An open letter from our Services and Innovation spokesperson, Ciara Simmons.
All of the libraries in Waltham Forest are currently closed. The council says that this is due to the government guidance on coronavirus, although most non-essential shops are now open.
While it is great to see that there is now the option to order the delivery of library books and limited services available online, this is of no help to the many people in the borough either without internet access or who are not familiar with how to use it.
According to the latest Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index, 9 million people in the UK cannot undertake basic activities such as turning on a device, connecting to Wi-Fi or opening an app by themselves and 3.6 million are completely offline. The report concludes that it is the most vulnerable and disadvantaged who are the most likely to be digitally excluded, including the elderly and those on low incomes.
In any event, libraries do not just exist to provide books. They give access to a whole range of community services, from careers advice to visitor parking permits, and help to level the playing field in society.
For the sake of the many residents who rely on them, I would urge the council to reopen our libraries as soon as possible.
Ciara Simmons, Walthamstow
Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats, Spokesperson for Services and Innovation
Image credit: This image was originally posted to Flickr by JuliaC2006 at https://flickr.com/photos/81269484@N00/15082235981. It was reviewed on 21 July 2018 by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.
The latest from Caroline Pidgeon AM
Earlier this month we saw the introduction of the compulsory wearing of face masks on public transport throughout the whole of England. However, a further change is the restrictions on the older person’s Freedom Pass and the 60+ London Oyster photocard. All passengers with an Older Person's Freedom Pass, 60+ Oyster photocard or English National Concessionary Scheme pass will not be able to use them during morning peak hours, which is 04:30 to 09:00 Monday to Friday. (The Freedom Pass for disabled people will stay unaltered).
And more changes are on the way.
From Monday 22 June TfL is proposing that the Congestion Charge will increase to £15 and hours will be extended, operating from 07:00 to 22:00, seven days a week. They are also proposing to close the residents' discount for the Congestion Charge to new applications from August 1st.
Then, from September, free travel for under 18 year olds will be ended, with the Department for Transport claiming special arrangements will be made to ensure children eligible under national legislation can still travel to school for free.
The reason for all these changes that are being imposed just on London is due to policies being set by central government in its bailout deal for Transport for London. The full details of this bailout deal have now been published and can be seen here. Scroll down to page 63. And for anyone who wants a detailed understanding of TfL’s financial difficulties this is an excellent article.
Of course national government has a right to set some terms or conditions on any loan or grant it offers to TfL, but many of these conditions are petty and simply attempting to micro-manage how TfL operates. Similar conditions have not been imposed on other transport authorities around the country.
Under these changes, and many other conditions set by the Government, London’s devolved powers of government are being seriously eroded. Settling political scores has been put before the welfare of the young and older people in London.
Just how long will these changes last for?
All the above changes are repeatedly described as “temporary” but at present there is no information at all as to how long they will last for.
What we are doing?
We are strongly opposing most of these changes and especially the changes to the Freedom Pass and the ending of free travel for under 18 year olds. Ending free travel for under 18 year olds will especially hit low income families, just at a time when more support is needed for many families.
Please do support Siobhan Benita’s petition on this campaign.
Over the Summer I will of course keep you updated on all these changes. More information is also available via my Facebook site and on Twitter.
Liberal Democrat Assembly Member
Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats are collaborating with our neighbours in Islington and Enfield to bring you virtual Q&A sessions with our fantastic leadership candidates. These events will give you the opportunity to engage with the candidates and have your voice heard in this crucial leadership election.
To sign up, please visit our events page.
Dates and times:
Ed Davey, 18th June, 6.30pm.
Laya Moran, 25th June, 7.30pm.
Wera Hobhouse, 2nd July, 6.30pm.
Campaigners from Waltham Forest, including WF Lib Dem's own Meera Chadha, letting City airport know that they oppose expansion plans.
Although Covid-19 has significantly reduced airport traffic for Waltham Forest residents in recent weeks, there was a huge win in March for campaigners against the City Airport expansion as the airport announced they were revising their plans.
London City Airport told its Consultative Committee in early March that it will drop the proposals that were in its draft Master Plan to end the 24 hour weekend break (no planes between 12.30pm Saturday - 12.30pm Sunday) and those to bring in more early morning and late evening flights. It is expected that it will postpone submitting a planning application to lift the cap on the number of flights allowed to use the airport each year.
It is unclear when City Airport will now publish its Master Plan due to the impact of Covid-19, but the repsite in recent months and weeks is likely to renew opposition to further expansion.
This reflects huge progress for all those who joined the campaign against expansion, including Hacan East, Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats, London Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pigeon and Mayoral Candidate Siobhan Benita.
It's estimated over 4000 Back the Ban cards were sent to City Airport as part of their consultation, urging them to reconsider the plans to get rid of the existing Weekend break and extend operating hours as part of its expansion plans. This change in position from the Airport reflects the success of mobilising the local community, particularly given that originally Waltham Forest wasn't included in their consultation meetings despite being the third most overflow borough in London.
