10,000 join the #LibDemFightback

11218519_937859276264489_2714490008105077630_nWell, after a depressing election night, I didn’t expect (less than a week later) to be celebrating the advent of 10,000 new members across the country and all the way down to Brentwood West!

But that is where we are – the Liberal Democrat fightback has begun!  Why? perhaps because a lot of people believe in this:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

Why don’t you join?  Membership starts at £1 for students and the minimum regular membership is £12 – £1 a month – and you can pay by direct debit.

You’re not alone – 10,045 people have joined since 10pm last Thursday (up until time of posting) – roughly one new member every 40 seconds – and if you want a fairer society then please join us.  Membership in Brentwood has increased by 20% in the last five days and we look forward to meeting new members and making a difference here in Brentwood, where we are the second largest party on Brentwood Council.  Nationally, we have just past the 55,000 members mark!

Our revival is just beginning….roll on 2020!

Oh, and one final thing, if you join by 3rd June you’ll get a vote to help decide our new party leader!

join here

see how many people have joined now!

BE PART OF THE ZEITGEIST! 

The only way is up!

Well, I’ve had better election weekends (2007, 2012 and 2014) and I have had worse ones (2008 and, oh goodness, 2011) but, here I still am…fighting for what’s right, fighting for fairness and fighting for Brentwood West residents.

Alison FulcherSo, we don’t have Alison Fulcher as new Brentwood West councillor, that’s a terrible shame.  This lady is superb and she WILL make an excellent councillor and we will get her elected.  I would like to pay tribute to her wonderful campaign and her almost 1,100 votes that, in any other year, would see her elected!

Don’t underestimate this lady – she will be a councillor in Brentwood some time soon!

Although, Brentwood West, it won’t be here I am afraid, you’ve missed out on Alison.  It’s me next year and, yes, I fully intend to defend my seat on 5th May 2016!

So, with a big Tory turn out at the general election, the Tories took 11/12 seats – the only one we held was that of super popular Mayor Vicky Davies who will serve Pilgrims Hatch for another four years.  Well done Vicky!

Aside from that, the three former Brentwood First seats went Tory, Labour’s Brentwood South seat went Tory and, the most crushing blow of all, we lost Brentwood North by 32 votes and were deprived of Gavin Dadbridge as a new councillor.  I hope he will be back next year.

What’s worse, is that now the Tories have the control of Brentwood now.  So, expect:

  • Old House to go back up for sale
  • All the work we have done on the William Hunter Way development – where we finally got something residents wanted – to be thrown away and a return to a nasty development the Tories want
  • Community funding and ward budgets to be slashed (this past year, Holly Trees School, Chichester House, Victoria Court, Kings Chase Church and South Weald Parish Hall benefitted)
  • Cemetery lodges to remain out of use and empty
  • Overdevelopment and back garden grabbing
  • Resident communication to cease and an end to transparency
  • Good council staff to leave and some to be paid off….

Lucky us!

I would like to thank the 1,088 people who did come out and vote Lib Dem for Alison and, of course, John, David and I will continue to work hard for you as your local councillors.

We really did feel it was a privilege to run our town, not a right, and we will continue to represent the people to the council, not the other way around.

 

 

Running Brentwood: a privilege not a right

Karen and BarryBarry leader elect

Last year, when we ousted the Tories from power with our Labour, Brentwood First and independent colleagues, I was ecstatic.  From 2006, I had been fighting back against their dogmatic control ever since, just before I agreed to stand as a Lib Dem candidate, I saw the awful development they wanted to plonk in to our town centre and consoled a poor woman from North Road Avenue at the so-called “public consultation”.

After that momentous day in 2014, I finally arose from a couple of hours sleep and went up to the Town Hall when something terrifying dawned on me….what if I was wrong? What if they weren’t keeping secrets from the public? What if they really were doing the best for Brentwood?

Well, after spending about five minutes there and being made aware of the “long list” of things that the Tories had buried or not made decisions on, I was soon assured that I hadn’t been fighting in vain!  Phew!

We uncovered the mess they had made of William Hunter Way, the £20,000 they had spent on a report that they buried when it rubbished the idea they had put £1.6M aside for,they had clearly neglected the Town Hall, Old House, given away tens of thousands in hush money to departed senior officers and, most appallingly not valued the staff who deliver our services.

