Police and crime commissioner – no surprises but a big increase in turn-out

David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, standing in front of a Hertfordshire Police signConservative David Lloyd has been re-elected. Most people don’t know who their Police Commissioner is and surveys have shown that many have no idea what they do. Something’s obviously changed in Hertfordshire, though, because turn-out for the vote more than doubled, from a disastrous 14.5% in 2012 to an almost creditable 29% this year – and that’s in a year with no local authority elections to boost the vote.

None of the candidates secured 50% of the vote in the first round so counting went to a second round, in which Lloyd beat the Labour candidate Kerry Pollard 126,069 votes to 85,854. Chris White, the Liberal candidate, came third, with 38,488 of first round votes. The UKIP candidate, who is a financial adviser to ‘professionals and the comfortably well-off’ in Royston, came dead last.

Your MP voted against admitting 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees

Oliver Dowden, Conservative MP for Hertsmere, is loyal. He’s never rebelled against the government, so we shouldn’t be surprised that, on 25 April, he voted against an amendment to the Immigration Bill that would have allowed 3,000 child refugees currently stuck on the Continent entry to the UK. Only five Conservatives voted for the amendment: Geoffrey Cox, Tania Mathis, Stephen Phillips, Will Quince and David Warburton. The amendment, tabled by Lord Dubs in the House of Lords, was rejected 294 to 276, giving a majority of 18.

Radlett residents roar… and the Red Lion listens

Red Lion Radlett

The arrival of new garden chairs and tables outside the Red Lion in Radlett on Thursday caused a reaction from residents almost as colourful as the furniture. Radlett’s response has resulted in the chairs and tables being removed and Youngs tweeting:

The metal chairs and tables, which were in bright yellow, orange and green and placed at the front of the Red Lion, became the subject of lively discussion online both on Twitter and the Facebook Radlett Village page. Many expressed surprise at seeing the new layout:

I drove past today and saw these! Thought there must have been some event and they were temporary! Not a good look!
Marcia Devine

It looks so cheap and nasty and totally un-inviting. Not somewhere you’d like to sit and relax!
Alana Riedl

People wondered if the chairs were in keeping with Radlett’s general appearance:

They look awful. Whatever possessed them to go and get outdoor furniture that would look better in a playground than a pub?? Maybe they need to go specsavers?
Sandra Beale

Whilst I am all for stylish modernisation, I do think the selection are simply bad taste and better suited to a beach bar. I think the neon would look a lot more attractive through the lens of my sunglasses.
Monique Spevock

And although not everyone disliked them they still weren’t convinced they were a good fit for the village:

I love them!!!! Granted they don’t suit the pub but I love the colours!
Susan Grace Farran

I’m not so bothered by the look of them although Youngs should have thought about whether a “one size fits all” approach would work-Putney this isn’t! I’m more bothered by the fact that the seats look exceedingly uncomfortable and the tables look too small for everyone to have space to eat!
Katie Lavan

A lively discussion developed about why such colours were chosen:

Perhaps this Operations Manager is hoping for his own version of the Turner Prize..?(!)
Phil Wye

Do they glow in the dark?!
Emma Kilkenny

Yeah maybe they are trying to counter the energy saving lighting regime that switches off half the streetlights at 12am!
Nick Robinson.

On Twitter, the Area Manager of Youngs, Andy Turner, was pleased with the results posting pictures saying “wow”. However responses were less ‘wow’ and more ‘why?’.

The discussion on social media was, on the whole very good humoured, as Radlett folk had fun likening the chairs to highlighter pens, playground furniture and even the Teletubbies. Someone suggested patrons should wear hi-viz clothing to match the chairs, others that perhaps rave culture had come to the village.

Youngs reacted very quickly to the feedback and by Sunday the chairs were gone. The Red Lion is now seeking suggestions on the patio furniture:

What do you think the front of the Radlett Red Lion should look like? Leave a comment here or join us on Facebook or Twitter.

Here’s what we know about Radlett’s new bookshop

Segrue Books logoNews that a new shop is opening in Radlett doesn’t usually cause much of a stir. But when we heard that David and Amanda Segrue were planning to open a bookshop right here in Radlett, we really were excited. I spoke to David about the project:

Tell us what kind of bookshop you’re planning, David. What will it be called?

“We thought long and hard about the name and talked about successful bookshops. They’re all named after their founders so we came up with the name Segrue Books of Radlett. It took some time to get used to a bookshop having our name on it! We put Radlett in the name as we want the bookshop to be part of the community and for the people of Radlett to feel the shop belongs to the village. The shop will have a good range of fiction – mid-market and literary. Non-fiction will range from history and politics through to popular psychology, science and travel. We’ll also stock illustrated books including cookery, design and practical art, plus a good selection of children’s books.”

