Conservatives are ambitious for Hertfordshire and its people. We have used the strength of our County Council to promote Hertfordshire and to protect our residents and communities. The current economic crisis is already having an impact on local jobs and prosperity and things are likely to get worse before they get better. A Conservative-run County Council will continue to play its full part in helping residents through the recession. Under Gordon Brown, Hertfordshire and other councils in the Home Counties have not been given their fair share of public spending, leading to higher council taxes and difficult choices over spending priorities. Nevertheless, we have managed to spend record amounts in tackling the backlog of highway maintenance but know there is still more to do. Under the next Conservative Government, Hertfordshire will be treated fairly but we realise that money for public services will remain tight.
The Audit Commission recognises that we have given good value for money and we shall continue to get best value from every tax-payer’s pound. We shall continue to fund the needs of Hertfordshire’s growing number of older residents, protect vulnerable children and adults, and provide high quality education and training opportunities. We shall also work with the next Conservative Government to deliver a council tax freeze for at least two years.
We understand that all our decisions – and those by central government and its regional quangos – impact on individuals, families and their communities.
We welcome the commitment of the next Conservative Government to tear up Labour’s top-down and excessive housing growth figures, dismantle Labour’s unaccountable regional quangos and to stop the proposed second runway at Stansted. Labour’s centralism has undermined local government and allowed people no real say over many decisions that directly affect them locally. We look forward to a new beginning for vibrant local government under David Cameron.
We see Hertfordshire as a county of opportunity for all its residents. A Conservative County Council will work to extend those opportunities so that our county will be ready to bounce back when the recession is over.
Helping you through the recession
The recession presents new and severe challenges for Hertfordshire and its residents and will place extra demands on local public services. The public sector cannot substitute for private enterprise, but a Conservative County Council will work with our partners to ensure advice and support is available to local employers and our residents to help them through the downturn.
Hertfordshire has long had an essential role as a driving force behind the national economy but, even before the recession, lack of investment by the Labour Government was restricting local economic growth. We will continue to press for essential investment, particularly in road and rail schemes, to help local people get about more easily and to allow our businesses to grow.
A Conservative County Council will play an active part in creating the conditions in which local employers and families can weather the economic storm.
- led the creation of a new Economic Partnership to help Hertfordshire through the recession, with an Economic Task Force offering help to local employers.
- provided specialist training for Citizens Advice Bureaux advisors particularly those who help
- spoken up for Hertfordshire in the new Regional Economic Forum, chaired by the Regional Minister and which reports our concerns to the heart of central government.
- created a specific Cabinet responsibility for Hertfordshire’s Economic Well-being to ensure that all our decisions take account of the difficult economic circumstances.
- launched Build Hertfordshire to help local businesses get public sector contracts and sustain local employment.
- host and lead the new Hertfordshire Economic Partnership and continue to promote Hertfordshire as a good place to do business.
- work with employers (including new start-ups) to maintain local job opportunities.
- make it easier for local companies to tender for, and win, contracts with the County Council and we shall pay our suppliers’ bills promptly.
- help young people and those who lose their jobs to gain new and better skills for work; and also create more apprenticeship opportunities within the County Council.
- offer real work experience to all young people leaving the County Council’s care. continue to press for appropriate infrastructure investment to help the local economy,
- particularly through the widening of the two-lane sections of the A1M and improvements to commuter rail services. support our more vulnerable residents during the recession by helping them to find and keep work and by providing easy access to information and advice about welfare benefits.
- work with Hertfordshire’s Citizens Advice Bureaux and others who can offer advice and help during the recession; and protect people from loan sharks by encouraging Credit Unions.
- given the pressures on local businesses during the recession, refuse to impose any supplementary business rate during the next four years – unless specifically requested by
businesses with wide support.
Tackling anti-social behaviour
Hertfordshire has relatively low levels of crime, but the fear of crime and of anti-social behaviour is a serious concern in many communities. A Conservative County Council will act to help all neighbourhoods enjoy the community pride, self-respect and feeling of security that are seen in the safest areas.
Most of our young people are responsible, law-abiding members of their communities but we will seek robust action against the small minority whose behaviour is unacceptable. Where necessary, the Council will provide support and guidance to help build stronger families in which parents accept responsibility for the conduct of their children.
- taken the lead in funding the initial growth in Police Community Support Officers who give reassurance on our streets, with specially trained Youth & Schools Officers up from 10 to 38.
- created an integrated Youth Connexions service which is now reaching over 13,500 young people, up by about a third since 2007.
- through effective behaviour management programmes and appropriate placements for those with challenging behaviour have reduced the number of pupils being expelled from school.
- refocused our family intervention service to try to stop generations
of the same families remaining dependent on drugs, criminality or state benefits.
