Oliver supported Boris
Last night, Labour co-operated with MPs in other parties and in none, as well as some principled Conservative MPs, to take control of Parliament, opening the way for legislation to prevent a catastrophic no-deal Brexit.
After the vote, Jeremy Corbyn said: "We live in a parliamentary democracy; we do not have a presidency but a Prime Minister. Prime Ministers govern with the consent of the House of Commons, representing the people in whom the sovereignty rests."
He went on to say that, if Boris Johnson wants to table a motion for a General Election, "fine - get the bill through first in order to take No-Deal off the table".
The Tory MP for this constituency, Sir Oliver Heald, voted to
support the new Prime Minister's "Bullingdon Club" attitude to
Parliament and the British constitution. This is particularly
disappointing, since he has in the past been a vocal supporter of
membership of the European Union. He even boasted that "his"
constituency voted to remain.
4 September 2019
The annual Red Rose Summer Party took place in Buntingford yesterday and, once again, the weather was good. There was a good attendance and the East Herts Rural branch welcomed comrades from our CLP's Royston and Letchworth & Baldock branches, as well as from Broxbourne, Enfield, Hertford & Stortford, Hitchin & Harpenden and Bedfordshire.
In spite of the threat of a
Brexit hanging over us, we were able to relax for a couple of hours and
share food and conversation with friends. Much of the conversation
inevitably was about politics, but we caught up on information about
families, jobs and other activities that we do not usually have time to
discuss after Labour Party meetings.
2 September 2019
Jeremy Corbyn was in Stevenage yesterday with their parliamentary
candidate, Jill Borcherds, and leader of the Stevenage Borough Council,
Sharon Taylor (pictured above behind
him on the left). Alec Maguire and Tina Bhartwas, respectively
our Youth Officer and our BAME Officer, were there and this is their
He discussed plans for a National Education Service, where young people can access top quality education as a basic right, including free pre-school provision.
He went on to highlight how in post-war society we managed to set up the NHS, and as such we should now be able to set up a National Care Service, to ensure our elderly people are properly looked after.
He finished his speech by emphasizing the need to stop a disastrous No Deal Brexit by putting forward a vote of no confidence in the Government when Parliament reconvenes, and the need for a public vote with Remain on the ballot paper, which Labour would back against no deal.
He stayed for a chat with members, and pointed out the success of our local Labour team in gaining control of North Herts District Council last May, posing specifically for photos with two of our new councillors. He is pictured below with Cllr Adem Ruggiero-Cakir (Letchworth SE) and Cllr Kay Tart (Hitchin Walsworth).
21 Augusst 2019
John Rees was elected chair of the constituency party (CLP) at the AGM last Wednesday. Previously, John was treasurer of the CLP and is currently treasurer of his own branch, Royston and District.
John is an active member of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), one of the unions affiliated to the Labour Party. He chaired the London Transport Retired branch and also the TSSA's national Retired Members Group. He is treasurer of the Labour Transport Group - an organisation of Labour members in the transport industry which advises the Labour Parliamentary Group.
"I am honoured to become chair of the NE Herts CLP," John says, "and look forward to ensuring we have a united CLP with the common aim of campaigning for Labour on all levels."
John aims to be at the forefront of ensuring that the Party at local level addresses the important national and local issues, as well as the issues within the Party, like anti-semitism, racism, bullying, sexism and disloyalty. "These issues need to be fought vigorously," he says, "to ensure that we have a committed, united team."
The full list of officers elected at the AGM is on the local party page.
3 August 2019
The answer: when you are in East Herts. The East Herts Tories did
briefly consider that they might have a climate change crisis, but
eventually decided that they did not.
Last week, East Herts District Council debated a climate change motion,
proposed as a result of collaboration between the Green Party, the
Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party. The motion is similar to the
motions passed by the Labour and Co-operative/Liberal Democrat council
in North Herts and the Conservative County Council. Indeed, Parliament
has decided that we have an emergency.
However, the Tories proposed an amendment to remove the word "emergency" from the motion and to water down the pledge to do everything in their power to deal with climate change.
The debate on the amendment was remarkable in that the Tories gave no reason for the changes, although challenged to do so. Indeed,their main argument seemed to be that their amendment did not make any difference - a very odd reason for proposing it.
Right at the end, Cllr Andrews, the seconder of the Tory amendment, after making a short speech about the pressing importance of tackling climate change, said that it was not an emergency because it was not sudden or unexpected and that crisis was a more suitable word - although this word was not in the amendment!
Nevertheless, the Tories passed the amendment and then supported the
amended motion. In the debate, two of the Tories said that actions
speak louder than words. We shall see what actions they take.
30 July 2019
The Secretary of State, in one of his last acts before being dismissed by the new Prime Minister, has rejected the Hoddesdon site for a waste incinerator.
Labour campaigned against the original site proposed by the County Council in Hatfield and then against the site in Hoddesdon. The County Council signed a contract with Veolia for an incinerator before they had a site with planning permission. They spent a great deal of money shutting down the Central Library and moving the special needs school next door to provide a site in Hatfield, but the proposal was rejected by the government inspector on appeal.
The proposal in Hoddesdon has now been rejected by the Secretary of State, who called in the proposal after it had been approved.
This leaves the Tory County Council with a problem, since they have a contract with Veolia which they cannot fulfil without providing a site for the incinerator.