Radlett’s well within range of Amazon’s same-day delivery service. What makes you think there’s still a place for physical bookshops in 2016?

“Amazon provides an online shopping service that suits some consumers, but there are many book buyers who want to browse in a good bookshop. They want to touch a book and get a feel for it before they buy it. It’s very hard to really get a feel for a book on a screen. The other key to success in bookselling is the way the shop presents its books and gifts, the knowledge of the booksellers and their customer service. We can order almost 500,000 books for next-day delivery too.”

What’s your background? Have you run bookshops before?

“I’ve worked in the industry for 24 years as a sales agent for independent publishers, I supply everyone from Waterstones and WHSmith to museums, galleries and independent bookshops. I advise publishers on packaging of books and cover design. Amanda started life working in the city and for the last 14 years has managed finance for our sales agency. Neither of us have run a bookshop but have the trade experience. We’ll be employing an experienced bookshop manager and booksellers.”

We hear that 30% of your shop will be children’s books. Why are kids’ books so important?

“Children’s books have grown in sales for the last three to four years and the quality goes from strength to strength. Children are continually distracted by screens from phones and tablets to televisions. Books are a beautiful, tactile object that can help focus children’s minds, help calm children and inspire creativity.”

Will your shop reflect your own interests?

Amanda will bring a sense of calm to the shop with her interest in interior design, she has a flair for it. The key to success in bookselling is to build a shop’s stock around the local market, we’ll build the opening stock based on our knowledge of the local area. We’ll buy a small amount of gift product to sell and Amanda and I will do this to suit the taste of the locals.”

There’s the exciting prospect of ‘locally-made cakes’. Tell me more about the café.

“Amanda’s a tea drinker and has picked Tea Pigs as our supplier for tea, it will be served in pots with tea cups the way tea should be. I’m a coffee drinker and am insistent that you can’t serve coffee unless it is the best coffee. All the staff will be trained as baristas as well as being expert booksellers. Amanda is currently tasting cakes from a number of local bakers that make cakes at home, when we say home-made we mean home-made.”

Will you put on events, readings and meet-the-authors?

“There’s great excitement in the book trade for the shop opening, publishers are always keen to find new bookshops to promote authors. We’ll be looking for author signings and meet-the-author talks. We’ll look to run a bookclub which can also attract authors to meet bookclub members. We’re also looking to run children’s events tied in with authors and activity books. Our 11 year-old son wants to read to children on a Saturday and during the holidays.”

I hear you’ve taken the location of the old Wine Rack. Will you retain the parking spaces in front?

“The parking spaces are owned by the shops along the parade and so the 4 spaces in front of the shop are owned by Segrue Books of Radlett. We love the idea people can park outside, pop in for a coffee and a book and not have to worry about parking.”

You can sign up for email updates about the new bookshop on the Segrue Books web site.

So what do we know about ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’?

Tribute acts rock

Paul Metcalfe, Rod Stewart  tribute act
There’s an artist called Paul Metcalfe at the Radlett Centre Friday night. He and his band have a show called ‘Some Guys Have All the Luck’. He told me all about it.

What kind of show is it, Paul?

It’s a two-hour show full of music by Rod Stewart, the likely lad who grew up in North London, narrowly avoided becoming a professional footballer and went on to become one of the biggest stars ever. In the first half I tell Rod’s story, then, after the interval, it’s basically a party. We invite the audience to let their hair down and we play all the hits.

Have you been doing it long?

We’ve been on the road with this show for six months but I’ve been taking off Rod Stewart for twenty years so I must be doing something right! There are five of us in the band and we’re on the road with a lighting, sound and stage crew. They’re great songs to sing and I love singing, I love showing off, so it’s ideal for me!

You knew I’d ask – do you look like Rod Stewart?

I do when I’m on stage! I’ve got the feather-cut hair ad at least ten outfits, all based on ones that he actually wore. I’ve got a straight, white mic stand just like Rod’s and I’ve perfected the art of of swinging that around, so it’s all pretty authentic.

Tribute acts seem to be booming. What’s going on?

So many of the great artists are dying (what a year we’ve had!) and people still want to hear the music they love and have a great night out! I think it’s going to wind up like it is in classical music. The great composers are long gone but we’re still going to see their work performed by young artists. It’ll be the same for pop and rock!

Was there life before Rod?

