Lib Dems to give £770 boost to 17,170 pensioners in Welwyn Hatfield

17,170 pensioners living in Welwyn Hatfield will receive at least an extra £772 per year under Liberal Democrat manifesto plans to protect the ‘triple lock’ for state pensions.

Thanks to the triple lock guarantee, secured by the Liberal Democrats when they were in government, the basic state pension has risen in each year by whichever is the higher of earnings, prices or a rate of 2.5%. However, the Conservatives have refused to guarantee whether the triple lock will continue, raising fears it could be scrapped.

The Liberal Democrats have committed today to keeping the triple lock, meaning the state pension would be worth at least £137.15 a week by 2021, up from £122.30 in 2017, or an extra £772 a year.

This would be paid for in part by restricting perks such as the winter fuel allowance so they are no longer paid to the wealthiest pensioners.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Nigel Quinton said:

“Protecting the triple lock will mean an extra £772 a year by 2021 for the 17,170 people receiving the state pension in this constituency.

“The Liberal Democrats are making a clear commitment to older people in Welwyn Hatfield, unlike the Conservatives who have repeatedly refused to give this guarantee.

“The triple lock has succeeded in lifting thousands of pensioners out of poverty, but many are still struggling to get by.

“An important test of a civilised society is the way in which it cares for the elderly. This commitment will ensure older people are able to meet their basic needs and that their living standards will be protected, especially with prices set to rise in the coming years.”

Pressure from Lib Dems to increase Affordable Homes on Shredded Wheat site

Lib Dems vow to hold the Council and Spenhill to account on Phase 2

Cllr Malcolm Cowan and Nigel Quinton

Last Thursday, 30th April, Welwyn Hatfield Council gave approval to Spenhill (the property arm of Tesco) to develop the old Shredded Wheat site next to the train station. In many ways this is a cause for celebration – the scheme is for high quality urban architecture in a strategic position in the town centre that will provide 850 new homes and will extend the retail and evening economies into Peartree Ward. The developer will also fund £4M of highways work and £3.5M towards educational needs, mostly towards a new, larger, Peartree School, which we very much welcome.

However, in one very important respect the scheme is hopelessly deficient. Only 50 of the 850 homes (less than 6%) are to be affordable homes, despite the Council’s own policy that at least 30% of homes in this development should be affordable. That it was as many as 50 is only because pressure in the past week from our comments in the press has forced the issue. Only in the eleventh hour, on the day before approval, was the number of affordable homes increased from 35 to 50.

The developer was allowed to get away with this by convincing the Council that the scheme was ‘not viable’ if affordable housing was included. The committee accepted the advice of officers on this point, despite it being pointed out that the advice from the Council’s own advisors, Colliers International, was that the scheme was viable with or without affordable housing. In fact the scheme is forecast to generate profits of at least £86M, and probably a lot more.

Nigel Quinton, who is standing for election in the County Division that includes the site, and who spoke to the committee last night to stress the case for more affordable housing, had this to say:

“Whilst I very much want this development to go ahead, it absolutely has to include 30% affordable homes, and I am disappointed that the Council has given in on this point when the case on viability has not been made. The additional 15 affordable homes announced at the meeting are welcome, but are not enough.

“The silver lining, and one that the Council and committee are clearly clinging to, is that the scheme has two phases, the first is for 350 homes, the second for 500, and Spenhill still need final approval for the second. At that stage they have to demonstrate the lack of viability all over again. If they cannot, then we believe that they would have to make the affordable component up to the full 30% of the total.

“We intend to make sure Spenhill, and the Council, do not shun their responsibility to provide the affordable homes our town so desperately needs.

“There are other issues that we will continue to press the Council to address – the lack of communication with Network Rail about the rail bridge and the potential impact of the new restaurants and bars on the remainder of the Town Centre economy. Also, while we welcome the inclusion of some community and leisure facilities in the scheme it is some way short of the Swimming Pool we had campaigned for and which was included in the Planning Guidance and which the Town still lacks – this site has the capacity to deliver huge profits for the developer, and the Council should be ensuring a greater amount of benefit to the community.”

HS2 – is it really too late to think again?

I’ll start with a confession – since hearing it proposed at a LibDem conference fringe meeting back in 2008 or thereabouts I have been a fan of HS2 – or at least the concept that the UK needs a high speed rail network. So throughout the debates about routing and costs I have generally followed the advice of people I know who have researched this more deeply, and gone along with the ‘consensus’ that this is a ‘good idea’.

However, I have never been persuaded that the specifications are appropriate, and have always been concerned that there was too much emphasis being put on speed rather than connectivity. I also believe that the costs should be challenged and that the timescale is too slow. Surely there was a better alternative?

Well this week I recieved an email from ‘High Speed for All’ – an organisation that (I have to admit) had not appeared on my radar previously. They have developed the alternative that might be the answer. It certainly grabbed my attention, and not just because it avoids the Chilterns’ Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), but mostly because it talks about a High Speed Network, and not just a High Speed Line. And they have apparently researched it meticulously, mapping the entire new network at 1:25,000 (although they don’t publish these) and calculating a significant cost saving over HS2/HS3 (although I would take any such estimates with a pinch of salt until audited).

You can follow the links here for more information. It certainly deserves consideration in my view and if elected I will be calling for this to be given greater priority.

Energy Bill Revolution gives LibDems five star rating

Energy Bill Revolution gives LibDems five stars for Energy policy

The Energy Bill Revolution is a pressure group set up to end fuel poverty. It is fair to say that have not been 100% supporters of the coalition. But when they look at the Party’s manifestos, it is the LibDems and Greens that come out on top. (Both UKIP and the Tories score Zero Stars by the way. Null points. Nada.)

Here’s what they say:

Liberal Democrats

EBR Rating:  5 Stars

EBR Comment: The Liberal Democrats have committed to both an ambitious new policy framework to deliver whole house retrofits to low income households and a new infrastructure revenue stream to meet ambitious targets, backed by legislation. Strong targets, high standards and new investment. Full marks.

Liberal Democrat Pledges:  

  • make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority and use capital infrastructure funds to help finance the programme
  • insulate 10 million homes over the next 10 years and 4 million by 2020 with the targets enshrined in a Green Buildings Act
  • zero interest loans for the able to pay for energy efficiency retrofits
  • bring all low income homes up to a high standard of energy efficiency by 2027 (EPC Band C)
  • to bring all social and private rented housing up to a high standard of energy efficiency by 2027 (EPC Band C)

Read the full report here