25 July 2019
Out of touch
"Boris Johnson has won the support of fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members," said Jeremy Corbyn, "by promising tax cuts for the richest, presenting himself as the bankers' friend and pushing for a damaging No Deal Brexit. But he hasn't won the support of our country."
He has been fired twice for lying - and that does not include his biggest lie about the money that the UK pays to the EU. He has been described as having "a loose grip on the truth".
As Foreign Secretary he botched an early interview about Nazanin Zagharri-Ratcliffe - and the Iranians still quote what he said to justify their imprisonment of her. As Mayor of London, he wasted money on projects like the Garden Bridge across the Thames and the proposal to resurrect Routemaster buses.
As candidate for the Tory leadership, he waved a kipper to blame the EU for imposing a British rule on the Isle of Man, which is not even in the EU. Do we really want a prime minister who is so incompetent?
23 July 2019
Yesterday, the Tory County Council decided that there is a climate emergency after all - a view that they had rejected in March, when the Labour Group presented its motion.
"On March 26 the Tories denied there was a climate change emergency," said Judi Billing, leader of the Labour Group (pictured), "when Labour told them firmly and with much evidence that there is. On July 16 they changed their minds and made impassioned speeches about it. Brilliant news, of course, but a bit bemusing."
Information on the motion is in our earlier report here.
Meanwhile, a motion on climate change will go before the East Herts District Council on 24 July 2019. The motion is a collaboration between the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Labour Party on the District Council. Let us hope that the District Council Tories welcome it enthusiastically, as their County Council colleagues have. You can read the motion here.
17 July 2019
Joe Fortune (pictured) is the General Secretary elect of the Co-op Party and will be speaking at a joint Co-op Party and Labour Party event in Hertford on the evening of Wednesday 17 July. Joe is currently the Party's National Political and Policy Manager, but will shortly take up the reins as General Secretary.
If you are a Co-op Party member wanting to meet Joe and hear his plans, here is your opportunity. If you are a Labour Party member slightly mystified about what our sister party does, come along too.
This meeting is arranged jointly by the Broxbourne and East Herts Co-op Party branch and by the Hertford and Stortford constituency Labour Party, but Labour members from North East Herts would be very welcome.
Details are on the members' page.
13 July 2019
The highest paid of these - the chief executive of 3i - received £7.88 million for his year's work , or £151,480 per week. What is more, another executive of 3i comes fourth in the table of unacceptably high earnings.
This problem has been building up for decades. In the 1960s, the ratio of a chief executive officer's pay to that of the average worker was about 20:1. It reached 170:1 in 2014, according to the independent, non-party think tank, the High Pay Centre. They say that this had rocketed from 60:1 in the previous 20 years.
The High Pay Centre published a report in 2014 recommending a ratio between the highest and lowest paid in a company of 75:1. This ratio is applied by John Lewis and Partners, but relates to the average worker, not the lowest paid, and they have anyway contracted out some of the lowest paid jobs, such as cleaners, which goes to show just how difficult it is to control this situation.
It is particularly difficult to pull back from where we are now, because that would involve reducing salaries and prompting any who are genuinely marketable, in, say, the USA, to seek employment there.
However, such a pay gap badly affects social cohesion and it has a particularly bad effect if executive pay rises steeply when the pay of ordinary workers is constrained. At the very least, we need to stem the increase in the gap. Workers on boards would help. Imposing the ratio has the attraction that executive increases might trigger increases for all the work force.
Jeremy Corbyn has referred several times to this problem and emphasised that the first step is to ensure that these high paid executives pay their tax in full. It is clear, however, thathe recognises that this complex problem has to be tackled somehow.
24 June 2019
Lisa Forbes won the by-election in Peterborough yesterday, after a great campaign by many members of the party, including some from this constituency.
"Peterborough has shown clear support for Labour's programme to end austerity and invest in services and communities, rejecting a decade of Tory cuts," Jeremy Corby said, in congratulating Lisa on her win. Lisa fought the election on issues like crime, education, housing and homelessness, issues on which the Brexit Party, which came second, has no policies at all. Lisa's webpage is here.
7 June 2019
"This should just make us more determined"
So, in this constituency of the East of England we are sending three MEPs from the Brexit Party to help run the European Union although they have no policies whatsoever on how to do this. Their only policy is to take the UK out of the EU, but this is an action which is outside the remit of the European Parliament. If they behave like the UKIP MEPs did in the last parliament, all they will do is further alienate the other member states.
The media turned the election of MEPs into a vote on "remain" or "leave", and unfortunately most political parties went along with this. Labour has lost out badly because they have been striving in Westminster to prevent the Conservative government's incompetence from resulting in a bad deal or even no deal. Given the constraints of the present UK Parliament, Labour could not deliver a general election or a referendum, so that the only pragmatic and statesmanlike option was to try to improve on Theresa May's deal and, above all, to prevent the default of "no deal".
Here in the East of England, the great regret is that we failed to retain Alex Mayer's (pictured) seat in the European Parliament. She has worked tirelessly for the East of England in the Parliament and on the ground. Her picture has appeared regularly in all the local papers around the region, visiting companies, charities - and local Labour Parties - to learn their views, to assist in getting European grants and much else besides. We heard little or nothing from our other six MEPs (three from UKIP and three Conservatives).