I am proud to be part of The Accord because in one year we:

  • Implemented new Christmas lights in Shenfield and Brentwood and provided free Christmas trees to Ingatestone as well as lighting the Brentwood station area with a tree and lights to welcome people to the town during the festive period.
  • Made Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, Iris Close Amenity Green and the William Hunter Way Disabled Car Park community assets, meaning they can not be sold without notice to the council and protecting them for six months.
  • Sold Warley Training Centre (derelict for 10 years) for multi-millions whilst a) providing much needed housing b) much needed social housing and c) to not only put a chunk of capital in the bank but also, IMPORTANTLY, a permanent revenue stream based on retaining 5 residential units for rental.
  • Sold Bellmead for much needed housing and, again, social housing.
  • Agreed £42,000 of community bid funding for local projects and allocated the underspend of £8,000 to ward budgets, giving each councillor £1380 (an extra £380 each) to spend in their wards.
  • Saved Old House from Tory disposal. Retaining a much loved heritage asset, returning it to its former glory after the Tories left to to rot and, once again, providing more much needed housing.
  • Town Hall: The project to save it and improve it and make it work for the tax-payer continues
  • Westbury Rd considered for homes and for retail space in order to a) revitalise the west end of the high street and b) to provide subsidised independent shops. This is another piece of prime real estate that the Tories forgot about.
  • Multi-Storey Car Park. Falling apart and stinks. Being clever about this could bring the town centre a better parking facility AND homes AND shops AND possibly a leisure use too.
  • William Hunter Way. After 9 years of Tory farce and £300k of tax payers’ money wasted, we’ve overseen the council’s most successful and engaging public consultation ever and actually listened to our residents. The steer from them is yes to a cinema (but no need to be gigantic) and yes to a better choice of shops. A huge capital and revenue gain opportunity and a means to keep Brentwood folk in Brentwood shopping rather than them going elsewhere.
  • Property acquisition fund: £10m to be set aside for property acquisitions to actually fulfil our vision of entrepreneurialism and to keep Eric Pickles’ cuts at bay.
  • Hutton Community Centre. Rescuing it from the clutches of bankruptcy by seeking community  bids to run it infinitum for the benefit of the community.
  • Cemetery Lodges: Refurbishing ‘dead’ properties and earning an income from them.
  • Asset register: Actually identifying land that the council own so that we can do stuff with it.
  • Affordable Housing Sites: Identifying small parcels of land (Fielding Way, Hutton Drive) that can be developed into social housing sites and that have been ‘hidden’ for years.
  • Hallsford Bridge: Been on the market for 10 years without a sniff. Brought it to committee, listened to ward members on their wish to develop as housing but was unable to do so and therefore sold to a local business for an additional £450k that, once again, otherwise we would not have had.
  • Total approximate value of prospective CAPITAL monies gained through the Asset Panel: £5m.
  •  Approximate forthcoming capital value of William Hunter Way, MSCP, Westbury Rd outcomes: £12m
  • Total approximate value of prospective REVENUE monies through the Asset Panel’s work so far: £500k per annum
  • Ensured that all residents are communicated with via a borough-wide bulletin.
  • Started a plan of action on potholes that begins with meeting with the Tory leadership at Essex County Council.
  • Started the process to give food waste bags to all residents for FREE and for a textile waste collection.
  • Discovered that the Tory administration refurbished the Hutton Community Centre despite £100,000 worth of repair work is needed to the roof…and have now ordered an emergency safety investigation…
  • Re-couped £16,000 of public money that the Conservatives failed to claim on billboard advertising revenue
  • Made sensible decisions on managing public assets to put tax payers’ money back in the bank
  • Opened up council workings in a properly transparent way removing the need for Freedom of Information requests
  • Introduced a “complaints amnesty” for staff to present current complaints for proper investigation, allowing the council to learn from mistakes made without the fear of retribution for staff
  • Restored democracy and focused decision making to the council chamber
  • Advanced the Town Hall transformation project
  • Identified multiple affordable and social housing schemes
  • Introduced a new parking scheme that is better value for residents and shoppers
  • Introduced a three month night time car parking charge to balance the night and day parking charges
  • Launched investigations into monies that have been mis-spent by the previous administration
  • Begun an entrepreneurial approach to council resources to provide much needed funds for front line services
  • Informed all the staff to call Accord members by the first names rather than their official titles and opened up the door of the Leader & Deputy Leader’s office for an open and transparent way of working
  • Introduced a six-monthly staff satisfaction survey to inform the leadership of how the staff feel their contribution is recognised and how they are delivering for the people of Brentwood
  • Introduced committees that are focused on specific areas of the council meaning you get the right people making the right decisions
  • Appointed appropriate councillors (usually ward councillors) to working groups on William Hunter Way, Crossrail, Member/Officer Communications/ Members Casework, the Local Council Tax Support Scheme, IT Resilience and Business Continuity, Budget Scrutiny and the Community Safety Partnership Annual Review
  • Re-structured the senior management team to provide Brentwood with a Chief Executive once again
  • Introduced a cross-party front bench of councillors, giving you the best of everyone and the worst of no one.

