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Membership of the Liberal Democrats locally has been growing fast with people joining from other parties and none.  Recently, our strength in the borough council has doubled – we now have 20% of the councillors and our party has moved from fourth place to second in the council.

We welcome anyone who wants a responsive and accountable local government. This can only be achieved when councillors work hand-in-hand with the people they represent. We value citizen participation. Our goal is a more open, personal and service-minded form of local government. We believe this is the key to enhancing the quality of life of all in Elmbridge.

Why aren’t we getting there? By train!

Monica Harding, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Liberal Democrats in Esher & Walton writes:  

South Western Railway has become a joke in our constituency. Failings in our transport network mean we can’t get to work on time, our children can’t get to school, and yet fares have increased again by 3.2% in the New Year. We’re being asked to pay more for less.

It is not good enough. It is unacceptable that we are not able to get to London on time – the world capital of finance in one of the largest economies in the world. This is having a negative impact on earnings which are lost, enforced time off work, childcare extras, appointments missed and so on.

While the national government fails to get a grip on poor performance, Liberal Democrat MPs are stepping up and holding the rail companies to account. They believe that passengers must come first, not the investors in South Western Railway. They are speaking up for their constituents and offering solutions and they are pressing the government to take action.

Our neighbouring Lib Dem MP, Vince Cable (Twickenham) brought an emergency debate to parliament in December on the subject of South Western Railway and Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) has set up an All Party Parliamentary Group to hold the train companies to account. In December Ed published a report ‘ Passengers Must Come First’ which spells out what needs to happen.

LibDem MPs have a reputation as good constituency MPs, working hard for their constituents and standing up for their interests. As the Liberal Democrat PPC in Esher and Walton I will work with Ed and Vince in pushing the solutions for trains in our constituency.

Here’s what needs to happen:

  • The national government must either remove SWR’s franchise or impose a new performance related contract, without negotiation.
  • SWR must not be rewarded for its manifest failure. A new contract or operator must be incentivized to put the passenger first, before shareholders. Profits should only be made once stretching performance targets are met.
  • Performance targets on SWR must include the existing Public Performance Measures improving to at least 90% on all routes by the end of 2018/20.
  • SWR and Network Rail must urgently develop new capability and capacity to manage disruptions better.
  • The Government must support immediate additional funding for essential investment.
  • Network Rail must reform its structure and culture so that managers are held accountable for performance.
  • Network Rail must be given more time to access safely the infrastructure to allow for basic maintenance and repairs.
  • The Department for Transport’s role in holding the rail companies to account should be independently assessed.

Want to know more? Follow me on twitter @monicabeharding, Facebook or at monicaharding.org and get updates as we demand better for Esher and Walton.

Guess what – Surrey admits Brexit is bad for us

Brexit is bad for us says Surrey County Council’s impact assessment – now that it has finally been revealed.

Thanks to Monica Harding working with other local Lib Dem members and our campaign with the Surrey Advertiser, the Information Commissioner’s Office have ordered Surrey County Council to release their Brexit Impact assessments.

And guess what, brexit is really bad.
‘No deal’ means that the UK would be treated by the EU as a 3rd country and would be subject to full 3rd country controls, including completing customs declarations and being subject to a variety of border checks.

Brexit is not included as a risk within the National Risk Assessment 2016. Although the risks associated with BREXIT can be drawn from this document

On the Surrey Community Risk Register in a no deal brexit scenario the following risks are identified:
H14 – Food Supply contamination
H60 – High consequence dangerous goods / transport accident
H24 – Emerging Infectious Diseases
H25 – Major outbreak of exotic notifiable disease in animals (including birds)
H37 – Influx of British Nationals

The following risks have also been identified in the SCC report:

  • Loss of cover due to industrial action by workers providing a service critical to the preservation of life (such as emergency service workers)
  • Local accident on motorways and major trunk roads
  • Public Disorder
  • Notifiable plant disease / Notifiable exotic invertebrate species

Within SLRF partners own risk management processes there is the risk to the supply chain where goods and products are imported from the European mainland

And the kicker – as of 20 July 2018, HMG has suggested that partners should have plans in face for a four week period of disruption (that is increased controls by EU states at ports, including Eurotunnel) plus a two week period to allow the impact to return to relatively normal levels of service.