Typically, Alex Mayer has told Party members: "Setbacks such as this should just make us more determined to campaign even harder, so we win power to put our socialist values into action."
In the East of England we now have (compared with 2014):
37.8% of the vote = 3 MEPs (+3)
Liberal Democrats 22.6% = 2 MEPs (+2)
Green Party 12.7% = 1 MEP (+1)
Conservatives 10.3% = 1 MEP (-2)
Labour Party 8.7% = None (-1)
Change UK 3.7% = None
UKIP 3.4% = None (-3)
Results by constituency are not available, but the relevant district results are:
Liberal Democrats 31.5% of the vote
Brexit Party 26.8%
Green Party 15.4%
Conservative Party 10.8%
Labour Party 8.2%
Change UK 4.1%
English Democrats 0.6%
Attila Csordas 0.3%
Brexit Party 34%
Liberal Democrats 26.2%
Green Party 15.6%
Conservative Party 11.7%
Labour Party 5.3%
Change UK 3.9%
English Democrats 0.6%
Attila Csordas 0.2%
If you do take these votes as a proxy for a referendum, it is clear that those keen to leave the EU are a minority in our two districts, but it is less clear for the region as a whole.
In Great Britain as a whole, Labour was third with 14.1% of the vote, behind Brexit on 31.6% and the Lib Dems on 20.3%. Labour performed better in areas that voted Remain in the referendum than in areas that voted Leave.
27 May 2019
Northern Ireland uses a different system of proportional representation and declared later than the rest of the UK. All three of those elected are women. The DUP was top of the poll, followed by Sinn Fein. The third MEP elected was from the Alliance Party, replacing the Ulster Unionists, who held the seat before.
31 May 2019
has made the
following statement on the resignation:
"The Prime Minister is right to have resigned. She has now accepted what the country has known for months: she cannot govern, and nor can her divided and disintegrating party.
"The burning injustices she promised to tackle three years ago are even starker today.
"The Conservative Party has utterly failed the country over Brexit and is unable to improve the lives of people in our country or deal with their most pressing needs.
"Parliament is deadlocked and the Conservatives offer no solutions to the other major challenges facing our country.
"The last thing the country needs is weeks of more Conservative infighting followed by yet another unelected Prime Minister. Whoever becomes the new Conservative Leader must let the people decide our country’s future, through an immediate general election."
24 May 2019
The Tories lost their overall majority on North Herts District Council at the election on 2 May 2019 (more information below).
The Labour & Co-operative Group of councillors have now agreed a joint administration with the Liberal Democrats and Martin Stears-Handscomb, Labour & Co-operative councillor for Hitchin Oughton (pictured), has become Leader of the Council. The Deputy Leader is Paul Clark, Liberal Democrat councillor for Hitchin Highbury.
"The people of North Herts deserve big improvements in their local council," Martin Stears-Handscomb said last night. "We can achieve that, despite deep cuts from above, but only with a more practical, honest approach. There's no change without real change.
"Working together, your local Labour & Co-operative and Liberal Democrats have a shared commitment to deliver much needed action for our community through a joint administration. You'll quickly see changes, with a sharp shift towards a more open and cooperative Council, which listens to people - to residents, hard-working staff and elected councillors.
"We're starting as we mean to go on, for example tonight Full Council will hear Extinction Rebellion present their petition as we propose a motion to declare a climate emergency and call for action on this important issue.
"We look forward to working together, to strengthen our Council, empower local communities and build strong relationships."
Members of the Cabinet are listed on the Councillors page.
22 May 2019
How to stop Farage
Alex Mayer (centre, white jacket) and Sharon Taylor (second from left), who are first and third respectively on the Labour list for the East of England, were campaigning in Letchworth this morning. The full Labour list is here.
On Thursday, we elect seven MEPs to represent the East of England. The elected MEPs will have no role in deciding what we do about the Brexit chaos that the Conservatives have created, but they will be involved in making laws that affect us for however long we stay in the EU, whether this is a few months or five years.
As voters, we should be considering whether we want Labour MEPs with a good track record of progressive policies in Europe or whether we want to throw our votes away on the ineffective gesture of "sending a message" to Westminster, ignoring what this election is really about. Labour's manifesto for this election highlights how Britain could lead a green revolution in Europe in the face of the climate crisis, which the Westminster Parliament has recently declared, endorsing Labour's proposal. You can read the manifesto here.
Alex Mayer, who was the only Labour MEP for this region before this election, has been very active in the Parliament, but also has worked hard to get around her very large consitituency, to hear what voters want and to secure a great deal of European funding for various projects around the region. The MEPs from other parties have been largely invisible within the region and, of course, Nigel Farage's MEPs do nothing for the region: they just take their European salaries and disruptthe serious business of the Parliament.
There has been a lot of talk about tactical voting, but the voting system used in these elections (details here) makes this quite difficult. The main website advocating this approach indicates that, in the East of England, even if half of Remainers voted tactically, it would make no difference at all to the result. Nigel Farage's Brexit Party will, they predict, end up with three of the seven seats and Labour with two.
So, the only way to cut down the Farage vote is to increase the Labour vote, so that it outstrips the Brexit vote, leaving Labour to work for the good of the East of Endland if we stay in the EU.
