We are not a ‘safe seat’ any longer

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The old adage about ‘safe seats’ does not apply in the Esher & Walton constituency any longer. Here’s the proof. Elmbridge voted decisively ‘remain’ in the European election by voting for the Liberal Democrats – ahead of the Brexit Party and the Conservatives.

And the most recent YouGov poll in the Esher & Walton constituency confirms that the Liberal Democrats are ahead of the Conservatives in people’s voting intentions.
So the time has come to send a Liberal Democrat to Westminster as our MP.

Our parliamentary candidate Monica Harding is campaigning energetically to unseat the current Tory MP Dominic Raab, who does not represent our views.
Get to know Monica and support her campaign!
https://www.monicaharding.org
https://www.facebook.com/MonicaHardingEsherWalton

Elmbridge Liberal Democrats form Joint Administration with Residents Associations Group for 2019/20 

Following the Conservatives’ loss of three seats in the recent Elmbridge Borough Council election and the gains made by both the Liberal Democrats and the Residents Associations, the two groups have now formed a joint administration for 2019/20. This was confirmed at the Annual Council held on Wednesday 15 May 2019.

The Liberal Democrats have grown their share of vote in Elmbridge by 65% since 2016 and now have 10 Councillors, including a seat they gained from the Conservatives in the Weybridge Riverside ward.

The Conservatives lost another two seats in Esher and Weybridge St. George’s Hill wards, which were gained by the Residents Association Group (RAs). RAs also held their seats in Hinchley Wood, Molesey East and West, Thames Ditton and Walton Central wards.

Because the Conservatives were reduced to 21 seats on Elmbridge Council, there was No Overall Control (NOC). This paved the way for the Liberal Democrats with their 10 seats and the RAs with their 17 seats, to form a joint administration.

The Liberal Democrats’ Council Group Leader Andrew Davis said: ‘When the election result became clear we had exploratory talks with the RAs, including our policies and priorities plus effective processes for a possible coalition. As LibDem Councillors we pressed for the key points in our manifesto, particularly our green environmental policies. We reached a broad agreement on these which enabled us to form the new joint administration with the RAs in Elmbridge for the next 12 months.’

Cllr Davis added: ’We are delighted to welcome a new team member Cllr Ashley Tilling, representing Weybridge Riverside, to our now 10 strong group on Elmbridge Council. We also successfully held Claygate ward with Cllr Alex Coomes and Long Ditton ward with Cllr Neil Houston.’

‘For this fantastic result and our growing share of the vote we thank all those who supported us. The hard work of all our candidates, campaign activists and councillors has paid off. We are grateful to all our members and supporters for their commitment and help with leaflet deliveries, door knocking and many other activities.’

‘We are very pleased that the Elmbridge Liberal Democrats now have greater control of the borough than at any time in its history. This includes three main committees: Licensing Committee (Cllr Mike Rollings), Vice Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Cllr Neil Houston) and Chair of the Planning Committee (Cllr Shweta Kapadia).  We are also hoping that Cllr Alex Coomes will become Chair of Audit and Standards Committee.’

‘Importantly, we have three Cabinet posts with Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Andrew Davis (Highways), Cllr Christine Elmer (Community and Corporate Affairs) and Cllr Mary Marshall, Deputy Leader of the Elmbridge Liberal Democrats (Environment).’

‘Given goodwill, trust and discipline on both sides we believe that we will have a well-functioning and efficient joint administration with the RA’s to address a number of pressing issues for Elmbridge. These include the Local Government financial settlement, the consultation on the next stages of the Elmbridge Local Plan, and possible additional responsibilities together with Surrey County Council. We are confident we have a very strong team in place to meet these challenges.’

Commenting on the Liberal Democrats’ election success Richard Waller, Chair of Elmbridge Liberal Democrats’ Executive Committee said: ‘Nationally our party is enjoying a strong resurgence which shows in more than 700 new council seats we have just gained across the country. This positive trend is repeating itself here in Elmbridge too. We are enormously grateful to our councillors, members and supporters for all their contributions. I am proud of their dedication and enthusiasm.’

