The amazing effort of everyone involved in health and social care is essential but much of what has kept things going so far has been the charities, groups and individuals helping vulnerable people in their local areas creating a network of support. But it only takes a few key people to have to isolate for part of the network disappear overnight.

"Also, we are seeing an increasing number of homeless people needing housing along with an increase in demand for support from local food banks. Fortunately, we still have more volunteers than people needing help and we will need them all to get through this."

For more details on the Coronavirus health guidelines, and the support available from Cheltenham Borough Council, check out the latest resources on their website: https://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/coronavirus


Coronavirus update

The Cheltenham Liberal Democrats are committed to supporting our communities through this crisis. This post is going to outline the current advice from the health service and what you can do to help. We will endeavour to keep this page up to date to the best of our ability.

Where can I find the latest medical advice?

The latest medical advice can be found at www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19. As the situation is rapidly developing, medical advice is fast-changing, but at time of posting (24th March 2020), the advice is as follows:

  • If you have symptoms (high temperature or persistent cough), stay at home for 7 days
  • If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms
  • If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.
  • If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

What is the latest government advice?

The latest government response can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response. The Prime Minister is undertaking daily briefings to outline the government response. Advice from Cheltenham Borough Council can be found at https://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/coronavirus.

What will the Cheltenham Liberal Democrats be doing during the crisis?

With the request from the government to stay home with the exception of essential journeys, we will be suspending our regular door to door canvassing sessions, leaflet deliveries, and other in-person campaign activities. We will continue to use our social media profiles and email database to contact residents, provide the latest advice, and connect people who need it with the relevant support.

We encourage all residents to contact their local representatives if they need assistance, and their contact details can be found here: https://democracy.cheltenham.gov.uk/mgCommitteeMailingList.aspx?ID=0.

You can find the contact details for members of our team in your area here: https://www.cheltlibdems.org.uk/your_area

At times of crisis, it's vital that local communities come together, and we at the Cheltenham Liberal Democrats are determined to do our part for the town.


Lib Dem leadership tackling landlords and government on empty shops

Some landlords of empty shops in Cheltenham are refusing to engage in the debate on how to fill their premises, Liberal Democrats reveal today. 

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Cheltenham Lib Dem councillor joins Council of Europe

Cllr Angie Boyes, a Liberal Democrat Cheltenham Borough Councillor for Charlton Kings, has been appointed to the Council of Europe as one of its 24 UK members.

key_ABEP.jpg

The Council of Europe is an international organisation, based in Strasbourg, founded in 1949 by, amongst others, Winston Churchill and Konrad Adenauer who had lived through wars and wanted peace based on the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. 

Cllr Boyes has been appointed to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, which is an institution of the Council of Europe and is responsible for strengthening local and regional democracy in its 47 member states. The Congress is responsible for observing elections, promoting good governance and promoting the exchange of experiences and developing cross-border partnerships.

Cllr Boyes announced her appointment, reflecting on the new opportunities she will have to support the region in her new role:

"I'm delighted to have been chosen to join the UK delegation to the Council of Europe and to be able to use my place there to build strong connections to Europe for Cheltenham and Gloucestershire as a whole. I am deeply passionate about the UK’s place in Europe. In everything I do, I always promote the positivity that is gained from international collaboration, friendship and unity, and can't wait to use this new opportunity to support worthwhile causes in the region.

"I already act as an advocate for Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees and seconded a motion at Council to make Cheltenham a town of Sanctuary for Refugees. In my work on the Borough Council, I have worked tirelessly to make this policy a reality. I recently passed my TEFL qualification with distinction, in order to start teaching English to refugees. I truly understand the role that Europe and the UK play in welcoming and looking after refugees escaping persecution.

"It is important to note that this is a pan-European organisation and not an EU institution. It is about European countries coming together through shared values. The Council of Europe may well become the main platform of cooperation between political equivalents in the UK and Europe. We may have left the EU but we have not left Europe. We can still have a voice and a seat at the table when it comes to promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

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