Meanwhile, in the Westminster Parliament Labour will continue to work for a reasonable solution to the impasse created by the Tories. The Tories remain the UK government, so that Labour has to work within the parliamentary system to get as good a result as possible for the people of this country. It is pointless for an opposition party to proclaim that it wants a referendum, or indeed that it wants a "no deal" Brexit, when it is not in a position to deliver this.
Clearly, if you want EU laws that protect the environment and individual rights, you must vote Labour on Thursday. The Brexit Party has only one policy which cannot be achieved by getting elected to the European Parliament, however many MEPs they get.
Postal voters: if you have not already posted your postal, fill up the documents according to the instructions and take the envelope into a polling station on Thursday
20 May 2019
Labour Town Councillor, Rob Inwood, has been elected Mayor of Royston. It is the second time that he has held this office.
In his acceptance speech, Rob talked of his hope that a Royston Youth Council could be set up and of his desire to help local businesses by promoting them and the town itself. He said that wee need to change the way we think about the environment, to ensure that Royston is a healthy, vibrant town.
"I want to help the twinning organisation grow," he said, and he linked this as one of the strands in making the town more inclusive. "I want everyone to get involved in some way or another and, in doing this, I hope to bring our great community together even more."
15 May 2019
For the many, not the few
On 23 May we shall be electing our Members of the European Parliament. Through this democratic process we shall be electing those who, along with the Council of Ministers, make those European laws that affect all the citizens of the European Union.
When they are elected, they will play their part in deciding what the EU does. What they will not be doing is taking any part in deciding what the UK does about Brexit.
The Tories would have you believe that this election is all about backing a Brexit deal, but it is not. It is about how Europe is run. It may be that our MEPs are not there for very long, if we leave on or before the extended deadline, but during that period our MEPs will not be dealing with Brexit, but with European legislation.
Today, Jeremy Corbyn launched the Labour manifesto for these elections. This manifesto is about the actions that need to be taken in partnership with the rest of Europe, whether we have a deal of close co-operation with the EU or whether we remain members of it.
He said that we need to "restore pride and prosperity to parts of our country that have been neglected for too long". He continued: "That neglect was, I believe, a major reason behind the vote for Brexit in the first place."
The manifesto, therefore, sets out some key areas of action that are needed in the UK and in Europe, like ending austerity and rebuilding our economies, tackling climate change, improving rights and protections at work, keeping us safe through cross-border co-operation, promoting equality for our citizens and building unity.
Jeremy emphasized the over-riding importance of the climate change emergency: "The biggest issue of all - the climate and environment emergency that threatens everyone's future - cannot be averted by one country alone."
As the manifesto says, Labour has the ambition to lead a green industrial revolution on our continent, with the aim of making Europe the first zero carbon continent in the world.
Read the full manifesto here.
9 May 2019
Alex Mayer, Chris Vince and Sharon Taylor - the first three on the Labour list
It is increasingly likely that the UK will be electing European Parliament members on Thursday, 23 May. These elections are conducted on the "closed list" system (this is explained here).
We are in the East of England constituency and the Labour list of candidates for the seven vacancies is:
1. Alex Mayer
2. Chris Vince
3. Sharon Taylor
4. Alvin Shum
5. Anna Smith
6. Adam Scott
7. Javeria Hussain
Many of you will know Alex Mayer who is currently the only Labour MEP for the East of England. Chris Vince is a Harlow Borough councillor and is also the parliamentary spokesperson for Hertford and Stortford. Sharon Taylor is also well known to many of us: she is leader of the Stevenage Borough Council and is also a county councillor.
21 April 2019
We had a great result in Letchworth South East, where Adem Ruggiero-Cakir (pictured left), our Labour and Co-operative candidate, won by 13 votes, after fighting a very vigorous campaign.
However, it was very disappointing that we failed to take back the seat which we held until four years ago in Letchworth Grange. Here, Conor Brogan (Labour and Co-operative) received 563 votes to 708 for the Conservative candidate.
Our comrades in Hitchin also won an additional seat so that we now have 16 seats on North Herts District Council.
The Liberal Democrats won five seats, including, in our constituency, Arbury, Letchworth South-West and Royston Heath and now have 11 seats
The Tories lost seven seats, but took back the seat on Grange that was held by the Tory councillor who had defected to the Liberal Democrats, so that they now have 22 seats, thus losing their overall majority.
Their losses included Lynda Needham, who was Leader of the Council. Remarkably, she lost her seat after a tied result with the Liberal Democrat, as a result of (literally) drawing the short straw.
It is also pleasing to note that in Hitchin Bearton Judi Billing was once again elected with well over half the vote and 806 votes ahead of her nearest rival.
East Hertfordshire: Tory hegemony broken
Having lost Watton-at-Stone to the Liberal Democrats in last year's by-election, the Tories have now lost a further nine seats. Labour regained both the seats in Hertford Sele, the Liberal Democrats won five additional seats and the Green Party also won two seats.
Unfortunately, the wards within this constituency all remained in Conservative hands, apart from Watton-at-Stone, which the Liberal Democrats retained.
3 May 2019
"Nothing less than a Green Industrial Revolution will do" - Jeremy Corbyn
"I'd like to thank the youth climate strikers and Greta Thunberg for highlighting how concerned they are about climate change," said Jeremy Corbyn yesterday, after meeting the Swedish schoolgirl, who began the strikes which have taken off around the world.