Key consequences:

  • Surrey expect long delays in accessing Dover ports and Eurotunnel in Kent.
  • Temporary closure or permanent changes to all or part of the M20 and M26 to support Operation Stack and other mitigations for port delays.
  • Significant reduction in the capacity of the Surrey Highway Network, with consequential increase in local and pan Surrey road journey times, impacting on local residents and businesses.
  • Significant long term detrimental impact on county’s economic competitiveness, attractiveness
  • Significant disruption to health and social care delivery within the community; for patients travelling to hospitals for treatment and for critical staff in getting to work

Significant disruption to the food supply chain with delays in the exportation of food from Britain, and importation of food from the rest of Europe and non EU countries.
Significant disruption to the distribution of medication around the county along with supply chain of medication from outside of Britain.

Significant economic and environmental impacts for Surrey or in other words – total chaos to our supply chains. That’s food and medicine supplies to the shops. We learn of nearly half million homeless in Britain, and one in five children living with severe food insecurity, and then Brexit contingency plans say supplies will be disrupted. Welcome to the land of hunger.

When was the government last right on a timescale? The Prime Minister couldn’t even get the date of the meaningful vote delivered, a simple vote in parliament. What hope ferries delivering vital food and medicine to Britain? How long will four weeks stretch on for with failing Chris Grayling, four months? four years?

Surrey hid it from us, even though it all its contents were already in the public domain. Why?

Surrey County Council has only included in its impact assessment existing published information. Why did they try to hide it from residents? Were they ashamed of their own lack of activity, or following the minority conservative governments orders against the interests of the residents of Surrey?

Surrey County Council obviously feared the residents of Surrey would be unhappy to learn of their plans, and so decide to keep them hidden. They found the only legal argument they could to try and hide behind. To refuse to provide local residents with information about Brexit preparations, to deny FOI requests, and to keep secrets from residents. They relied upon an exception intended for cases of national emergency and public order. They relied upon the section 36(2)(c) exemption – the catch all exception – using “safe space arguments” to delay the publication of supposedly important contingency plans.

And they have been found to have done so improperly, with the ICO ordering the information be released.

A victory for Surrey residents against a secretive county council seeking to keep the residents of Surrey in the dark.

Yet the plans are half baked, barely worth the effort of reading. What a farce of a county council.

Surrey residents left in the dark again.

Weybridge Winter Head of River Race

Jan 19 th Organised by Weybridge Rowing Club, this is a timed race from the top of Desborough Island to Walton for up to 200 crews in two divisions: 1030 and 1300. Watch from the towpath and enjoy refreshments at the club’s gazebo at Cowey Sale.

P                                 photo thanks to Cllr Christine Elmer

Churchfield Allotments – May 2018

In May 2018, allotment holders and residents in roads adjacent to the Churchfield Allotments were informed by the Weybridge Charity, who own the allotments, that the charity is proposing to sell some 5% of the allotment land for development.

Reasons given for this by the charity are: that it is under increasing pressure to meet the needs of Weybridge residents who face hardship. Additionally, the charity is seeking to invest some of the monies raised in improving the amenities for the remaining 4 hectares of allotments so that the site “may be used more effectively and attract new, long-term tenants”  The proposed improvements to the allotments include:

  • Bringing new areas under cultivation
  • Allowing a proper toilet to be built
  • Creating a communal area

The charity is proposing to assign new allotments and to compensate those allotment holders who will be directly affected.

About the Weybridge Charity

The Weybridge Charity’s sole charitable objective is ‘the relief of persons resident in the area of benefit (Weybridge KT13 postal district) who are in need, hardship or distress.’

The charity has nine trustees, six of whom must be appointed by Elmbridge Borough Council, with the remaining three being appointed by the borough appointed trustees.

The background to these arrangements and the history of the Charity can be found at http://weybridgecharity.org.uk/about-us

 

Tribute to Paddy Ashdown

Lord Ashdown (Paddy) has died after a short illness. He was a big politician in the best sense of the word, who seemed to be one of those indefatigable people who would always be there dispensing his wisdom and enthusiasm. A great loss. A wonderful person.