I discovered music on my own, as a kid, and loved it from the start. I was a drummer for a while, then thought “maybe I should try and make a bit of money” so I switched to singing. Along the way I realised the importance of the chat between the songs, the way you could charm an audience. Then someone said to me “these tribute bands are all doing well and you do sound like Rod Stewart…”

Have you toured the world?

We’ve played all over Europe and in the States. We do a fantastic gig in Malaysia regularly – a charity event with a bunch of expat Scots. And we’re doing seventy dates with the show this year.

So you’ve played some pretty big venues?

Every shape and size of venue you could imagine. We played a brilliant Xmas party at the Millennium Dome at the end of 1999 – three songs in front of thousands of people. And we’ve done a gig at the London Aquarium – we were asked to keep the bass as low as possible because “it agitates the sharks”!

Join Paul and the band at 8pm tonight. Tickets are £19.50. Buy online at the Radlett Centre web site. There’s a terrific trailer on YouTube.

Everything we know about the Harperbury free school disaster

UPDATE 19 March. New data from Hertfordshire. Although local authorities can non longer build or even commission schools, they still have to keep track of the need for school places. Hertfordshire’s latest report (PDF) shows real and growing need for secondary places across almost the whole county in the next ten years. In Radlett and Bushey, the shortage peaks in 2022/23 when there’s a projected shortage of 181 places. That’s enough children to fill six whole school forms without places. It’s no wonder that the report prominently notes that the Harperbury Free School project has been cancelled. The area needs a new secondary school – and soon.

UPDATE 29 February. Harperbury vice chair Clive Glover has set up a petition. He wants Minster for Education Nicky Morgan to override Lord Nash’s decision and open Harperbury Free School. Sign the petition here. There are 303 signatories so far.

THE STORY SO FAR: It’s all over. The Harperbury Free School that aimed to provide 120 places per year for 11-19s from Shenley, London Colney, Radlett, Bricket Wood and Borehamwood & Elstree, has been thrown out by the Department for Education.

Clive Glover, one of the project’s founders and vice chair of governors, has written a Facebook post about it, which is well worth reading. I spoke to him at the weekend. Here’s the latest:

  1. It’s the minister’s decision. Schools Minister Lord Nash has decided that planning permission for the school is unlikely to be granted by St Albans City and District Council because the site is too small so he’s cancelled the whole scheme.
  2. It’s an EFA cock-up. The Education Funding Agency, the executive agency that dispenses £54 billion (yes, billion) per year on 3-19 education and is responsible for the Academy and Free School programmes, was responsible for launching the school. They didn’t understand the requirements and planned a project that could never have won planning permission. In an answer to a series of written Parliamentary questions from St Albans MP Anne Main, schools minister Edward Timpson vaguely blames the site’s green belt location for the cancellation but doesn’t acknowledge the EFA’s error.
  3. It’s final. There’s no formal way for the decision to be reversed and there’s no appeal process. The Harperbury group haven’t given up, though, and we may see a new or revised application, for this site or another one.
  4. It’s already cost a lot of money. Schools Minister Edward Timpson says “the combined capital and revenue cost of the project to date is £1,919,000”. Clive Glover says this almost certainly understates the actual cost.
  5. The problem hasn’t gone away. The local authority says that, by next year, there will be a shortage of places in secondary schools in the area. Bernadette John, an advisor at the Good Schools Guide, calculates around 90,000 children won’t be allocated their first choice of school nationally. Children from schools in the Radlett area are already dispersed to 57 different secondary schools – from Berkhamsted to Northwood. The council says they’ll need 500 new school places by 2022.
  6. The decision has big implications. The minister’s decision ominously suggests that he thinks it unlikely that any suitable site exists in the area. If that’s true, councils are going to have to look hard at their plans. How will the extra school places, doctor’s surgeries and leisure centres that are needed be provided if there’s no room? The Harperbury group commissioned research that identified over 60 sites in the area – from farmers’ fields to brownfield sites. Is none viable? And remember, councils can’t build their own schools any more, even when the need is evident. They must first seek proposals from academies and free schools.
  7. No children are affected and no one loses their job. After the plan was deferred for the second time last year, the Harperbury team decided not to recruit for 2016 and the headteacher and senior leadership team signed up for the second push were let go.

The core of three governors who have been looking after the project since the last deferral – Clive Glover, Sarah L’efquihi and Nick Eaves, have not given up but have not decided how they’ll respond yet. Hertsmere’s MP, Oliver Dowden, is meeting with the minister this week.

