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Report on Hertsmere Borough Council Meeting, 21st July 2021

July 22, 2021 10:02 PM

July 2021 HBC ReportWe want to keep you in touch with proceedings at Hertsmere Borough Council, where we represent Bushey North. Here's our report on the full council meeting of 21st July 2021, where Hertsmere's leader rejected our call to protect Bushey Country Club's greenspace by securing 'village green' status; news emerged of problems at Bushey Museum; and where we pressed the leadership to improve our recycling performance and also take a more compassionate approach to providing housing for those in genuine need.


Council leader Morris Bright turned down our proposal to help protect the greenspace at the Country Club site by registering it as a village green. Specifically, we asked: "would he commit Hertsmere Borough council to apply to register the entire green space of Bushey Country Club to the commons registration department at Hertfordshire County Council under section 15(8) of the Commons Act 2006?".

In reply, Cllr Bright refused to make such a commitment - and instead offered only a vague pledge that residents will get more access to the site than previously. As access is currently zero, we feel that this is a fairly meaningless promise - and it's a shame he won't seek the statutory protection for the greenspace which we recommend.


It was revealed that Bushey Museum - who receive an annual £36,000 grant from Hertsmere - are six months overdue with their charity reporting and have also refused to meet with the dedicated liaison councillor. This clearly needs to be straightened out - and quickly - to ensure public money is being used properly. We will offer any support we can to council leadership and officers as they go about resolving the situation.


Cllr Alan Matthews said that Hertsmere's 2020/21 recycling target of 48% was "weak", especially by comparison with neighbouring local authorities, such as Three Rivers, who achieve 64%. Hertsmere didn't even reach that modest target - achieving only 44% - and is currently ranked as low as 153, nationally, for recycling performance. Bushey Lib Dems believe our borough should be striving for a far more ambitious target for 2021/22.


Cllr Matthews also expressed concern over the low level of help Hertsmere extends to vulnerable homeless residents. For the last audited year, the borough accepted housing responsibility - in other words, agreed to secure accommodation - for only 5% of applicants. While Hertsmere's leadership is keen to present this figure as a success - because it's well below their targeted maximum of 31% - it means in reality that 95% of applicants have been rejected. This suggests, we believe, that Hertsmere is taking too mean and grudging an approach to residents in genuine need.


We were pleased to support a motion from the Labour group calling on the government to revise their proposed planning reforms and protect the right of communities to object to individual planning applications. Sadly, the ruling Conservative group decided to vote against it.


Cllr Alan Matthews asked for urgent answers about the huge sums of money wasted, or potentially so, by Hertsmere's mistakes in claiming Community Infrastructure Levies (CILs) - the payments developers make to the council to fund infrastructure improvements. In one case, a £500,000 payment relating to a Bushey development is at risk. Alan asked why councillors hadn't been properly informed of this (with the news only emerging in My Bushey News); how much money, exactly, has been lost; and what action has been taken to put these matters right.

In response, planning portfolio holder Cllr Harvey Cohen said he couldn't comment on the £500,000 case, as it's still subject to legal proceedings, but argued that Hertsmere is improving its handling of CIL administration, including the use of more staff and a specialist computer system. He agreed that councillors should in future be informed directly about the outcome of cases.
You can watch the whole meeting here: https://hertsmere.public-i.tv/.../webcast_interactive/570453