‘Furthermore this is very encouraging for Monica Harding, our Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in Esher and Walton, and her team who are working hard to make sure our growing strength is harnessed to unseat Dominic Raab MP for Esher & Walton.’

Full election results can be found on the Elmbridge Borough Council’s website: http://mygov.elmbridge.gov.uk/mgManageElectionResults.aspx

This is the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for Elmbridge

Safer, Greener, Smarter

Environment
Climate Change is an existential threat to humankind.  We will put Elmbridge on a path to become carbon neutral and will adopt appropriate policies to this end. We will work with local businesses and residents to identify and implement smart and practical measures to achieve our goal. This work will bring tangible benefits to our neighbourhoods and to our personal well-being, too.

Traffic
We will begin to tackle traffic congestion and cut air pollution by installing 20mph in residential areas, improving public transport, discouraging engine idling near schools and elsewhere, and promoting walking and cycling options across Elmbridge.  We will install electric vehicle-charging points in our car parks, encourage them in any new developments and provide free parking for zero-emission cars. We will co-ordinate on and off-street parking, introduce smart parking charging and secure easy access to services.

Planning
We will defend the Green Belt and implement a “brownfield sites first” approach in the upcoming local plan.  We will campaign for infrastructure improvements to be in place for new developments. We will set targets for social housing and family starter homes to meet the needs of a younger generation.  We will encourage local forums to create neighbourhood plans. We will also promote the concentration of shops and services in town centres.

Crime
We will strengthen Neighbourhood Watch and anti-social behaviour teams, and work with Surrey Police to restore neighbourhood policing.  We will promote leisure, sport and social facilities for young people in all towns.

Democracy
We will ensure full transparency in both borough and county budget planning and spending, as well as in the conduct of planning applications – with full accountability to residents.  We support the introduction of an effective unitary authority by merging the county and borough levels into one authority in place of the current Surrey County Council and Surrey’s eleven boroughs.

Leisure                                                                                                                               We recognise the importance of leisure to both mental and physical wellbeing and also its economic benefits.  All leisure activities should be provided at affordable cost to participants, including free adult fitness equipment in every settlement. We will safeguard libraries and look to innovate their services.

Liberal Democrat candidates in Elmbridge Borough Council Election 2nd May 2019

Claygate – Alex Coomes (re-election)
Alex grew up in Claygate, and worked in financial services before setting up his own microbrewery in Claygate. He sells real ale to trade as well as direct to the public through his micropub ‘Platform 3’ next to the station. As a local entrepreneur Alex supports independent business in the village, which makes Claygate great for shopping.
Alex is passionate about protecting Claygate’s Green Belt from development and fights decisively for residents’ needs when faced with Surrey County Council’s poor level of services. He is a keen dog walker and cyclist – having taken part in numerous Charity cycling events.

Cobham & Downside – David Bellchamber
David is a retired lawyer. After partnership in a City firm, he practised locally for many years. David has been involved, through Transition Cobham, with setting up the Cobham Community Garden. He looks to improve the local environment by minimising waste, keeping footpaths open and clean and with the retention and planting of trees, helping to improve air quality.
David volunteers in planning with Cobham Conservation & Heritage Trust and has campaigned to save Green Belt land and to properly implement planning policy. David wants to introduce unitary authorities with a tier of parish councils implementing Neighbourhood Plans.

Hinchley Wood & Weston Green – Liz Ambekar
Liz Ambekar has lived in Hinchley Wood since 2014, is married and has two children attending local schools. She has worked twenty years in the not-for-profit sector and is now a Finance Director in a charity, which deals with both food poverty and food waste.
Liz will focus on those real issues that affect people from the lack of local school places to poor public transport, crime and safety and affordable housing whilst protecting the green belt.
Hinchley Wood and Weston Green are special communities and as a local resident Liz will champion and support their individuality.

