27 Jun 2014

Digging away: a year of activity on St Albans Council

As the holiday break approaches, here’s a summary of what I’ve been doing as a councillor for the last 12 months.

Some of what I do is responding to requests for help from residents. Amongst my case work this year, I:
·      persuaded the council not to evict a pregnant single mother
·      helped residents to oppose controversial planning applications including at Dalton House in Catherine Street and The Spotted Bull on Verulam Road
·      answered enquiries about fracking in Hertfordshire, and animal welfare policies in St Albans
·      helped a disabled resident to stop able bodied people parking in a blue badge bay
·      got a coach company to stop parking up at a bus stop
·      organised and chaired a meeting of bus users
·      got a lamppost fixed in Worley Road
·      persuaded the Council to extend a parking permit for a mother in the city centre
·      helped people comment on the Hare & Hounds license extension.

As a member of the Local Services Scrutiny Committee, I’ve helped examine many aspects of policy, and the services the council delivers. In particular through this committee this year, I:
·      discovered that the Council was charging twice what it should for street traders such as Soko Coffee at the station. I then sat on a working group to examine this issue. This led to the charges being halved
·      challenged the boss of UNO on the bus services, and pushed for a bus users group, which is now being set up
·      worked on setting up and improving the new Christmas Market
·      challenged First Capital Connect and Network Rail on their service
·      examined new business-friendly measures, some of which I introduced through the last budget.

I also sat on the Car Parking Working Party, which advises on car parking issues in the district. In particular, this group helped to improve the emerging car parking strategy. I met with residents’ associations to discuss their ideas on this, and feed them in to the process.

This year I also became a member of the new Carbon Reduction group, which I established through the budget and Corporate Plan process. This group has prioritised some of the Council’s work on measures to tackle climate change locally, and enabled me to directly feed in ideas such as commercial renewable energy generation.

At meetings of the Full Council this year, I:
·      proposed successful motions against the Bedroom Tax and for the Local Government Association’s campaign to reform local government
·      questioned Cabinet members about markets, parking meters, and street traders
·      proposed a range of measures as an amendment to the budget; however this year my amendment was not passed
·      made numerous contributions to debates, as always! 

Other ad hoc activities this year included:
·      working with officers to improve communications on recycling, improve a consultation on waste collection and one on tenancies, and draft a protocol for public filming at Council meetings
·      opposing a proposal to reduce the size of the skate park
·      chasing up Herts County Council to activate all the electric car bays in the city
·      appearances on BBC Three Counties Radio and Radio Verulam
·      a training seminar at the Local Government Association on political oppostion
·      joining a Question Time style panel at Beaumont School
·      meeting 20 young Eco Councillors at St Peter’s Primary School

At the local elections in May, the balance of the Council was effectively unchanged – there are two less Lib Dems and two more Labour councillors. The Conservatives continue with 29 councillors, and the opposition parties combined also have 29. The Lib Dem mayor has the casting vote, so there may be some interesting votes this year. This fine balance also means I may continue to get the chance to make progress in Full Council meetings.

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