Worcester Lib Dem Policy Discussion – 09/09/2015

Last Wednesday, Worcester Liberal Democrats met at the Cap N Gown in Worcester City Centre to discuss some prominent issues both local and national. This is something we plan to do more of in the future – below are some of the things discussed.

Congestion

It was agreed that traffic congestion is one of the greatest issues threatening Worcester and its residents. With the multiple housing projects going on around the city the problem is only going to get worse. It was agreed that the proposed dualling of the Carrington Bridge was an idea we should get behind and it was acknowledged that the infamous Northern Link Road is something that will probably have to happen in the future – despite the huge cost.

There was also a consensus among us that an integrated public transport system is needed. The closure of the Perdiswell Park and Ride was condemned and the original council proposal of three park and ride sites around the city was supported. We also felt that the park and ride should have been publicised more effectively along with more encouragement for alternative forms of transport such as walking and cycling.

Housing

On top of the problems aforementioned we thought that housing developers ought to do more to contribute to the area in which they are building – i.e more local amenities and community facilities. We acknowledged that this already happens through Section 106 Planning Gain but still thought that their was room for it to be more effective. An example highlighted was the new bus lane near the Earls Court development on he west side of the city which has done little to improve traffic flow and is nearly always empty.

Refugees

We agreed with national party policy that we should be doing more to help with the refugee crisis than is currently being offered. We acknowledged that there are many benefits to accepting migrants such as the professions and skills they have which can benefit the UK.

Health

We are concerned about the state of our NHS. It was felt the government is not doing enough to cope with an increasing and ageing population. Worcester’s PFI hospital was mentioned as a particular concern along with the small size of it. Something will have to be done very soon to improve the service. We also thought that the amount of admin work hospital staff are required to complete is too high, contributed to worse care and worker stress. The cut in real terms to the mental health budget was also condemned.

Local Government

There was concern at the relentless government financial cut backs to local government. Some services are effectively rationed. Again this can be very inefficient use of funds as much organisational time is wasted in juggling budgets and prioritising services.

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Worcester: A Green and Pleasant Land?

Our party’s constitution, amongst other things, holds the following. ‘We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms.’

Now I have only lived in this city for 4 years, but having visited friend here many times before that I was well aware that I would be moving to what has to be one of the UK’s most pleasant city’s to live in. The architecture is dominated by the Cathedral and historic buildings that gives an air closer to a picture postcard market towns than sprawling industrial cities like London, Birmingham or Manchester. All of this framed in a landscape dominated by the river and the heart warming sights of tranquil fields and countryside that still lie on our very doorstep. Having seen a lot of our country I have no doubt in my mind that living in Worcester & St Johns is something of a privilege. But those of us who live here know it has it’s challenges.

Traffic here like anywhere else can be a nightmare at times but with the heritage of our city’s layout and the river it can’t be easy to plan a solution. To add to which the needs to develop housing, commercial and civil projects as our population grows all put pressure on the little space we have. Even during my short time in the city I have seen development around the edges of the city along Nunnery Way and Swinesheard Way. Furthermore I have recently heard rumours of attempts to develop farmland the other side of the M5 along the B4636 Pershore Lane. I have seen for myself that hedgerows have been cut down. To the gradual loss of our green spaces is heart rending.

So where do we go from here? How do we protect what we have while accommodating the needs of our people? It’s definitely something we need to look at closely. The city could maybe look at building a third bridge to ease traffic flows or carefully bringing in renewable energy generation schemes to add to other energy saving initiatives. We could look at improving public transport links and make it more convenient for people to leave their cars behind. Any development though would obviously costs money and with the election giving the Conservatives a majority it seams likely that they will push ruthlessly onwards with their version of austerity, hacking and slashing at public budgets in line with traditional Tory agendas, so I wouldn’t expect our council to have a lot of funds to spare any time soon.

Now, truth be told, we probably all know that we lost a lot of good people nationally in the last election and things may seam bad with little chance for us to affect change, but there is reason to have hope. As I am writing this in the latest count published by the party we have gained over 9000 new members since polls closed. We have recaptured hearts and minds and the party has regrown to 54,000 nationally. It’s amazing to see us rebound so fast and I believe we should look to try and capitalise on it. If we can bring more and more Lib Dems together within the city using our combined news letters, websites and social media to reach out and act along side our parties local officials then we have the chance to establish a firm presence in the city once more. Furthermore I believe that we should look outside our own party members cooperating with all our cities differing communities, find all those willing to work along side us for mutual ideals and aims so we have a stronger, shared voice. If we can manage this then, hopefully, together we can generate good ideas and plan carefully for the future to protect the cities architecture and environment as part of our legacy for generations to come.

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This article was written by Worcester Lib Dem member Steven Mather

For more on the Lib Dems both locally and nationally follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our Facebook page – it’s Worcester Liberal Democrats.

Greens Don’t Care About Congestion In Worcester

There is no doubt that one of the biggest problems Worcester faces in the coming years is congestion.

With many new housing developments such as the Grove Farm development to the west of the city, the new properties on the former site of Worcester City’s St Georges’s Lane or the controversial Gwillams Farm development in Claines it is clear that the problem is going to get worse and not better.

On top of this, Worcester has an incredibly antiquated road system with little room for road widening projects or new roads to be built in the centre. Many solutions have come up over the years. These include:

1) Duelling the Southern Link Road

2) Building a New Bridge

3) Completing the Northern Link Road.

Whilst 2 and 3 would be fantastic for the city and do a lot to address the issue, in the current economic climate with cuts to local authorities it is not plausible for the time being.

The possibility of duelling the southern link road however has seen some progress. There is a proposal for a £70 million investment into the project which would see it come to fruition.

Whilst this is blatant pork-barrel politics from a Worcester Conservative party who were struggling in the local polls at the time, it is none the less a welcome announcement and has seen a cross-party consensus develop between all parties – except the Greens.

On Monday at the Cap N Gown Hustings, Green Party PPC for Worcester Louis Stephen said that the money could be ‘better spent elsewhere’.

Whilst I agree that the project will not solve the city’s congestion problems entirely as some are suggesting, it is no doubt a part of it and a move in the right direction. It seems as thought the Greens are simply disagreeing with everyone else for the sake of it – so they seem different to what they call the ‘indistinguishable’ Westminster parties.

If we are to solve our congestion problems, we need to come up with a long term approach that involves all three of the points mentioned earlier. Of course two of them are currently unfeasible but that does not mean that they will remain so in the future.

Mr Stephen is right when he says public transport needs to be beefed up and the closure of the Perdiswell Park and Ride was a mistake but this cannot be the only solution. If we are to really address the issue we need to have multiple projects planned over the long term as one project alone cannot do so.