Long Ditton – Neil Houston (re-election)
Neil is a family man who cares for his village. He wants to stop over-development in Long Ditton and to continue protecting the Green Belt from being developed.
He believes it is important that we feel safe, and is fighting for a better visual police presence and wants to stop local fire services being cut. He regularly speaks up on issues raised with him by residents, such as unsafe pavements, planning applications, street lighting and potholes. He says he is proud to represent his community and that his priority is the safety and well-being of people from all walks of life.

Molesey East – Susan Fergy
Sue Fergy has lived in Molesey for 33 years. A Registered Nurse, Sue practised in London before starting at Kingston Hospital and became a lecturer at Kingston University. She is passionate about health and education.
Sue wants a transparent council – informed by local concerns. She is keen to strengthen the community for all Molesey residents by: a) providing easy access to leisure, sport and social facilities for young people, b) restoring neighbourhood policing, c) supporting local businesses and start-ups, d) revitalising the high street, e) ensuring access to efficient general practice near to residents, f) opposing the over-development of the Jolly Boatman site

Molesey West – Alastair Sturgis
Alastair has lived in Molesey for over twenty years bringing up two children, who attended local schools. He is chairman of Hurst Park Residents Association and wants more effective local democracy – so that the council is seen as working for the whole community and is not seen as a remote organisation.
If elected Alastair will ensure that all council decisions are for the good of Molesey residents and Elmbridge gives the best value for money.
Alastair will campaign for truly affordable housing, protecting the environment, encouraging residents to walk or cycle short distances, as well as improving social care.

Oatlands & Burwood Park – Adriana Dredge
Adriana has lived in Oatlands for 23 years and is an active member of the community.  She has worked in higher education as a university lecturer and course director.  In addition to teaching and research, Adriana has helped many students and staff to navigate through many changes in the education system.  Locally, she has worked as a volunteer “computer buddy” at the library, helping people who lack digital skills to realise the benefits of the internet.
Adriana wants to maintain the high quality of life in Oatlands – listening to the residents and ensuring that their concerns determine the council’s agenda.

Oxshott & Stoke D’Abernon – Dorothy Ford
Dorothy Ford has lived for 36 years on the edge of Green Belt, at the centre of the ward. She is an award-winning policy maker and used to work for central government in Whitehall, Brussels and Strasbourg.  She has taught at university and comprehensives.
Dorothy promises to make our community safer, greener and fairer by avoiding overly dense housing, building new housing on brownfield sites (not on Green Belt), implementing residents’ demands for air quality monitoring, better road traffic and safety services and unifying the local council with Surrey County Council to save taxpayers’ money, fund essential services, and reduce bureaucracy.

Thames Ditton – Jez Langham
Jeremy and his wife Sophie moved to Thames Ditton in 2001. Their older children, Thomas and Evie, attended Hinchley Wood Secondary. However, Edward, currently in Yr6 at TD Juniors, is one of 38 from 120 children without an allocated place. School places are only the tip of the iceberg, though – ongoing education, welfare and policing cuts are threatening our well-being.
Elmbridge needs an integrated answer to the great harm done by the government to our local communities. Jeremy works with Monica Harding (Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate who will oppose Dominic Raab) for a more effective local and national partnership.

Walton North – Nicholas Gosling
Nicholas Gosling has lived in Walton on Thames for twelve years. He is married with two children and works as an airline pilot.
Nicholas is passionate about local community issues. He wants to work with local businesses to improve our on and off street parking provisions in order to drive foot traffic into our town centre, including free parking at certain times.
Total transparency and accountability are vital in his work. The same applies to councils i.e. showing where every penny is spent and how it creates value. We must be more engaged in community projects and spending decisions.

Walton South – Margaret Hawkes
Margaret is married to Peter and has lived in Walton for over 40 years, where she brought up her family. Until she took early retirement, Margaret worked as an analyst for a logistics company near Heathrow Airport, driving over Walton Bridge every morning. She has been involved in many voluntary projects, from visiting young offenders in HM Feltham Prison to helping with the Elmbridge Credit Union. She brings a wide experience of life – having been a commuter, a working mother and her work with young people. She is tenacious, asks awkward questions and demands better for the people of Walton.

