Liberal Democrats at Essex County Council welcome today’s announcement that – where zebra crossings exist – school crossing patrols will continue.

Cllr Mike Mackrory, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group, said:

“It is a pity this decision wasn’t made at last Tuesday’s Full Council when our motion, calling on the Cabinet Member to abandon his proposal to withdraw funding for school crossing patrols, was rejected by the Conservative administration.   It was even described as ‘puerile’ by a leading Conservative Member.”

“In a recorded vote every Conservative Member voted against the motion.  This is a monumental ‘U’ turn of spectacular proportions.”

Essex Conservatives will press on with plans to axe school crossing patrols. They say that the ‘lollipop’ crossings are not needed in some places around Essex, so they can save some cash.

At Tuesday’s County Council meeting, the Conservatives voted to give two of their top colleagues extra allowances, to support Cabinet Members.

At the same meeting, the Liberal Democrats at County Hall tabled a motion to keep the School Crossing Patrol officers. They are very worried about the implications for road safety.

Moving the motion, Cllr David Kendall (Brentwood South) said:

“We want to see every school crossing patrol under threat properly risk assessed before any decision is made. The Tories not only ignored this request but some chose to call the motion totally out of order and puerile.  They should focus instead on protecting the lives of young children crossing the road.”

“It is not only mean spirited to ask the schools to pay for these patrols, it is actually illegal to spend mainstream school funds on this.”

Brentwood South Lib Dem County Councillor David Kendall has called for members at Essex County Council to be given an opportunity to undertake a full scrutiny investigation of the use and effectiveness of the “Jet Patcher” pothole repair system. His call follows a recent question he asked the Cabinet Member for Highways Cllr Rodney Bass. In the written reply that Cllr Kendall was given it stated that:
  • During 2012/13 the Jet Patcher was used for the first time and fixed some 35,000 defects.
  • In the current year 2013/14 the Jet Patcher has only been used to repair 5,000 deep defects on rural roads and in dry conditions.
  • There is currently no formal audit specific to the Jet Patcher
  • There is routinely a random audit of 5% of all works carried out including the jet patcher but this information is not available to members of the County Council or the public.
He said:
“I have called for the use of the Jet Patcher to be fully scrutinised because I want to be sure that the County Council is using a system that is effective and fit for purpose but also one that is offering residents good value for money. The reply to my question has raised serious doubts that any of these points are being delivered at the moment. I believe the staggering difference in the year on year repair figures for the Jet Patcher needs to be properly investigated and there also needs to be more openness and transparency when it comes to how work is audited and how that information is shared with councillors and members of the public”.

Liberal Democrats want to save youth servicesConservative-run Essex County Council is slashing the youth service; not fixing potholes and pavements; turning off the streetlights, and spending £millions on consultants in its budget agreed today.

In contrast, Liberal Democrats backed plans for job creation, fairer tax, fixing roads and streetlights, and enabling everyone to get on in life.

Liberal Democrat plans would use some of the excessive cash stored in council coffers for:-

  • £1 million to help create jobs
  • £4 million to support young people,
  • £5 million to fix roads, paths and streetlights

Lib Dems also

  • backed a council tax freeze (the Conservatives wanted a tax rise until a few days ago and Labour still do want a rise)
  • welcomed £13 million extra for school pupils, delivered by the Lib Dems in the coalition Government

Lib Dem Leader and Springfield Cllr Mike Mackrory said, “We have listened to the concerns of Essex residents and proposed actions to address them. The youth service does so much good for young people, with an already small budget.

“To cut the youth service budget by 86% over four years is an outrage and very short-sighted. If they want the voluntary sector to step in, they should help them raise the money to do so. To add insult to injury, they are stopping low income 17 year olds getting to college.

North Chelmsford Cllr Stephen Robinson backed a jobs plan, with a network of Enterprise Hubs to help new small businesses become established and survive. He also welcomed an extra £8.6 million to help pupils falling behind at school, £1.6 million to help two year olds and £2.7 million to deliver free school meals for infant classes – all delivered by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition Government.