I’ll keep this blog post up to date as I learn more – and if you have any questions you’d like answered, leave them in a comment here or visit the Harperbury Facebook page.

Cycling safety tip: start shouting at cars

This is a post I wrote for Medium the other day and, since it’s about my Radlett-to-Elstree commute, I thought I’d republish it here. Tell me what you think…

It’s for your own safety. Everybody’s safety.

Don’t shout abuse obvs. That’ll make things worse (and get you a lump on the head most likely). Don’t ring your silly bell, wave your fist or offer sarcastic life advice.

Just do this: when a car passes and comes too close or cuts across, shout, as loudly and clearly as you can: “too close!”

The therapy bit

You’re not being aggressive. But you’re not being passive-aggressive either. You’re getting it out there. Getting it off your chest.

Shout those two words. then take some deep breaths and forget about it. The rest of your journey won’t be eaten up with unexpressed rage and terror. You can get on with your ride, maybe enjoy it.

You’ll get to work happier and more relaxed. You’ll find you won’t need to whinge about that maniac to your colleagues (while they roll their eyes and look out the window) and you won’t need to write your standard Facebook update about the murderous wickedness of the whole motorist class.

And, of course, it’s not about all drivers, it’s about that one driver who passed scarily close — and, by yelling “too close!” you sorted it out directly with that one person. Job done. It’s road safety as therapy. As healing.

I’ve been doing it for a while, on the three-mile countryside bit of my commute. I can’t report much change in behaviour but I reckon a handful of drivers have now heard me shout it more than once and common sense says they’ll think about it the next time they pass that lunatic who shouts at cars. Two bus drivers have actually apologised.

The public health bit

If all cyclists do this, sooner or later drivers will get the message and start to move over a bit when they pass cyclists. But, more to the point, if we just keep this stuff to ourselves — if we just fume silently and plot dark revenge — no one can learn, the system can’t learn.

By shouting “too close” you’re adding some information to the system, providing an insight that a driver might simply never have received before. And, if it becomes a more-or-less universal habit, there’s a reasonable chance that behaviour will change, peace will reign, days be improved, maybe even lives saved. Seriously.

More change at the station

UPDATE: The consultation on these plans has begun. Read the plans on the Thameslink web site (or read the summary below) and email your comments to stationchanges@gtrailway.com. You can also send your views to London TravelWatch or Transport Focus.

In summary: Thameslink plans to close the ticket office but the station will be staffed for longer.

  • Radlett’s ticket office will close and passengers will buy tickets from the machines or from a new ‘station host’.
  • Radlett’s station host will be on duty from 0500-2300 Monday-Saturday and 0700-2300 on Sunday.
  • Station hosts will answer questions, sell tickets and help passengers with the existing machines.
  • The station hosts will also keep the toilets and waiting rooms open for longer.

Govia, the firm that operates the Thameslink, Gatwick Express, Southern and London Midland lines, is planning changes at about 80 stations across its network, from Summer 2016.

According to Govia’s statement, they’re going to close some ticket offices, change opening times at others and move staff from behind the glass to the new role of ‘station host’.

These are complex changes across many stations but, on the face of it, the outcome looks positive for Radlett – there’ll be someone on duty at the station from the first train until late at night. Here are some of the questions people have been asking, on Facebook and Twitter:

  • What will be the effect on queues at peak times?
  • Will the portable ticket machines used by the station hosts sell the full range of tickets, including school children’s six-week season tickets, tickets for other networks, Eurostar etc?
  • Where will the station hosts spend their time – in the concourse, on platform 1 or elsewhere?
  • Will the ticket office still be available for use at very busy times?

If you have other questions, leave them in the comments below and I’ll see if I can get answers direct from Thameslink.

A three-week consultation on the changes starts on Monday 22 February. Here’s how to get in touch and here’s a detailed table of affected stations.

Thameslink and TfL – respond to the consultation

So here’s what we know. The Mayor of London and the Government want a new partnership between Transport for London and the Department for Transport to improve London’s transport network. According to the published proposals, TfL will take over the inner-suburban railways – but that doesn’t include Thameslink and the other outer-suburban lines.

So it doesn’t look great: Thameslink will probably remain outside the integrated London system and the patchwork of commercial franchises will continue to run the long-distance commuter services. The plans are fairly vague, though, and they’re out for consultation. So, here’s what to do: read the plans (PDF), then write to railprospectus@tfl.gov.uk and tell the partners that Thameslink and the other suburban railways should be included in the plan.

And, if you’d like to know more about the proposals and the history, read this excellent long post on the London Reconnections blog.