Liberal Democrat Views by Mione Goldspink April, 2022.
I am writing this article on 19th March, just before the deadline for the April publication. So some of my words may be irrelevant by the time you read them. But, some will still be true and appropriate. The war in Ukraine is cruel and ghastly and our hearts bleed for the people in their unimaginable suffering. We all wish fervently to help. The Aid Organisations have appealed for cash rather than goods. The helpers on the ground in the border countries can then buy whatever items are needed and ensure that they reach the refugees.
Thousands of people in the UK have already signed up to offer accommodation for refugees in the Government's "Homes for Ukraine" scheme, which is marvellous. Other people are forming Hospitality Groups to provide practical support for the refugees once they are here. (I am helping my Church to set up one of these groups. Volunteers can be of any faith -Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or No faith at all - it does not matter.) I applaud the Government for setting up this scheme, but I am very critical of the way in which it has handled the Visa application process. There was really no need to require exhausted people who were fleeing for their lives and who had managed to reach Calais, to turn around and journey back to Paris or Brussels. Other countries brought their application offices to the places where people had reached, and they simplified and speeded up the whole process. Why could Britain not have done the same?
The war in Ukraine overshadows everything at the moment and it seem almost disrespectful to the suffering people to be writing about ordinary mundane activities and local politics. However, since we have no control over President Putin, perhaps we should try to continue as normal - "Keep calm and carry on." At the Full District Council Meeting on March 1st, I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues voted against the extra £4million funding for the Hertford Theatre developments. We suggested a less ambitious scheme, with only one new Cinema space, which would have still delivered improvements, but without the extra cost. The Tories rejected this idea and voted in favour of the extra £4million. We also tried to reduce the charges for Residents' Parking Zones (which would have cost the Council only £20,000 ) and we proposed making a small grant to all residents to soften the blow of the rise in Council Tax. We wished to acknowledge the fact that many residents were struggling with the huge rise in the cost of living, and to do what we could to help. We lost the votes on both these issues. There are 40 Conservative Councillors at District and only 6 Lib-Dems, 2 Labour and 2 Green --- being in Opposition is never easy.
At the County Council Budget meeting the Liberal Democrats proposed funding Free School Meals in the holidays for those pupils who qualify in term-time - The Tories, who are in majority control, as on District Council, rejected the proposal and voted against it. Regrettably, there seems to be little evidence that local Conservative Councillors support the policy of "Levelling Up". This aims to reduce the inequalities within our society, but the Hertfordshire Tory votes perpetuate them.
East Herts District Councillor
Lib-Dem Group Leader, EHDC.