West Chelmsford Cllr Jude Deakin proposed extra cash to keep on certain street lights after listening to local residents, and attacked the council for failing to address the huge rise in road and pavement faults.

The Liberal Democrat budget amendments were:

• £3.25 million being drawn down from the Consultation Reserve(*) to maintain Youth Service funding at 2013 / 2014 level with £0.25m drawn down from the Emergency Contingency dedicated to help the voluntary sector improve its fundraising.

• £4.7 million being drawn down from the Emergency Contingency to Highways and Transportation to fund additional footway and highways repairs and white lining.

• £250,000 being drawn down from the Emergency Contingency to Highways and Transportation to fund additional exceptions to maintain all night street lighting.

• £750,000 being drawn down from the Emergency Contingency to Families and Children to fund Post 16 school transport to enable young people from low income families to continue in education.

• £1million being drawn down from the Transformation Reserve to establish a network of Enterprise Hubs to help new small businesses become established and survive.

(*) The Consultation Reserve has been created to hold the current youth service budget while the Conservatives implement their cuts.

Essex residents could save up to £133 a year on their gas and electricity bills with a new scheme via Essex County Council. This follows a Lib Dem motion to the Council calling for the scheme in October 2012 and action by the Lib Dem Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to encourage cheaper energy schemes.

Essex Energy Switch is run by iChoosr, an independent provider which specialises in collective energy switching.

Residents can register for the scheme by following this link until Monday 17 February.

Lib Dem Cllr Stephen Robinson, who proposed the motion to Essex County Council, said “I am delighted that Essex CC has launched this scheme that will help Essex residents get the best deal on their energy.”

Essex County Council says:-

“It is completely free to register and there is no obligation to switch.

“On 18th February iChoosr will run an auction asking energy suppliers to bid for the collective business of everyone who signs up. The supplier offering the lowest price wins!

“After 18th February iChoosr will contact everyone who has signed up individually with an offer of an energy tariff based on their usage. This will outline how much you will save by switching to the winning energy provider.

“Residents then choose whether or not to sign up to the new supplier. There is absolutely no obligation to switch, and you have a few weeks to decide. If you do decide to accept the offer you will then be contacted by the new supplier to arrange switching.”

If you live in the area of Lib Dem-led Colchester Borough Council, the Energy Switch is already under way and you can find out more on the borough council’s Big Community Switch page.

According to an article in the Independent, the Liberal Democrats are the first party in recent history to have increased its membership while in government. Party President Tim Farron said “People are starting to give the Liberal Democrats credit for some of the good things the government has done. They are also noticing the difference we have made in stopping the worst excesses of the Conservatives.”

In government, the Lib Dems have turned a lot of their manifesto into government policy. They have:

  • Helped businesses to create over a million new jobs in the private sector and a record number of apprenticeships
  • Cut income tax bills for ordinary working people
  • Fixed Labour’s mess and cut the deficit by a third
  • Restored the earnings link for state pensions.

In government, the Lib Dems have also blocked many of the Conservatives’ right-wing plans such as allowing bosses to fire staff at will, and snooping on emails and texts. You can read more in the Little Black Book.

You can join the Liberal Democrats for as little as £1 a month. Click here to join the winning team today.

Lib Dem councillors protest about youth service cuts

Lib Dem Councillors and young people from Harlow protest about youth service cuts

At County Hall today, Essex Conservatives rejected a challenge to their plans to slash youth service budgets. Liberal Democrat councillors are opposed to any further cuts in youth services. They asked the Conservatives to defer their cuts until the service had had time to adjust, but even this compromise was rejected.

Moving the Lib Dem motion, Cllr David Kendall (Brentwood South) said, “In 2010 the Conservatives cut the youth service budget from £12 million to £5 million. Now they are proposing to cut it to just £2 million – at the same time as they are spending over £10 million a year on temporary staff and over £5 million on consultants.”

“What other council service has been cut by 83%? Why push this through in such a short space of time?

“This will wipe out the professional youth workers who do such a good job on the ground with young people around Essex. You cannot do everything just with volunteers.”

