Here is our manifesto for change:
OUR HOUSING NEEDS
The District is chronically short of accommodation for both renting and owner occupation; the truth is there are not enough houses for all our citizens, so many local young people are currently forced to move far away from friends and family. This madness has to end.
Labour would end it by:
- Setting in place a five year plan to tackle the housing shortage, bringing together key stakeholders to seek a District-wide approach to this problem.
- Releasing just 1% of the Green Belt, which currently makes up 81% of the entire District (leaving 80.19% of the District retained as Green Belt) to be developed for new housing over a twenty year period.
- Requiring a minimum of 40 % social housing on new sites in the Green Belt, so that young people and those on lower incomes are not priced out of our local community.
- Ensuring that new social housing is genuinely affordable, at rents of no more than 55% of market values.
- Assessing whether the Council is using its Council house stock in the best interests of local people, and introducing changes where we feel fairness may be lacking in the process of allocating housing stock.
- Continuing to use Council land to provide new housing for those on Council waiting lists, e.g. by developing former garage sites.
- Maintaining our Council stock to high levels, so that tenants have reasonable standards of accommodation.
- Working with other Hertfordshire authorities to create a new Garden City.
- Introducing a private landlord accreditation scheme and negotiating a partnership with an independent agency to provide advice and support for private sector tenants in achieving a fair standard of accommodation.
OUR LOCAL ECONOMY
Labour is ambitious for our local economy. We want the District Council to act as a facilitator for local businesses and to help create the right environment for local people to be able to work locally. We recognise that not everybody wants to work in London, and that a viable local economy should look to promote employment opportunities across the full range of jobs.
A Labour Council will:
- Work closely with the Chamber of Commerce, businesses and the local Colleges and University to turn the District into the natural gateway to London for businesses and organisations that want to do business in London, but not be based there.
- Strengthen links between businesses and the University of Hertfordshire, the Building Research Establishment in Bricket Wood and Rothamsted Research Centre in Harpenden, to turn the District into the scientific/hi-tech hub of Hertfordshire and, where possible, to grow Green jobs and technologies in our local community.
- Encourage local businesses to engage with social enterprises such as the Credit Union, to foster better business and community links.
- Work with the local Credit Union to help those residents on low incomes so they no longer need to turn to pay day loan companies.
- Support independent local businesses, e.g. by looking to further promote the visitor economy, keeping parking charges under review, and extending the recycling services provided to local SMEs.
- Continue Labour’s work on the Living Wage by engaging with local businesses to promote the advantages (better staff retention, less absenteeism, and a boost to local spending) and setting out the benefits of it to our local community.
- Help create a cultural quarter around the new museum, so as to attract more tourists to the City and make St Albans more visitor-friendly in the evenings, to support and expand our tourist business.
- Work with local businesses to play on our strengths, such as our Historic City status, Cathedral, Roman remains and links to the Ryder Cup.
OUR LOCAL ENVIRONMENT
Labour recognises the importance of developing and maintaining a good local environment balanced with the need to plan for the future of our City and District.
- Release more money across the District to deal with flood prevention/defences so that we are better prepared for these events, and make sure that drains and gullies are regularly maintained so that roads can be kept open to all road users
- Require any new car parking surfaces to be permeable so that rainwater soaks into the ground rather than running off and overloading the street drainage system.
- Offer community grants so that people can improve their areas by adopting local open spaces to plant and tidy up and have a real say in their local environment.
- Tackle the District’s high emission hot spots where air quality is poor, we know where these areas are but the Tory Council has failed to act. Introduce low emission zones to stop heavy polluting vehicles making matters worse.
- Where suitable, and in areas that have chronic parking problems, investigate grants to residents to help pay for dropped kerbs so that cars can be taken off busy streets
- Introduce a rolling programme to install solar panels on the Council’s housing stock, saving tenants money and benefiting the environment for all.
- Deliver a partnership between the Council and a green local energy provider so that we use local energy to benefit local people and businesses.
- Introduce a free reporting hotline for collections from full rubbish bins, and bring in solar smart bins that automatically tell the Council when they are nearly full.
- Introduce a scheme for local businesses to encourage them to become greener, e.g. over waste collection/recycling.
- Work towards a zero carbon buildings objective.
- Look for new ways to partner with the County Council to expand recycling services for local residents and businesses.
ROAD SAFETY AND TRANSPORT ISSUES
Labour promotes safe pedestrian and cycle usage and recognises the role of public transport in reducing congestion and addressing air quality issues.
