Luton’s Labour Council has decided to spend £150,000 on consultants to tell them how to set up a Council owned company to build houses on Council owned land.

In recent years they have built on, or are currently building on, parks and open spaces at Manor Road; Roebuck Close, Farley Hill; Bradley Road/Thirlstone Road; Falconers Road; Abbotswood Road; Butely Road and Wigmore Lane.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr. David Franks comments:
“Worryingly, our Labour Council’s record of building on parks and open spaces leads us to be seriously concerned about their intentions. It looks like Labour will not be happy until they have covered every blade of grass in Luton with concrete. Liberal Democrat Councillors will be keeping a very keen eye on Labour’s plans.”

Our Labour Council is planning to charge residents £35 to empty the garden waste brown bins.

The proposal is buried in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan. It says the new charge should be introduced from April next year. They have completely dismissed the likelihood that people will simply put their garden waste in the black bin instead.

We are already getting increased complaints about dumped rubbish and neglected gardens since the Council started charging for domestic waste collection. These charges on top of Labour’s increases in Council tax will only make the situation worse in our view

Sal Brinton will take over from Tim Farron in January 2015.

A former group leader on Cambridgeshire County Council, Baroness Sal Brinton is currently the Lib Dem health spokeswoman in the Lords.

Sal Brinton also runs the party’s leadership programme, which supports candidates from under-represented groups, such as women and the disabled.

Sal Brinton said her first priority would be to move the party’s campaigning ability into “top gear” in preparation for next year’s general and local elections.

“My role will be to represent the members, and make the changes that they want happen” she added.

Thanks to pressure from Liberal Democrat Ministers local Councils are to be given tougher powers to protect communities from betting shop clustering following strong lobbying by Liberal Democrat ministers. The Government has at last agreed to consult on plans to place betting shops in their own planning class to stop them taking over empty shops without the need for a change of use planning permission.

In the current system, a betting shop is in the same category as a bank or estate agent and can open without the need for a planning application when a shop becomes vacant. The proposed changes mean that local authorities will have the power to scrutinise applications and refuse them where there are grounds to do so.

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, said the proposals will help areas desperate to protect high streets at risk of being over-run by betting shops. It will also help councils protect residents at particular risk of harm from problem gambling and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.

Welcoming the proposals Luton Council’s Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. David Franks said “Local residents have consistently called for tougher powers to address problems caused by the proliferation of betting shops and FOBTs so we are pleased the government has listened to our concerns and is taking action. This will be a significant step in the right direction. I urge the Government to implement these changes urgently.”

“Liberal Democrats are not anti-bookies, and understand that betting shops can be an important part of local communities that create jobs for local people. However, we know how concerned people are by clusters of betting shops taking over the high street, and there are also fears that people losing money through Fixed Odds Betting Terminals are turning to payday lenders and loan sharks to pay off debts or fund their gambling.

Liberal Democrat Communities Minister Stephen Williams said:

“Across the country many people are concerned about the explosion in the number of betting shops in some high streets. We are determined to build a stronger economy and a fairer society with healthy and diverse high streets that aren’t dominated by betting shops, this is why the government is now giving councils tough new powers to prevent the proliferation of betting shops in their area.”

EU funds could help flooded areas but the Conservative Minister has not applied for them. The EU Solidarity Fund has a budget of up to £414 million in 2014 to help EU countries struck by major national disasters.

The Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Patterson said he would not be applying for such funds.

Liberal Democrat MEPs wrote urging him to change his mind  and he may now be considering. Our County and Unitary Councils could apply for funding to rebuild and develop flood defences as well.

Britain applied before…

When the 2007 floods hit, the UK was granted £134 million from the fund to help with the clean up process, but this can only be applied for by national governments.

Lib Dem MEPs have obtained assurance from the relevant EU commissioner that the UK could apply for solidarity funding, or utilise EU Regional Development Funds towards flood prevention infrastructure in the future.