Cllr Kendall referred to the 5,117 responses to the Youth Service consultation, a record number of responses. “This shows just how important this issue is to our residents, so it is vital we do our best to get it right.”

Added Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr. Mike Mackrory, “The Youth Service helps stop young people getting into trouble.

“They work with young people having problems with schooling; they help with further education courses and job interviews; they give guidance where there is family breakdown.

“They give health advice but above all they provide help and guidance to young people to enable them to achieve more with their lives.”

The Liberal Democrat motion was supported by all 32 Opposition Councillors but rejected by 40 Conservatives.


Note to Editors

  1. A question from Cllr Kendall led to the disclosure of spending by Essex County Council on temporary staff as follows:
    • 2010-11 £11.3 million
    • 2011-12 £9.8 million
    • 2012-13 £10.6 million
    • 6 months to Oct 2013 £7.9 million
  1. Spending by Essex County Council on consultants was shown as follows:
    • 2010-11 £24.4 million
    • 2011-12 £16.4 million
    • 2012-13 £7.4 million
    • 6 months to Oct 2013 £2.4 million

The Liberal Democrats in government have given 24 million people a £700 tax cut. But now we want to cut taxes by another £100.

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Further, huge cuts to Essex Youth Services are being opposed by the county’s Liberal Democrats. Lib Dem Councillors Mackrory, Deakin, Arnot and Robinson took part in a demonstration last week, organised by young people directly affected by the possible cuts.

Essex County Council is consulting on plans to cut £3 million out of the youth services budget next year. The total budget would be just £2.1 million. This comes on top of a cut from £12 million to £5 million over the last couple of years in the youth service budget.

Said Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr. Mike Mackrory: “The Youth Service helps stop young people getting into trouble.

“They work with young people who are having problems with schooling in getting them back into education; they help with getting further education courses arranged and with job interviews.

“They give guidance where there is family breakdown; they give health advice but above all they provide help and guidance to young people to enable them to achieve more with their lives.”

Cllr Jude Deakin, who chairs the Chelmsford Youth Strategy group, added: “Most of these youngsters will be from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and the Youth Service has a record of achievement in breaking that cycle. If all this is lost, then all it does is put pressure on other budgets in Social Services, Education, Health and the criminal justice system.

“Therefore there is no saving to the public purse quite the reverse. The days when they just provided table tennis in a dingy youth centre are long gone. Furthermore the Tories at Essex CC are paying £millions to consultants and sitting on over £300 million in reserves. That’s why we will oppose any more cuts to youth services.”

The vast majority of local highways schemes agreed at District/Borough Highways Panels across Essex in the year 2012/13 were not delivered, it has been revealed.

Cabinet Member for Highways Rodney Bass decided to reallocate the money and that decision was “called in” by Essex Lib Dem Highways spokesman Stephen Robinson for a review.

Essex County Councillors on the Place Services Scrutiny Committee met last Thursday (24 October) to question Cllr Bass.

Cllr Robinson told the meeting, “Liberal Democrat councillors are very concerned to learn that just £0.7 million of the £8 million allocated across the 12 District panels was spent.

“This appears to be because there are not enough technical and engineering staff to design schemes once they have been approved. In their efforts to outsource so many of the council’s functions, the Conservative-run council has gone too far.”

Cllr Bass told the meeting that many of the 2012/13 schemes were delayed rather than deleted. However, Lib Dem Stephen Robinson pointed out that, even if they are delivered in 2013/14, any new decisions made in in 2013/14 are not going to be delivered until 2014/15 at the earliest. So they are always going to be at least a year behind.

The same meeting also discussed concerns about the new processes for agreeing yellow lines and residents parking schemes. Brentwood Lib Dems Barry Aspinell and David Kendall told the meeting that the new arrangements were not serving Brentwood at all well.

A working group was set up to consider whether the joint County and District/Borough Councils committee for parking is working effectively.

Further information

The Cabinet Decision on Highways Panel budgets (PDF) is here (reports tab).

The overview of the 2012/13 outturn is at para 3.3 and how this affects each District/Borough is at para 3.6.