Weybridge Riverside – Ashley Tilling
Ashley has lived in Weybridge for over fifteen years, teaching physics at a local secondary school, and enjoys being an active member of Weybridge Rowing Club, cycling and singing in a local choir. He loves living in Weybridge and will work to make his town centre a healthier and safer place by reducing air pollution whilst making improvements for cyclists and pedestrians, seeking to re-establish lost NHS services, developing the library and community centre facilities and retaining the children’s centre, refusing planning permission for out-of-proportion and out-of-character development and protecting the town centre’s green spaces.

Elmbridge gives back after waste contract problems

The Council’s approach

Not many people know, but after the problematic start to waste collection under the new contract this time last year, the contractor Amey has had to return nearly £500,000 to Elmbridge Borough.

The Council decided that the money returned should not go into the general Council fund, but should in some way go directly to the residents of Elmbridge.  Some was earmarked as direct compensation to people who had paid extra for garden waste removal services as they were most affected – as a group. These people received a two-month payment holiday – which took up £160,000.

Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund

Of the remaining money, £100,000 will be allocated to the creation of a Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund.  This is designed to enable community groups to bid for small grants, against pre-defined criteria, to carry out green infrastructure improvements. The scheme would allow one-off project funds to be spent in a way that encourages community buy in and ownership and ensures that the money goes towards initiatives important to the communities themselves.

It is proposed that criteria could include community involvement, volunteering, legacy, sustainability, biodiversity, more attractive and green borough etc. For example:

A community group could put in a bid to make environmental improvements to their local street scene, such as setting up an In Bloom scheme as at Cobham Station.  The likely amount of grant will be up to £15K per project, to allow communities to create projects with significant impact.

Examples of such activity can be found on page 46 of the Agenda reports pack for the Cabinet meeting held on 6th June this year.  .

Do let us know your ideas for Weybridge.

Zelda Pitman (Cobham and Downside)

Zelda Pitman grew up in Guildford and Weybridge, and has lived in Cobham since 2010. Zelda has two sons who attend school locally, and she works as a solicitor in Guildford.

If elected she will work to ensure that the Council makes sound, practical, justifiable decisions in the interests of the whole community. Zelda has long been active in her local community, volunteering with charity fundraising events and social care for the elderly.

She is a fervent believer in a fair society for all and is concerned by the in-creasing reliance by hard working local families on food banks, as well as rising incidents of homelessness.

Zelda and her husband commute every day, so local traffic and transport issues are a serious consideration for her. With two primary school age children, Zelda is also concerned that education standards remain high and that everyone has access to good school places.

1. Cobham is congested and that creates daily problems for the residents, plus traffic fumes which deteriorates air quality. Single residences are knocked down and blocks of flats are built without any thought given for its impact. I am also concerned about homelessness and families relying on food banks, plus standards in education.

2. If elected my focus will be on bringing the community together to consider how we want Cobham to evolve. We want the process to be bottom up and as part of it I would want to encourage volunteering. Housing, traffic, vital services like social care, families in need and education will be my focus.

Vote for David Bellchamber for Cobham in the Surrey Elections May 4th 2017

David campaigned for the Liberals in his youth and has worked with them, the Liberal Democrats and with communities in Elmbridge for 30 years, the last 14 while living in Cobham. He has now retired as a lawyer after a career involving partnership in a City firm and then practising locally for many years.

One of David’s roles as a volunteer is to lead the planning team with Cobham Conservation & Heritage Trust. He opposes the loss of any Green Belt land in Elmbridge, considering that unnecessary with good planning. With Transition Cobham, David has been involved in the setting up of the Cobham Community Garden at the Leg O’Mutton Field and through that movement looks to improve the local environment, including by minimising waste, keeping footpaths open and clean for walkers and improving air quality.

David has long looked for a local government structure that has community councils beneath unitary authorities and the current mess on Surrey County Council supports the argument for them. It would cut down on duplication and expense and instil efficiency. With central government deciding the future of education more and more and Surrey‘s role diminishing, there is now a case for Elmbridge itself becoming the single authority as it has shown itself to be capable of good administration, proper budgeting and cross-border cooperation.

