• Armed Forces Covenant graphic
    Article: Aug 3, 2021
    By Cllr Tom Hunt

    Tom Hunt, Lib Dem Councillor for Friary & St Nicolas is Armed Forces Champion for Guildford Borough Council. Here he reports on the wonderful news that GBC has been awarded Silver in the MOD's Employer's Recognition Scheme.

    "The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve with their lives. It was launched by the Coalition government in 2012 and focuses on helping members of the armed forces community have the same access to government and commercial services and products as any other citizen.

  • Small teddy bear with red bow (Sandy Millar on unsplash.com)
    Article: Jul 29, 2021

    Surrey Lib Dem members who sit on the select committee for Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture have responded to news that the Good Law Project is taking legal action against Surrey County Council.

    Fiona White (Guildford West) said:

    "It comes as no surprise to me and my Surrey Lib Dem colleagues, who have challenged Surrey County Council on its delivery of services to vulnerable children over many years, that it is now facing a legal challenge for failing in its statutory duty.

  • Javid Tweet
    Article: Jul 29, 2021

    Last week in politics….

    After facing a furore on Twitter Sajid Javid deleted his tweet which stated that people had to learn to live with Covid rather than 'cower' from the virus. This is one of the most dangerous and ill-informed tweets I've seen from a serving government minister and the health minister at that! The backlash was swift and powerful from the Twitterati and Javid had to issue a quick apology. However, the damage and hurt have been done to the many families and friends who have lost loved ones and for those who are immunocompromised and continue to live with the fear of growing Covid numbers, together with those who are living with long Covid. Whilst the insensitivity of the tweet was clear for all to see, what was equally concerning was the bravado with which it was delivered, belittling the efforts of all those who have done the right thing, who have followed the rules and who continue to choose to protect themselves and others by wearing masks and keeping their distance. This throwaway comment branded them as cowards and Javid might do well to remember that whilst his tweet and all those who responded to it may be gone, it is certainly not forgotten.

  • Photo of a Conservative leaflet distributed across Guildford
    Article: Jul 28, 2021
    By Cllr Tom Hunt

    The library in Guildford has been hard hit during the pandemic, and is facing a continual threat of cuts from the Tory run County Council. However, it's good to see that there is a strong supply of fiction to stock our libraries shelves with, the most recent addition being a Tory leaflet that has been distributed across Guildford.

  • rear view of unknown persons in field (Dim Hou on unsplash.com)
    Article: Jul 27, 2021

    Lib Dems have secured support for measures that will result in all care leavers in Surrey being exempt from paying council tax from next April.

    In 2018, Surrey Lib Dems won unanimous backing at Surrey County Council for a motion to exempt care leavers from paying tax until they are 25. Ten of Surrey's eleven borough and district councils have also already taken this step, but under Conservative administration, Tandridge District Council had been holding out against the exemption, however a change in the power balance there has now created an opportunity for the District to move into line with the rest of the county.

  • Piles of plastic bottles for recycling (Nick Fewings on Unsplash)
    Article: Jul 23, 2021

    The local Lib Dems created a petition calling on Surrey County Council to increase the opening times and allow pedestrian access at the Community Recycling Centres in Caterham and Warlingham.

    Lib Dem County Councillor for Caterham Valley, Jeffrey Gray, said:

    "Local residents have become increasingly frustrated by the long queues outside the recycling centres on Bond Road in Warlingham and Chaldon Road in Caterham. The local tips' opening hours have been cut back so that when they are open, the demand is greater than ever, causing congestion in local roads."

  • Back view of Police Officer standing in a street
    Article: Jul 15, 2021

    Lib Dem Councillors on Surrey's Police and Crime Panel have criticised the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner for appointing a £53,550 a year Deputy against the views of the cross-party Police and Crime Panel.

    The Police and Crime Commissioner, Lisa Townsend, and her proposed Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Ellie Vesey-Thompson, recently attended a confirmation hearing with the Police and Crime Panel and answered questions from Panel members on her suitability for the role.

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  • Elderly lady's hands in lap (Photo by Cristian Newman on 'unsplash')
    Article: Jul 5, 2021

    The local Lib Dems have called on Surrey County Council to stand up to the Government over its failure to deliver the previously promised reform of the social care system.

    Lib Dem Councillors have tabled a motion to the County Council's next meeting on 13th July demanding that the Council continues to put pressure on the Government and Surrey's MPs to honour their pledge to tackle the crisis in social care.

  • Article: Jun 25, 2021
    By Cllr Fiona White

    22 June, 2021

    The recent Chesham & Amersham by-election has focused a lot more attention on the government white paper on the future of planning policy in England. So what's all the fuss about? Is it just a load of NIMBYs making a noise?

    The government says that the changes are needed to stimulate housebuilding. The fact is that 1m of the approximately 2.5m homes given planning permission in the last decade have still not been built. The government's proposals do nothing to make sure that developers actually build the homes they have permission for. Add to that another fact that there is land allocated for more than 1m homes in local plans that developers have still not brought forward through planning applications and it is clear that it is not the planning system that is the problem. There are no plans in the white paper to ensure that existing permissions are built out and that developers make the most use of current local plans.

    There will still be a top-down imposition of housing numbers. Anyone who took part in the process to produce the 2019 Guildford Local Plan will know how that worked. Add to that the fact that the calculation of infrastructure levy would also be handed down from Whitehall and the situation becomes worse. A levy that would provide reasonable levels of infrastructure in the North East wouldn't go anywhere near what is needed in the South East. Top down planning from the centre does not recognize that England is a very diverse country and what is right for one part of the country would be wrong for another.

    One of the major problems in Guildford is the lack of genuinely affordable housing. We don't need more and more executive homes attracting people from other parts of the country. We need homes for local people at prices or rents they can pay. These white paper proposals would make the situation worse. Local Government Association quotes an example of Elmbridge where there would have been a loss of 50% affordable housing achieved over the 5-year period from 2015 to 2020. We would be losing precious land to development but still not solving our problem. Now there is too much reliance on planning gain to get affordable housing. Developers are not charities. Their perfectly legitimate aim is to make the best profit they can: their bottom line. The way to achieve truly affordable housing, especially social housing for rent, is through government funding. Providing good quality housing that people can afford would make a big difference to the way they lead their lives.

    The white paper does not offer any solution to the issue of climate change. Local councils across Surrey have adopted climate targets and plans to achieve net zero carbon ahead of the government's target of 2050. There is nothing in this white paper to reflect the desire to reduce our carbon emissions. What an opportunity lost!

    Under these proposals, land would be zoned into one of three categories of Growth, Renewal, Protect without any evidence of how this would work in practice. There is no recognition of the diversity of English communities and landscapes and no flexibility to respond to changing circumstances. We do not know what the long-term impact of the Covid pandemic will be and the imposition of a rigid system would mean that we cannot react if needs change during the life of the plan.

    One of the major issues with the white paper is the total lack of democracy in the process. We all know how complicated the local plan process is but the government wants to do away with current local plans and adopt new ones within a 30 month period. I agree that the current system of between 5 and 7 years takes far too long but dealing with that level of detail in 30 months is ridiculous especially as the final result will be binding and not able to be refined through a planning application. What is worse is that it takes away the right of communities to be heard in local plan enquiries. There is little reference to neighbourhood plans that can reflect the truly local needs of a community. It removes the process where a development can be looked at in great detail.

    This white paper has been seen as a developers' charter. Some people have commented that it could have been written by developers. That is not my view but it is true that developers are major contributors to Conservative party coffers and we all know that whoever pays the piper calls the tune.

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