- Support a 20 mph limit on all residential roads in the city, excluding specified major routes, where backed by residents.
- Support additional pedestrian safety measures, including permanent crossings outside all schools on busy distributor roads – Camp School (Camp Road), Cunningham Hill (Cell Barnes Lane), St Alban and St Stephen (Camp Road).
- Ensure that cycle/pedestrian usage is designed into new housing areas, so it benefits not just the new home-owners but the whole community.
- Support the provision of more bus shelters in the District, so that bus users do not have to wait in the rain without any protection.
- Oppose the Conservative County Council’s cuts to evening and Sunday bus services. Instead, we will push for improved bus services to help people get about, reduce congestion and improve air quality.
- Press the County Council to turn street lights on overnight in those areas where residents request this.
- Work with the County Council to create protected space on our main roads for cycling, to remove through traffic from residential streets, to make our city centre cycle and pedestrian friendly, and to implement the District Council’s Cycle Strategy.
A FAIRER DEAL ON RAIL FARES
Many people in St Albans use the Thameslink service to travel to London. Many others have partners and family members who use the service. Several of the Labour councillors are service users, and know at first hand how poor the service is.
Recent fare increases are causing increasing strain on family budgets, and the service has not been good enough. Labour is committed to ensuring that rail operators put passengers first.
- Take action on the national level to make sure fares are affordable.
- Work closely at the local level with the rail operators to make sure walking and cycling access is as safe and convenient as possible, and to ensure that the station is safe, lit and comfortable for all the community to use.
- Seek to promote better use of the Abbey line link.
Your local Council is a key stakeholder in the decision making process of our local health services.
In that role, Labour will:
- Continue our campaign for the retention/expansion of local NHS services across our District, including an Urgent Care Centre and a Health and Social Care Hub at the City Hospital.
- Campaign to get excessive parking charges at local health facilities either scrapped or reduced.
- Work with the local NHS Trusts to improve public transport links to major services, e.g. Watford General Hospital.
- Seek to upgrade health facilities for the people with mental health problems including dementia, as Labour believes they are not getting a fair share of the resources.
- Continue to press for air quality improvement measures, to alleviate known ‘problem locations’ such as the Peahen junction.
- Engage with local sports/health facilities so that they are more accessible to younger people.
- Work with GPs and local sporting facilities so that residents on low incomes who need to return to health via exercise like swimming or cycling can do so at a reduced rate of admission to these facilities and/or cycle repair and cycling lessons.
OUR LEISURE SERVICES
Most of the sports and leisure centres across the District are either private or run in partnership with your local Council, but Labour believes we can do better with the money the Council has available to it.
- Make sure that the Council’s leisure budget reflects the aspirations of its local residents, who pay for it via their Council tax.
- Initiate a stock check of all our local parks and play areas to see what sort of condition they are really in, and ask local residents what type of equipment they would like to see there.
- Support local community clubs and youth clubs.
- Continue supporting regular events like the local fashion week and film festival, and work with the organisers of such events to see where we can promote them more effectively.
- Continue Labour’s campaign against the Conservative County Council’s reduction in Library services.
- Help residents to organise more street parties locally, and promote events such as the Big Lunch which will take place on 7th June as a way of developing friendlier, safer neighbourhoods with a real community spirit.
- Support plans to have a new museum/art hub based in the Old Town Hall.
YOUR LOCAL COUNCIL SERVICES
Labour believes that local democracy is vital to a thriving local community.
That is why we will:
- Set up a Fairness Commission headed by a local independent person, with input from local residents, to review the range of services we offer to our local citizens and to assess how effective the Council is at delivering them. This could form the blueprint for how a Labour Council would deliver your local services.
- Encourage local groups to apply for grants to improve local areas where residents are willing to undertake those improvements – see the Environment section of our manifesto.
- Look at different ways to engage the public more in Council meetings, and extend the web-cast to all meetings so that residents do not have to attend the Council offices in person to hear Councillors discuss Council policy.
- Make sure that the Council’s efforts at localism meet the needs of local residents, and continue to review the Council’s operations to make the Council more accountable to local citizens.
- Review the Council’s policy of not changing highways/parking matters unless 60% of residents agree on a particular course of action. Labour believes this is too high and an excuse for the Tory Council to adopt a “do nothing” approach to change.
Having consulted local people, and as local people ourselves, we believe this Manifesto reflects the aspirations and values of the people of the St. Albans District. This is what our candidates will be campaigning on. We want a District and a Council that promotes fairness, efficiency and progressive policies for local residents.