London City Airport also told the Consultative Committee that it is continuing to review its controversial concentrated flight paths as part of the wider airspace changes that will be coming in at all airports in London and the South East over the coming years. We will continue to press the airport to consider having multiple concentrated flight paths to provide respite for residents being flown over. More plans and details are expected later this year, with full public consultation to follow next year.
There is still work to convince the Airport and planning authority that in a time of climate crisis we should be reconsidering expanding the number of flights at all, but this is a great first step in addressing the environmental and wellbeing impacts on East London residents.
There is a lot of information out there regarding Covid-19, from both trustworthy and untrustworthy sources, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming to find what you need. We’ve tried to compile a list of useful links to regularly updated sources of information on a variety of topics that will hopefully be useful to you.
As part of our long-term goal to challenge a complacent Labour party in Walthamstow, your local Lib Dem team have been campaigning and speaking to residents in the Hoe Street / village area. On Tues 25th February, Ciara led us on an evening of door-knocking and delivery; and on Sat 7th March we ran a stall on Orford Road, chatting to residents and learning about their individual concerns and priorities.
We will be out and about several times in the run up to the mayoral/GLA elections in May. Keep an eye out for us and come over for a chat! Alternatively, why not volunteer to get involved? We have tasks suitable for any level of experience and confidence. For full list of events, please see this page.
On the 12th of December the UK faces its most significant election for a generation. It is vital that every single person's voice is heard. To vote you must be registered by the deadline: 23:59 on the 26th of November.
If you haven't previously registered at your current address, or your circumstances have changed, you can register using the Government's online form. Registering typically takes about five minutes. To be eligible to vote in the general election you must be 18 or over on the day of the election, and be a British, Irish or a Commonwealth citizen with leave to enter or remain in the UK. Many Irish or Commonwealth citizens may not know that they can vote, so let them know!
If are unable to attend a polling station in person on the 12th of December, you can still vote by post or proxy.
- If you register to vote by post, you can have your ballot paper sent to an address, either in the UK or overseas. You can register to vote by post by filling in and returning this form. Your application must arrive at your electoral registration office by 23:00 on the 26th of November. The postal vote itself must then arrive at your Electoral Office in the UK by 10pm on 12 December.
If you don't have time to arrange a postal vote, you can nominate someone else to vote on your behalf. You can apply for a proxy vote by filling in an returning this form. The form needs to arrive at your local Electoral Registration Office by 5pm on 4 December to vote by proxy in the General Election in England, Scotland or Wales.
Three-and-a-bit years ago I woke up to the news that we, the UK, had voted to leave the European Union. My stomach lurched and my insides turned cold. My overwhelming feeling was "I didn't do enough."
Time numbed the pain a little, but the guilt remained. I didn't do enough. I expected it to all be fine. I put some posters up, wrote some social media posts and (unsuccessfully) tried to persuade my parents that voting leave was a very bad idea. I concluded that it wasn't enough - if I wanted to influence the direction of the country I needed to get out of my armchair and out on the doorsteps. And I needed to put my support and effort behind a political force I believed in.
I'd always been a Lib Dem supporter and voter. As with many political party decisions, mine were influenced by my parents who used to be members and my early memories of any political activism were of putting out those bright orange diamonds in our house windows. I also remember the elation in our house when Labour swept in on a landslide in 1997 and my parents celebrated the end of the Conservative dominance in politics.
Fast-forward to July 2016, along with thousands of others, I tied my colours to the mast and signed up as a member of the Liberal Democrats.
But it wasn't actually their Brexit policy that brought me to the Lib Dem's door. For years I'd been extolling the virtues of proportional representation, an elected House of Lords, more focus on environmental policy, equal marriage, shared parental leave. I'd done an internship with a centre-left think tank in my university years. I'd been really struck by the front page of The Independent in May 2005 showing the gulf between what the people voted for and what we'd got in terms of seats. Every election I had dutifully completed a survey to see whose policies matched my priorities and I had consistently come out as predominantly Lib Dem (with a slither of Green and Labour thrown in for good measure). If I was going to end up anywhere it was to follow that delicate yellow bird.
And whilst I think Brexit undermines our ability to make Britain the best it can be, being part of the EU is not an ends in itself for me. Staying in the EU, or having the closest possible relationship with it outside, is the foundation we need so we can address inequality in all its forms in the UK, so we can tackle the environmental crisis we face, and so we can be open, welcoming and collaborative with our neighbours for a safer, brighter future.
I joined the Lib Dems after the referendum not because of their Brexit stance, but because I needed to channel my frustration into positive activism. These things don't happen on their own. If not you, who, and if not now, when?
Feel like Meera? Then you can join, volunteer or donate!