I didn’t get to meet him apart from when he signed a copy of his book for me after a talk describing his upbringing and how he became such a committed and successful Liberal Democrat. I was struck by how his remarkable career evolved and how he became a Liberal. This was well set out in the Guardian obituary and it includes this quotation from his memoirs “the decision (to become a politician) was naïve to the point of irresponsibility; it just happens to be the best decision I made in my life.”

Ashdown will be best remembered for transforming the Liberal Democrats into an effective third party – gaining the best ever result in the 1997 election – and for serving as the United Nations’ high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006. He oversaw the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, which has kept the peace in the Balkans since the Bosnian war.

He was generously praised by politicians from across the spectrum after news of his death emerged. He was an ardent pro-European and tireless campaigner. He built relationships across political parties. He is a great loss to the Liberal Democrats and to the country – especially as we face the uncertainties looming in 2019. Sad though the mess we have got ourselves into is, we do have to put some trust in there being people like Paddy Ashdown who will work across parties to make the best of a bad job.

Paddy Ashdown’s unique campaigning zeal is what we Liberal Democrats need more than ever in working to secure a solution that addresses all our deepest concerns.

On that note I wish you all an optimistic New Year, which we, and the country, can all hopefully enjoy in 2019.

Richard Waller – Chair of Elmbridge Liberal Democrats

 

Opinion and Analysis – Time to turn to the pro-EU party

By Sam Vete

Braab braab black (belt) sheep, have you any wool? 
                         No Sir, no Sir none at all!
Said there would be plenty, but the bags are empty – it is plain!
     Nothing for the businessmen
, working hard down the lane!

Walton and Esher Tory voters, you have been warned! Dump Dominic, the monomaniac ideologue who puts his personal fantasy before the interests of his voters. He displays laughable ignorance of ‘realpolitik’; the significance of the Dover/Calais trade route and the difficulties of a small island (not an empire) in the maelstrom of global trade.

Braab, poster-boy of the referendum campaign, becomes the emasculated bell-wether black sheep, entering the pen along with retrogressive 17th century throwbacks; the ERG and Parliamentary hard-core brexiters. He rejects the directions of ‘one dame and her dogs’ (May and the whips) and has chosen his own selfish dogma. He even puts the UK at risk of a ‘no deal’, acknowledged to be far worse than any other deal.

Leaving aside the merits or otherwise of May’s BINO (brexit in name only) deal, like it or not, it would be better to stay in the EU. Braab has shown himself to be out-of-step with the electorate, locally and nationally. It is time to rid politics of such extremists. He should either be deselected (q.v. Kate Hoey) or voted out.

Don’t imagine for a minute that Labour will be galloping to the rescue. That way lies shepherd Corbyn’s brexit crook and a return to 20th century socialism.

Now is the time to turn to the pro-EU party, the LibDems. Our agenda deals with real issues:
Schooling and education
Affordable housing
Protection of the green belt
Realistic funding options for the NHS
… And, of course, an ‘exit from brexit’!

Brexitometer highlights anti-Brexit sentiment in Elmbridge

Monica Harding, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Esher & Walton, together with her campaign team are hitting the streets of Elmbridge and asking residents about their Brexit concerns – using Brexitometer. In it locals are invited to give their view on five Brexit-related questions, by placing star stickers in ‘yes’ or ‘no’ boxes. So far this street action has taken place in Walton and Claygate. Esher, Cobham, Molesey, Thames Ditton and Long Ditton are next in line.
There is no doubt about how Elmbridge residents are responding to Brexit – it is not going well, it is bad for our future, it will hurt NHS and economy. Mr Raab also gets a thumbs down when it comes to his role in the process. So no wonder a large majority of residents demand a People’s Vote.

If you’d like to hear more about Brexitometer or talk with Monica about your concerns, get in touch by emailing her – monica_harding@hotmail.com – or call her on 07799 704816.

 

Merry Christmas Weybridge

This Saturday afternoon, Weybridge annual Christmas market and the lighting of the Christmas tree, organised by the Weybridge Town Business Group.

Market – 1pm to 6pm
The artisan, food and craft market will be held in Baker Street.  Many popular stallholders from previous market events are returning with their unique Christmas food & gift Ideas.  There are new stalls and entertainment.