As well as putting good administration into Surrey County Council, David would look to provide

  • Protection of Green Belt land and open spaces
  • Adequate infrastructure before any development
  • Better care for the elderly and vulnerable
  • Safer roads for pedestrians, cars and cyclists

A vote for David on May 4th will send a message to Surrey Conservatives as to their failings.

Maintaining your assets

The borough maintains 97 car parks across Elmbridge.  They ranging from our town centres through to our commons.

In becoming portfolio holder for transport in May 2016 Cllr Andrew Davis asked for a current valuation and maintenance programme for all the car parks.  Unfortunately, apart from Drewitt’s Court this had not been undertaken for many years.  Perhaps the previous Conservative administration thought the car parks could mend themselves.

A condition survey was undertaken in 2016 to identify the state of the borough’s car parks and the financial commitments for repairs over the next five years. The full cost to bring the car park up to standard is £13m.

The borough’s obligations relating to Drewitts Court in order to comply with the terms of the existing leases, require that a structural evaluation of the ramp be undertaken immediately and that the repairs be carried out as quickly as possible. It is likely that the full cost will be £1,500,000.

To catch up with the amount of maintenance required for the other car parks the borough plans to spend up to £6m over the next three years.

However, with the high need for social housing, the pressure to build over car parks is high. Not all car parks are suitable but those that are should not given comprehensive repairs until their housing status is known.

Naturally, the order of work and indeed what work will be done will be undertaken with full consultation with local councillors.  A full management programme will be produced for each car park for while they are being reconstructed.  Dewetts Court will take much longer so will have a special plan.  It is likely to begin in January so us not to clash with the Christmas season.

Elmbridge Youth Service

Youth Club smallSurrey is halving the funding for Claygate and Weybridge youth centres.  Given the cut is so severe, Surrey has given the youth centre management committees time to raise funds from other sources before withdrawing its own funding – although it will not wait for ever (or even a year).  If you are in a position to offer support then please get in touch.

How did this happen?

It began with the Conservative state administration reducing its contribution to
local government revenues.  This is particularly painful because local government in England (unlike in most countries) is heavily restricted in how it may raise its own funds.  Even the tax that it is allowed to raise is heavily controlled by the state.  For example, income tax, national insurance and VAT increase year on year with inflation but council tax decreases.  The state even proscribes local governments’ ability to keep council tax in line with inflation; a situation that would not be tolerated in America, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy or Spain.

Surrey has chosen to cut its youth services across the county by 11% in nominal terms.  It could have cut the service in all districts by the same amount.  Fortunately, the youth service took the view that it was time to examine need across the county afresh.

The primary directive is to ensure neets (young people not in education, employment or training) get into sustainable work and then to reduce neets to zero.  To disburse funds across the county according to need, the neets have to be located and various other indicators of deprivation have to be assembled.  The county used eleven indictors and determined that Elmbridge would have its funding increased by 6% – despite the general county cut of 11%.

Surrey took this analysis down to town level within Elmbridge itself to match the service provision with need.  This has meant that some towns, for example, Claygate and Weybridge had their service reduced and others, for example, Cobham had theirs increased.  Ditton and Oxshott have no provision from Surrey.

Napoleon meets his Waterloo

Nepoleon Re-enactmentPainshill welcomes back the Napoleonic Association for a special re-enactment to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. On both there will be incredible sights and dramatic performances as the soldiers, officers and camp followers re-enact various scenes, including the raising of the flag, a drill parade and a skirmish. There will be lots of noise and smoke as the infantrymen fire volley after volley and manoeuvre to offer their fatal blow whilst deploying the crack skirmishing force, the 95th Rifles.

Visitors will also be able to walk through the living history encampment to see where the soldiers live, eat and sleep. The camp followers will entertain those who visit, with stories and their experiences of the Napoleonic period.

This exciting event which includes battles, skill at arms display and a living history encampment will take place on Sunday 30th and Monday 31st August Bank Holiday. The event is included in normal admission price.

For more details and to see the full programme click here