- developed community education work by the Fire & Rescue Service which has substantially reduced hoax 999 calls and arson.
- taken on the funding of the Life Intervention Fire Education programme to help turn around the attitudes and behaviour of approaching 300 young people since 2006.
- through schools, Youth Connexions and our borough and district council partners, increased opportunities for young people to take part in sport and musical activities.
- through our trading standards service and our influence within the Hertfordshire Police Authority, continue effective action against anti-social behaviour including the misuse and illegal sale of alcohol and drugs.
- maintain and extend positive activities for young people particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings
- ensure that all young people have the opportunity to volunteer and contribute to their local community including participation in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme or as Police or Fire Service cadets.
- continue support for the Arson Task Force in driving drive down the number of deliberate fires. through restorative justice programmes ensure that more offenders recognise the impact on victims of their actions and work with the Probation Service to enhance the availability of the Community Payback Project.
- increase the provision of effective treatment for drug users and engage them, young offenders and those at risk of offending in suitable education, employment or training.
- through the Hertfordshire Youth Justice Service, cut youth crime and prevent young people who have been before the courts from re-offending.
Offering top quality education and skills
State education in Hertfordshire supports 528 schools and around 175,000 pupils. Conservatives think that schools are best run by their Heads and Governors but that the County Council must monitor, challenge, support and, where necessary, intervene to ensure high standards. Thanks to the skill and professionalism of Hertfordshire’s teachers, support staff and Governors, we can be justly proud of the quality of education available in the county. OfSTED judges more than three-quarters of our schools to be good or outstanding. Our 46 community libraries, mobile libraries and Adult and Family Learning Service play a vital part in supporting lifelong learning, which is particularly important during the recession.
- seen GCSE results improve in each of the last four years with 71% of pupils now gaining at least 5 A*-C grades, up from 59% in 2004.
- intervened successfully with underperforming schools with the number of schools in OfSTED categories reduced from 26 to just 3.
- reviewed the provision of school places in response to changed population patterns to ensure that all schools have the capacity to deliver high quality education. achieved the highest percentage in any county of young people in education, employment and training.
- through our Libraries for the 21st Century programme reversed the long-term decline in the use of the library service with a rolling programme of library refurbishment and longer opening hours.
- continue to work with heads, teachers and governors to drive up still further the quality of education and in tackling underperformance wherever it arises.
- secure a pattern of children’s centres playing their full part in every community, increase the number of schools providing appropriate extended services and ensure that families have access to high quality pre-school provision.
- continue to review the provision of school places so that all children have access to a good school within a reasonable distance from their home.
- retain the range and capacity of schools and bases providing support to pupils with special educational needs.
- continue our programme of the rebuilding and improvement of school buildings through the council’s own resources and national programmes in order to provide a learning environment fit for the modern curriculum.
- grasp the opportunity arising from the imminent changes affecting Further Education Colleges to promote high quality vocational education.
- support the proper judgement of heads in ensuring discipline in their schools.
- promote healthy lifestyles by encouraging children to enjoy more sport and exercise and a better diet; and offer nutritionally balanced meals through our award-winning school meals.
- develop the self-confidence of our young people in their transition to adulthood.
- maintain our programme to keep our excellent libraries at the heart of their communities.
Getting best value from your taxes
All councils’ income comes partly from council tax and partly through grants from central government, funded by national taxes. Throughout its time in office, the Labour Government has consistently short-changed Hertfordshire (and other councils in the Home Counties), contributing only about 25% towards our income compared with nearer 75% in other parts of the country. This has forced the council tax up well above inflation despite the substantial efficiency savings the County Council makes each year. Against this background and the sharply increasing number of older people dependent on our services, the County Council has been unable to fund services (and, particularly, road and pavement maintenance) as generously as we would have liked. But Conservatives will always manage tax-payers’ money carefully and prioritise spending on areas that matter most.
- realised £57m of cashable efficiency savings over the last five years.
- reduced the rise in council tax; last year’s increase (4.5%) was the lowest since 1996 and, this year, we have been able to go lower still, at 3.5%.
- reduced the number of buildings occupied by our own staff while providing them with working conditions that are fit for purpose.
- funded the growing number of elderly and vulnerable adults at a extra cost of £86 million over four years; at the same time providing them with better and more personalised services.
- done everything we can to keep children safe from neglectful or abusive adults; but at an unavoidable extra cost of almost £11m each year.
- despite these pressures, increased our spending on highways maintenance to record levels – while the government has cut its contribution of specific grant and support for capital borrowing from over £20 million in 2005/06 to nothing.
- made significant inroads into the long-term backlog of highways maintenance, having
resurfaced over 600 miles of roads over the past four years, bringing the standard of our roads within the top quarter of all councils.