Visit Father Christmas – 1pm to 6pm
Grotto and Sleigh

Carols 1:15pm
with Oatlands School ChoirCarols 3pm
with St James’s Church Choir

Children’s Parade – 4pm
Children from all five primary schools in Weybridge will take part in the lantern parade –  Manby Lodge, Oatlands, St Charles Borromeo, St James, and St Georges Junior.

Lighting Up – 4:45pm
This year the Christmas tree lights will be switched on by Miss Surrey
Carols – 5pm
For everyone to join in – carols around the tree

Brooklands Radio will be providing great music & entertainment.

Stalls
April’s Table, BBQ by Stoneleigh’s, Bee Product Gifts – Weybridge Beekeeping Society, Born to Build, Brooklands College, Brooklands Radio, Cook Weybridge, Cellar One Weybridge, Darcey B’s – Candles & More!, Father Christmas & Sleigh – Rotary Club Woking, Flipping Amazing, Forever Living, Geminera, George Bakes, Grape Outdoors, Hook A Duck Stall, In Love With Macarons, Lesley Blackburn, Love Print Unique, Mark Horner, St James’s Church, Weybridge – Dementia Care, Silent Pool Gin, Simon’s Pies, Stella and Dot, Stoked Pizza, Thru the Eye of a Needle, Tombola by Weybridge Day Centre, Village Maid Cheese, Waffles On A Stick, Willow Bakery, Wendy Foreman

Conservation wins the day

On Tuesday, 27th November, Elmbridge Borough Council Full Planning Committee overturned the decision of the sub-committee which deals with planning decisions in Weybridge, and refused permission to build ten flats at the junction of Balfour and Devonshire Roads.

The position of the proposed building, in Weybridge Town Centre Conservation area, is just beyond the junction of Church Street and Balfour Road, opposite St James’s Church. This is a significant view for those entering the town centre from Heath Road.

The Full Planning Committee found that:

“The proposal by virtue of its bulk and mass, emphasised by the fact it would be raised from ground level on a podium, would be out of character and would harm the streetscene. The proposal would therefore have an adverse impact on the conservation area and not preserve its character.”

Representations against the development had been submitted by the Weybridge Society and the Vicar of St James’s Parish Church along with many local residents.

The the application details are here and actual decision is here.

Parking Reporting Back

As mentioned in a previous post, this year Surrey has sought requests for on-street parking changes for the people of Weybridge.  A number of the requests were accepted for implementation – although more were rejected.

Dorchester, Gascoigne, Limes and Minorca
There were a few requests for residents’ permit schemes.  All bar Bloomfield Court were rejected.  Despite the petitions and emails to Surrey Highways about changes needed to parking in Dorchester, Gascoigne, Limes and Minorca Roads the Highways officers’ recommendation to Surrey’s Elmbridge Local Committee was not to make any changes in these streets at this time.

Before Monday’s local committee meeting Cllr Andrew Davis discussed the matter with various members of the committee including Cllr Tim Oliver, Weybridge’s Surrey county representative and County Cllr John O’Reilly, the chair of the local committee.

The two main reasons the highways officers put forward for taking no action now were: there was a comprehensive programme to deal with the parking problems of Weybridge holistically and the petitioned schemes were too large at this stage; and, they could cause displacement.

The counter argument put by Cllr Davis was that taking a holistic approach does not mean that all action has to wait until some comprehensive development occurs.  This wait could be three to five years or longer. And, since all parking regulations will cause displacement, a judgement has to taken as to the significance of the effects of the displacement.

At the meeting, recognising that due process did not allow for a final decision to be made in that meeting, Cllr Andrew Davis requested that ward and divisional councillors meet with the officers to review possibilities, with a view to a decision being made expeditiously under the chairman’s delegated authority.  This was agreed by the local committee, and the chairman said he would use his delegated authority if necessary.

What should happen
The councillors and officers will meet to decide what proposal to put forward and how the informal consultation should be undertaken.  If a consensus can be reached a proposal will be advertised early next calendar year.

Continued Pressure
Surrey can seem remote – because it is. With the best will in the world, it is difficult for Surrey to fully grasp the nuances of parking stress over time and distance.  The highways engineers bring a wealth of knowledge on the effectiveness of each type of measure but we must be continually engaged with Surrey’s parking implementation process if we are to share the scarce resource of parking spaces effectively.  The focus team will work with to you.