However, there is a problem.

Five Accord councillors stood down at the end of their terms – for various personal reasons – so we need to make some gains and hold the seats vacated.  Between us, Accord parties are defending a number of seats but we need to replace those who have departed and these – including Brentwood West – are very close indeed!  Cllr John Newberry only won by 63 votes last year but as you know, this seat is nearly always a close thing between us and the Tories.

So, what we need you to do is to come out on 7th May and vote for our excellent candidate Alison – you can read more about her here.

Trust me, we can do it – the numbers stack up – and we have some great candidates as well as Alison.  Just look at who is fighting your seat (that’s not a Tory) and you don’t need to be Einstein to work out what to do.  But here in my beloved Brentwood West, it’s Alison or another Tory, doing their Tory thing……

Alison FulcherPlease, don’t let the Tories back in on 7th May – vote Alison Fulcher in Brentwood West in order that The Accord can continue to deliver for Brentwood.

After all, we consider leading our town as a privilege whilst the Tories think it is their right to rule you.

Vote for Alison Fulcher because….

  • unnamed (8)
  • she will fight against back garden development and protect our green belt
  • if in a position to do so, she will keep the council tax as low as possible and cut waste and bureaucracy
  • work with others to get our street lights switched back on between 1am and 5am and support moves to get LED lighting introduced
  • keep the weekly black bag bin collection
  • fight to get some fast trains to London from Brentwood station
  • demand that Essex County Council speed up pothole and pavement repairs
  • try to get further reductions in the cost of day time parking
  • get more investment in our local parks and play areas
  • support local businesses.

Frozen: your council tax

So, The Accord Administration are not raising your council tax and we aren’t stopping any of your services either, mainly because we are beginning to generate revenue from council assets and we aren’t spending on Tory vanity projects and wasting cash on projects that will never get off the ground!  This is good news for all.  Here’s the official statement from Deputy Leader, Brentwood First’s Cllr William Lloyd:

I am proud that we are freezing our council tax and not our ambitions for the future of the Borough and our residents.

Not only are residents getting a freeze in Council Tax but also a freeze in fees and charges. We are supporting the most vulnerable in our community with the smallest possible increase in housing rents whilst delivering more than £950,000 worth of savings, creating £731,000 of new income; generating an additional investment of £247,000 in our services and a capital programme of £21.5 million.

It’s a forward looking budget that starts to build on the foundations and the strategies for the future. It proposes a range of investments to help create employment around the Borough including apprenticeships. It looks to generate much needed revenue income for the Council and once and for all be a Council that is entrepreneurial in its approach to its assets and management of its finances to support the overall running costs of the Council.

Meet Cllr Barry Aspinell – in person

cllr-barry-aspinell-4

 

The Leader of Brentwood Borough Council, Councillor Barry Aspinell is hosting three ‘meet the Leader’ events to give residents the opportunity to have a chat with him about any comments, suggestions or issues they may have regarding the work of the Council.

The meet the Leader sessions are all being held on a Saturday morning at the Town Hall in Ingrave Road. Residents are free to drop in on the dates below with no need to make an appointment in advance.

The dates are as follows:

  • Saturday 7th February 2015, 9.30am – 12.30pm in the Committee Rooms at the Town Hall
  • Saturday 7th March 2015, 9.30am – 12.30pm in the Committee Rooms at the Town Hall
  • Saturday 28th March 2015. 9.30am – 12.30pm in the Committee Rooms at the Town Hall

Barry said:

Listening to residents is very important to me and although I consider myself as very approachable, I recognise that people have busy lives. That is why I was very keen that these events are held on a Saturday as it gives an opportunity to residents who don’t usually get a chance to visit the Town Hall. Please do come along and have a chat with me about any local issues that are on your mind. I would also like to reassure residents that these three events are not costing the Council any extra money.

If residents can’t make it to any of the Meet the Leader events, the Leader can also be contacted by email at barry.aspinell@brentwood.gov.uk

Thanks from me!

I have had lots of lovely messages this week following my shoulder surgery.  Residents may remember that I had a couple of accidents in 2013/14 that really affected my health.

Well, Wednesday’s surgery seems to have worked and I am at home recovering – although I did pop along to the Mayor’s Quiz Night last night just to get back out to the big bad world.

So, thanks Brentwood West for sticking by me because it’s been a tough 18 months….

Hopefield IS now a community asset

Writing from my hospital bed tonight just to share the news that my committee approved Hopefield Animal Sanctuary as a community asset in front of a chamber packed with the charity’s supporters!

This means that the landowner – Tesco – can’t sell the land from under the animals hooves and paws!

great news for Brentwood and I’m proud to be part of The Accord…Barry Aspinell and I made this happen!