- secured best value from highways spending through a higher repair standard using hot,
rolled tarmac with two-thirds of reported pot-holes now being repaired in this way and 98%
of all hazardous pot-holes being filled within 24 hours.
- reviewed the changed pattern of fire and emergency risks and re-deployed resources accordingly and with an increased emphasis on prevention.
- work with the next Conservative Government to freeze the council tax for at least two years.
- deliver £36 million of cashable savings over the next two years.
- continue reducing the long-term backlog of highway maintenance by giving it high priority within the Council’s budget.
- maintain funding for high quality social care services fit for the 21st century.
- ensure that we continue to provide the best possible value for money, especially by more economical back-office functions and through joined-up service provision.
Protecting Hertfordshire’s quality of life
Under Conservative control, the County Council has been a strong advocate and champion for the well-being of Hertfordshire and its residents, fighting for a fair share of public spending and standing up against diktats from central government and its regional quangos, notably by our legal challenge to the East of England Plan. Hertfordshire does need some additional housing, particularly to help young people, families and key workers, but development must be on the right scale, in the right places and supported by proper facilities. We also want to see more ‘green’ activity that will allow us to reduce our carbon footprint, recycle more waste and dispose of it better and use energy more responsibly.
- argued for a much lower housing growth target than has been imposed by central government in the East of England Plan, and challenged that plan through the courts.
- opposed additional runways at the three London airports affecting Hertfordshire including opposing the proposed second runway at Stansted.
- as part of our case for a fair share of public spending, campaigned relentlessly about the fact that Hertfordshire is among the worst funded councils in the country.
- with the cooperation of residents and our borough and district council partners, exceeded county and national targets to increase recycling. Despite this achievement Hertfordshire is penalised by the Labour Government, having to pay £19.6m this year in Landfill Tax.
- signed the Nottingham declaration on Climate Change and have reduced carbon emissions by 21% in the last 10 years.
- through effective road safety initiatives over the past ten years, halved the annual number of
people killed or seriously injured on our roads.
- provided a home security service to prevent opportunities for crime, especially domestic and distraction burglary.
- continue to oppose the inappropriate loss of green belt and countryside in Hertfordshire and
to resist developments that are of an unsuitable size, in the wrong place or which add to the
county’s carbon footprint. oppose the imposition of decisions on Hertfordshire by remote,
unelected regional bodies.
- oppose new runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Luton airports and work with the next Conservative Government to ensure that any approved by Labour are scrapped.
- promote recycling and environmentally sound methods of waste disposal.
- work to reduce carbon emissions by a further 25% between 2006 and 2013.
- continue to mitigate traffic congestion and encourage alternatives to private car use.
- reduce the energy used in lighting and heating our schools and other buildings – and the electricity used by street lighting. develop further our education programmes to help pedestrians, young drivers and bikers to use the roads safely.
- achieve the best possible legacy from the Olympics by maximising opportunities for business, sporting participation and volunteering and generally encourage more people to contribute to their communities through volunteering.
Giving you more say in what we do
Because of its size, the County Council provides services economically and has the strength and capacity to speak for Hertfordshire on the regional and national stage. However, Conservatives believe that we should do more to be seen to act locally, recognising that individuals, families and communities are all different and that services should be more closely tailored to meet local circumstances.
We want people to have greater independence and more say over public services, deciding and directing for themselves the help they need, living longer in their own homes and having more influence over provision for their learning and social care.
- over the last four years, developed our social care services in a way which allows people to maximise their say in what is delivered and how; through direct payments and individual budgets for vulnerable adults and disabled children.
- agreed to introduce locality budgets that will enable County Councillors to make quick, practical responses to the needs of their constituents.
- given children in public care a proper voice in planning their care and their future lives.
- joined with Hertfordshire’s borough and district councils in identifying better ways of working together in serving our communities which include making financial savings to date of £7 million.
- promote independent living, enabling people to have as much control as possible over their own lives by increasing significantly the number of people who control the funding for their own care.
- support the building of more homes with associated support services to enable self-care and
independent living for our growing number of elderly residents.
- increase the independence of older people through greater rehabilitation and intermediate care.
- provide family members and friends who provide care with better advice and support including opportunities for respite care.
- support residents in taking a pride in their localities, working with partners to tackle graffiti and neglect to improve the ‘street scene’.
- implement locality budgets in a way which enables local organisations to make their case for
financial support to benefit their communities.
- extend additional Hertfordshire Local initiatives to redefine the County Council’s relationship
with Town and Parish Councils, civic societies and other effective neighbourhood groups.
- from 2010 implement new locality arrangements to allow communities greater influence over
the local decisions that affect them.
- enhance joint working with borough and district councils and other public agencies to deliver joined-up services and financial savings for our taxpayers.