"Labour has the plans and funding in place to invest in renewable industries, reduce our carbon emissions and bring well-paid and skilled jobs to towns and cities across the UK," he said.
In the local elections on 2 May, a vote for Labour means a vote for action by your district council to do all it can to reduce carbon emissions in this area. On North Herts District Council the Labour and Co-operative group of councillors proposed that the council should declare a climate emergency, as many councils around the country have done. This is really urgent, because on current trends global warming reaches a "point of no return" within the next 11 years. The council is well-placed to use its planning powers to ensure that new houses are carbon-neutral and to take steps to encourage the retro-fitting of green measures.
But the Tories do not think there is any urgency about this. They cancelled the meeting because there was "no time-dependent business"!
Your vote could help to ensure that the Tory ostriches lose control of the North Herts District Council on 2 May and we can take urgent the urgent action that is needed.
As Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday: "Nothing less than a Green Industrical Revolution will do."
POSTSCRIPT: Greta was meeting the leaders in Parliament of the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Nationals, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, who agreed to ongoing cross-party co-operation and dialogue with youth climate strikers, support for youth assemblies across the UK and a redoubling of their commitment to adhere to the Paris Agreement and keep emission low enough to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming target. The Tories and the DUP were invited to this meeting but did not attend.
24 April 2019
Alex Mayer MEP with just a few of those who were out
13 April in Royston for Rob Inwood, Labour and Co-operative candidate
for Royston Palace ward
Tories are expensive
On average, you will pay £258 less in council tax in 2019/20 in the East of England if you have a Labour council. Labour research shows that the average level of council tax is lower in Labour council areas compared with Tory areas throughout the country.
In this constituency we have two Tory-controlled district councils. In East Herts the council tax has risen by £84 and in North Herts by £66. Our neighbouring Borough of Stevenage has a Labour and Co-operative council who have kept their increase down to £63.
This has been achieved in spite of the cuts in government funding which on average amount to £132.82 for in each household annually.
13 April 2019
“Whilst I have literally wept about the holding of, and the result of, the (Brexit) referendum, as it affects my children and grandchildren, if we don’t take action on climate, that misery will have been entirely pointless within a couple of generations,” said Cllr Judi Billing, in proposing the Labour Group’s motion on climate change to the Hertfordshire County Council last Tuesday.
Judi (pictured left) said that the government was so absorbed by Brexit that it seemed unable to lead on anything else. So, she called for a coalition of local government to take action on the emergency of climate change, citing those councils that have already agreed to take action.
Like the motion to North Herts District Council (see report below), Judi's motion called attention to last year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which states that we have just 12 years to act on climate change if global temperatures are to be kept within the recommended 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Counties are particularly well placed to lead the world in reducing carbon emissions because of their responsibility for planning infrastructure, transport, the environment and public health. The Tory majority on the Council accepted that this was so, but then amended the motion to remove just about all the action points.
They declined to set a target for zero emissions by 2030, saying the government would legislate for a target "at an appropriate point in the future". They also refused to develop a Climate Change Policy for the county.
The most that they would do is to "refresh" the County Energy Strategy and develop a "climate-resilient" communities strategy. Judi said that a climate resilient strategy sounded like sun-cream to her!
You can read the Labour motion here.
28 March 2018
Action to prevent the catastrophe of increased global temperatures must be taken within the next 12 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told us this last year. If it is not, global temperatures will rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and the situation will become beyond control.
Accordingly, Labour councillors on North Herts District Council have put down a motion to get the District Council to play its part in this overwhelmingly important task. The motion was due to be discussed at the next full Council meeting.
However, the Tory administration has cancelled the meeting. Unbelievably, the reason they gave was that there was "no time dependent business".
Adem Ruggiero-Cakir (pictured) is the Labour and Co-operative candidate for Letchworth South-East. He says: "This is an excellent motion and it’s a shame to hear that the NHDC administration do not consider it to be time-sensitive. We require immediate action to address climate change, and Local Government is well placed to do this. The decision to cancel the meeting ought to be reconsidered."
The Labour Group on the County Council will be putting forward a similar motion tomorrow (25 March). We shall see if Conservative County Councillors are any more enlightened than their District Council colleagues.
You can read the motion to North Herts District Council here.
25 March 2019
Andrew Gwynne MP launches the Labour campaign
in North Herts
Andrew Gwynne MP and Martin Stears-Handscomb provide hope for our country, together with candidates, councillors and members
"By next year, local councils will have lost 60p in every £1 of their funding from Westminister," said Andrew Gwynne MP, shadow Secretary of State for Local Government & Communities, launching our campaign for the North Herts District Council elections in Hitchin. The elections take place on 2 May 2019.
"Local government matters," he added. "These local elections give us the chance to make our case that life in Britain doesn't need to be like this. You can vote for different policies."
Martin Stears-Handscomb, who is leader of the Labour Group on the District Council, said: "North Herts needs change - a council that fights to protect the services we rely on from a government that is squeezing the life out of them. From generating community wealth to helping local groups make a contribution and listening to local people's priorities, we can show how local government matters."
6 March 2019
Please sign again - it's important that you do
Our County Councillors have been told by Herts County Council that they will not accept the petition many of you have signed, because addresses were not entered on the original, so that they cannot verify the petitioners are from Hertfordshire.
We now have until 26 March to get your signatures again in the correct format to bring the petition to 1000 so that it can be presented at the next Full Council. Don't delay.
The petition has been recreated from scratch and the link is
So, please sign again - or, of course, sign for the first time!
County Council consultation
The County Council consultation has now closed.
However, the guidance for completing the consultation which was provided by Cllr Joshua Bennett Lovell may still be of interest and you can download it here.
1 March 2019 (amended 12 March)
Enforced academisation of Barclay School in Stevenage
"Academisation takes public assets and puts them in the hands of private organizations," said County Cllr Joshua Bennett Lovell, in introducing the convoluted tale of the transfer of Barclay School to the Future Academies Trust. "There is absolutely no evidence that academies improve educational outcomes," he added.
Last night, the constituency party welcomed Josh, as well as Jill Borcherds and Kay Tart (pictured left to right), to tell us about their Hands Off Barclay campaign and the campaign established by Kay Tart, which started as Hitchin and Harpenden Parents against School Cuts and has recently become Action for Education.
Jill Borcherds (left) is the Labour parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, but has been personally involved in the Barclay School campaign as a teacher at Barclay School, where she was the representative for the National Education Union.
Jill set the scene of demoralised teachers who are not trusted by managers and who, especially in academies, are expected to get quick improvements in test results, rather than instilling an understanding of the subject. This is made worse in Hertfordshire, because it is becoming impossible to recruit teachers to fill vacancies.
Josh (right) described how Barclay School had been put into special measures and thus, according to government policy, had to become an academy. It was agreed that it should be taken over by the Herts for Learning multi-academy trust and staff and parents were reasonably happy with that. However, without explanation, this arrangement was cancelled and eventually it was decided that the school would be taken on by the Future Academies Trust, which is run by Lord Nash, a Tory Party donor and until recently a junior education minister.
The Future Academies Trust runs schools in Pimlico, Shepherds Bush and Westminster and has recently taken on the Laureate Academy in Hemel Hempstead. Not very helpful locations for Barclay to get any synergy.
Josh indicated that there would be some revelations in the Comet today and you can read this damning report on how these decisions are taken behind closed doors, with the previously undisclosed participation of the Tory MP for Stevenage, Stephen McPartland. You can read this report here.
Kat Tart (left) explained that her campaign group grew very rapidly, against the background of cuts in school funding of 8% on average, but up to 15% in some cases, since 2010 and the problems caused by the lack of any pay increases for teachers for a decade. There are similar action groups all over the country, but Bim Afolami, the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, insists that the problem is "mismanagement of funds" by the schools!
However, the Tories at County Hall had voted for a Labour motion requiring them to write to the government complaining about the education cuts, although they had been shamed into doing so, faced, as they were, by a large audience of parents and other campaigners (see below).
STOP PRESS: It was announced today that Mark Allchorn, the headteacher of Barclay, has resigned. He was appointed only two years ago and has been successfully bringing the school out of special measures. He is to be replaced by Dr Matthew Labane, the headteacher of another school within the Future Academies Trust.
28 February 2019 (two mistakes corrected 1 March 2019)
“It is time that we took a cross party approach and wrote to the government together to tell them that they have cut our services to the bone and we now need some holistic, intensive therapy – not just a tiny sticking plaster stuck on a severed artery,” said Cllr Sharon Taylor, proposing Labour’s amendment to the Conservatives’ budget for Hertfordshire for 2019/20. Sharon is the Labour spokesperson on the County Council for resources and performance.
She made it quite clear that Labour
understood the swingeing cuts in local authority funding made by the
Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition and Conservative governments.
“We have seen £16 billion of cuts since 2010; that is 60
every pound that the last Labour government allocated for local
services,” she said. She added that the settlement for the coming year
represents another cut of £1.3 billion.
Hertfordshire is struggling. For example, children’s services is overspent this year by more than £5 million. Adult care is overspent too. But we have to keep going to provide these vital services and she paid tribute to the local government staff working on the front line, delivering such services, especially to our most vulnerable residents.
“That is why we have tried to be creative and helpful,” she said, explaining that some Labour proposals were cost-neutral and others were invest-to-save polices. Where the proposals are alternative ways of spending the limited funds, they have been fully costed.
Yet, the Tories voted down all the proposals by 49 votes to 25.
This is how a Labour administration would have coped with the very severe cuts made to Hertfordshire's budget imposed by the Conservative government:
For young people: Exemption from council tax up to age 21 for those leaving care. Cuts in neighbourhood youth services halted. Subsidy of Savercard maintained. Increased contribution to young people's mental health services. A bid for money to support apprenticeships.
For older people: Restoring cuts to funding to support people on release from hospital. Review of Adult Care Services, including considering bring it back "in-house". Review of bus subsidies, because cuts ruin counter to the aim of encouraging public transport use.
For all: Changes to allow individual councillors to fund street lighting, bus routes, footpaths and cycleways locally. Restore 7-day opening of Waste Recycling Centres to reduce fly-tipping.
Funding: To come from the existing Invest to Transform fund, a small cut in the communications budget and a 20% reduction in highly-paid Council staff.
22 February 2019
Kay Tart (pictured left), the founder of Action for Education (formerly Hitchin and Harpenden Parents Against School Cuts), and Joshua Bennet Lovell (pictured right), Labour County Councillor and a leading campaigner for Hands Off Barclay, which has been arguing to prevent the forced academisation of Barclay School in Stevenage, will both speak at the next all-member meeting of the constituency Labour Party on Wednesday, 27 February 2019.
All members and affiliated supporters will be very welcome to come and join in the discussion. Details are on the members' page.
20 February 2019
Andrew Gwynne MP (pictured), shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will open the official launch of our campaign for the North Herts District Council elections. Andrew is the Co-National Campaign Coordinator with Ian Lavery.
The launch will be on Thursday, 28 February 2019 at 4 pm. All Labour Party members are welcome. Details are in the campaign schedule on the members-only page.
There is more information about the Labour candidates for North Herts District Council on the election page.
19 February 2019
Brexit - or maybe gardening? Clearly, a serious conversation here between branch members, with a little more hilarity in the background from visitors from Enfield.
East Herts Rural branch dinner was held on Saturday evening at the Axe and Compasses in Braughing. No speeches this year, but there was the indispensible raffle. A good evening and some funds raised to fight the District elections on 2 May.
10 February 2019
Alex Mayer, our tireless MEP, was out with our candidate, Cllr Rob Inwood (picture on left) for the Young Labour Day of Action in Royston Palace ward this morning - together with some older members. The Young Labour members were still going strong in the afternoon (picture on right).
9 February 2019
Thursday, 2 May
Within the constituency, there are ten seats on North Herts District Council and eleven on East Herts District Council up for election. The Labour candidates for the key seats in Letchworth, Baldock and Royston have been selected and you can find more information on the election page.
Theresa May has been scrabbling around to find a Plan B for Brexit with little success, following the overwhelming rejection of her agreement with the EU by the House of Commons.
Jeremy Corbyn has now offered her the chance of finding a deal that could be passed by the House of Commons and be approved by the other nations of the European Union.
Labour has long argued that the Government must change its negotiating red lines, which involves seeking significant changes to the Political Declaration.
Jeremy has set out the changes needed:
A permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU, with the UK having a say in future EU ntrade deals.
Close alignment with the Single Market, with shared institutions and as dispute resolution arrangement.
Dynamic alignment on rights and protections, so that UK standards keep pace with Europe as a minimum.
Commitments on participation in EU agencies and Funding programmes, including environment, education and industrial regulation.
Agreements on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and shared databases.
If Theresa May withdrew her red line which rules out a customs union, then the chance of having to activate the back-stop becomes very small indeed and this would probably make the withdrawal agreement acceptable to all except the very hard-line no-dealers. This could be her last chance to save the UK from catastrophe.
By contrast, this perhaps the first chance that Labour has had to get some movement on the prime minister's proposals, which she has stubbornly clung to in spite of the House of Commons' rejection of them.
However, if Theresa May rejects Labour's proposals, then we shall have to seek some other way of avoiding the catastrophe of crashing out with no deal. It is only then that other options, including another referendum, can be put forward with any hope of success.
7 Februray 2019
Letchworth Grange (left), with candidate Connor Brogan (second from right), and Baldock Town, with Colwyn Griffiths (extreme left)
On the cold Saturday morning of 19 January 2019, our members braved the weather to canvass for Connor Brogan in Letchworth Grange and Colwyn Griffiths in Baldock Town. Meanwhile, Jessica Finn, our Women's Officer was at a meeting of Eastern Region Women's Officers in Cambridge and Cllr Helen Oliver was at a Local Government Association training session in Coventry.
Labour East Women's Officers (Jessica Finn is fourth from right)
On Sunday afternoon, the canvassing session was in Royston Palace, where town councillor Robert Inwood is the candidate, whilst in the morning representatives of all three branches had a meeting with the new constituency Membership Secretary, Dawn Pavlitski, facilitated by the constituency Secretary, Cllr Sue Ngwala.
21 January 2019
Theresa May's Brexit deal resulted in a historic defeat for the government. Yet, having failed to get the support of her own party for her deal, she now seems to think she can just carry on and achieve in a few days what she failed to achieve in more than two years. And that she can carry on uttering warm words about caring for people struggling to make ends meet, whilst doing the opposite.
Although the vote of no confidence in the government proposed by Jeremy Corbyn narrowly failed, it is clear that we need a change of government and may still be able to get it. This is what we offer:
Click on the picture to play the video
It's time for a Labour government.
17 January 2019
First meeting of the Women's Forum
Saturday 12 January was a busy day. We were out canvassing in Letchworth South East and in Royston Palace in the morning and the first meeting of our Women's Forum took place in the afternoon.
We shall be working hard to win the seat currently held by the Tories in Letchworth South East, where we took a seat from them in 2018 - by a margin of only eight votes. The picture shows some of those who braved the cold in Letchworth South East.
It is some years since we have held a seat in Royston Palace, but two Labour councillors were elected last year to the Town Council for this area. So we shall be fighting hard here to win.
The Women's Forum met in Buntingford in the afternoon and was attended by women from all the branches in the constituency. They had a wide-ranging discussion and also elected delegates to the national Women's Conference to be held in Telford on 23 -24 February 2019, a task delegated to the Women's Forum by the constituency party.
The picture shows some of the women at the Forum, including the constituency party's Women's Officer, Jesssica Finn (front centre right) and North Herts district coluncillor Sue Ngwala (third from left).
The next meeting of the Forum will be on 9 March 2019 at 3 pm. The venue will be posted on the members' page when it has been arranged.
13 January 2019
East Herts Rural Branch Dinner
The East Herts Rural Branch dinner will be on Saturday, 9 February 2019 at 7 for 7.30 pm. Like last year, it will be at the Axe and Compasses, The Street, Braughing SG11 2QR. All members from the branch or the constituency or beyond - and their family and friends - are very welcome.
The menu and prices will be available shortly, but you can book now by emailing Clyde Millard, branch chair. Booking closes on 3 February 2019.
Hertford and Ware Branch Dinner
If you really cannot make the East Herts Rural dinner, but nevertheless want to eat for Labour, our comrades in Hertford and Ware are holding their dinner at the Salisbury Arms in Hertford on Friday, 1 February 2019. Or why not go to both dinners?
The cost is £18 for two courses or £22 for three courses and you need to book by 14 January. You need to email Catherine Henderson with your menu choices: the menu for the dinner is here. She will give you an address to which you should send your payment.
Note: the speaker at the Hertford and Ware dinner has been confirmed as Rosie Newbigging, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Welwyn-Hatfield (added 14 January 2019).
9 January 2019
In spite of the chaos caused by the introduction last summer of a new, "improved" timetable, rail fares rose at the beginning of this year. We were out at Royston and Letchworth stations this morning to tell commuters how much better the rail service would be under a Labour government.
Royston town councillor Rob Inwood, with comrades from Royston and East Herts Rural branches at Royston station
Many of the problems are caused by the fragmentation of the rail system. However, the integration of the network whilst still in private hands would create a counter-productive private monopoly. Even ardent supporters of private enterprise recognise that private monopolies are not in the public interest and we have legislation to prevent companies becoming so large that they control the market in which they operate.
Therefore, it is clear that railways are unsuitable for private operation and nationalisation is the only way to run a railway for the benefit of passengers and of the economy.
District councillors Daniel Allen (left) and Helen Oliver (second from right) with Letchworth and Baldock branch comrades at Letchworth station
2 January 2019 (added to on 3 January 2019)
You will need to be logged into your Facebook account to see the video.
1 January 2019
The first meeting of the constituency party's Women's Forum will take place on the afternoon of Saturday, 12 January 2019 from 2 to 4 pm.
The constituency party's Women's Officer, Jessica Finn (pictured with Jeremy Corbyn), says: "I would like to invite all self-identified women members to join me. You are welcome to bring children with you. This will be a space to talk about politics, women's involvement and we will also be voting on delegates to the first standalone Women's Conference (taking place in Telford, 23-24 February 2019)."
For full details, log in to the Members Only page and scroll down to Constituency Party meetings.
31 December 2018
Rachel Garnham is a newly elected member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party, one of nine members representing the constituency Labour Parties (CLPs). On 28 November 2018 she spoke at an all-member meeting in North East Herts about the work of the NEC. She also continues to be the constituency party secretary of nearby Mid-Bedfordshire – a constituency with many similarities to our own.
She was fresh from an NEC away-day. Although she ranged over the many issues that had been discussed, there were two main themes: the strategic direction being developed to ensure that we have a healthy party and the policy issues faced in rebuilding Britain.
A healthy party
The NEC is building on the outcomes of the Party’s Democracy Review, with further reforms planned to increase opportunities for member involvement. Rachel acknowledged that there was some confusion about rule changes and how CLPs should implement them, but said that in future there would be clear advice to CLP secretaries as the NEC took decisions based on the results of the Review. She talked about upholding the Party’s rules and also about quickly implementing a fairer and speedier disciplinary process.
It is comforting for us to know that at least one voice on the NEC as they discuss constitutional matters will be that of an experienced constituency officer who knows what is practical in the day to day running of local parties.
One development that she singled out was the Women’s Conference in February, which led her on to talking from her own experience of CLPs co-operating to set up an all-Bedfordshire women’s forum.
On policy issues, the starting point was the need for Rebuilding Britain after the Tories’ failed policy of austerity, which had not even succeeded in its own terms in eliminating the deficit and reducing debt. She spoke of the shame induced by the report of the UN rapporteur on the growth of poverty in the UK.
The other major aspect of Tory failure was Brexit. However, she refused to be drawn on specific plans for obtaining a better outcome than “Mrs May’s deal”, saying that Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Keir Starmer were well able to act in Parliament and in Europe to get an outcome better than the one on offer from the government.
More generally, she talked about social policies and observed that many of our economic policies, such as regional investment banks, chimed with what industry wanted. She told us about the new strategy for community organising, with a new team appointed to build campaigns and work with local communities also working with parliamentary candidates and activists in the top marginal constituencies, so that we are ready for an election, whether it is a snap election – next May was mentioned by one member of her audience – or the Tories hang on until 2022.
Finally, she talked about the importance of ethical fund-raising, which for the Labour Party meant raising small amounts from many people, unlike the big donations from wealthy donors who fund the Tories.
The aim was a healthy, democratic and inclusive party, campaigning and talking about the issues that matter to the people of Britain.