I am the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for 2015!

I am really pleased to have been selected as the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Watford. Local party members voted for me on Friday night at a hustings event, where I was up against two very credible candidates. It was a great contest and is a huge privilege to be chosen.

Rather excitingly, following the announcement of my selection, several bookmakers have now ranked the Liberal Democrats favourite to win the seat ahead of Labour and the sitting Conservative. Paddypower had odds of 11/10 this morning! I’d told my husband he should have put a bet on, but he is neither a betting man, nor one to assume anything!

I have always wanted to be Watford’s MP and while the timing wasn’t ideal with me already having started the next mayoral term, I realised that it was probably now or never so it was time to take the plunge.   It’s been a long long time since our Westminster representative has actually been a local Watford person – for me they have more been about representing Westminster in Watford. But I’m not a career politician – I’m a Watford politician – so for me the job would be very much about representing Watford in Westminster.

Our town needs someone who will back our new Health Campus plans, complete the Croxley Rail link and ensure that Watford and Three Rivers area gets a fair deal.  I hope my track record for the last 12 years as Mayor gives Watford residents the confidence that I will deliver for them as MP too.

If I am successful I will stay on as Mayor for a year – like Boris Johnson intends to and Ken Livingstone did in London – rather than force a costly by-election.   This will enable all the political parties and residents to decide who they want as the new Mayor. I will delegate more duties to others in Watford and so will not take the full Mayoral salary. After all, many MPs have other jobs – some are Ministers and many run or own businesses, so this is really no different.

Unemployment figures continue downward trend

Official figures out yesterday revealed the number of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance in Watford is down by 35% from the same time last year, falling from 1651 in August 2013 to 1076 this August.

The falls mirror what is happening nationally where unemployment is at its lowest level for almost six years. Total UK unemployment fell 146,000 to 2.02 million with the unemployment rate falling to 6.2% – its lowest since the last full quarter in 2008.

As far as I’m concerned these positive labour market figures are “no accident”. Here in Watford, we work very closely with the local Chamber of Commerce, to better understand what barriers companies face when deciding whether to move to Watford, or to expand in Watford. Likewise, we work with existing Watford companies to ensure they feel they want to and are able to stay in the area.

For me, while the news of yet further falls in unemployment is of course welcome, the priority has to be to ensure that the falls continue and that we do what we can to ensure long term jobs growth. Having good local transport links and connections into London is a huge selling point of Watford, and will only improve with the Croxley Rail Link and Crossrail. Having a local workforce with the right skills is vital, as well as homes and the local infrastructure to support them.

And of course the council is directly committing to the town’s economic growth through our own development plans, such as the Health Campus, the Watford Business Park improvements and the regeneration of the area around The Junction station. Read more »

Vote for Cassiobury Park!

You may re-call we entered Cassiobury Park for the nation’s favourite public park back in 2011, and we came a very respectable third place. We have decided to enter yet again, simply because we feel Cassiobury is deserving of it – it is a magnificent park enjoyed by so many people. With this in mind, I would ask you to please take the time and vote, through the Green Flag Award website.

We’ve heard we are already in the top ten, so if you have friends and family who love the park – or if you are part of a group who use the park – please do vote and help get the park the accolade it deserves.  Vote here:

http://www.greenflagaward.org/park-summary/?ParkID=477

Big Screen on The Parade has started!

Big screen 1 resized Big Screen 2 resized

Last night was the start of the next of our Big Events – our ‘Big Screen on The Parade’.

Over 400 people watched Sherlock Holmes from the main viewing area itself, lying on the floor, perched on rugs, cosy in chairs from home and relaxing in deckchairs, and at least 400 people who watched from outside the viewing area, sitting outside the bars or on benches down the side of the Pond – munching popcorn and hot dogs.

Tonight at 8pm it’s the classic Italian Job, then it’s Grease and Some Like it Hot on Friday.  For the full schedule of films, which are running until Sunday night, visit Watfordbigevents.co.uk.

Imagine Watford: visitor feedback

Spurting man Le Voyage des Aquareves

We’ve had some really excellent feedback on this year’s Imagine Watford festival. Hundreds of people have commented about how ‘magical’ Watford felt, how proud they feel of our town and just how much they enjoyed it. This is really reassuring as it’s exactly why, together with the Palace Theatre, we have put it on for the past four years.

The visitor survey data shows that this year’s festival reached an audience of 92,811 people, compared with 88,532 last year and 49,902 audience members the year before. So it’s an upward trend, that I hope will keep on rising as the word gets out that this really is a great event that it is worth putting in the diary.

Indeed, the data shows that that 73% of people had attended the festival before and 72% rated the performances as ‘excellent’ and a further 24% rated them as ‘good’.

This year’s festival was the first of our ‘Big Events’, which consisted of live performances from a variety of internationally acclaimed acts, from The Spurting Man – a performer who spurted water from all over his body – to Le Voyage des Aquareves, a ghostly ship that sailed through The Parade at night – which made it onto the critics choice list in the Financial Times.

Do try and get involved with our Big Events, the next ones are the Big Dance on 12th July, the Big Family Sports Day on 19th July then it’s classic movies and family favourites on the Big Screen at the end of July and start of August. All details can be found at watfordbigevents.co.uk.

Behind all of the theatrics and the fun events we have planned for the rest of the year, lies our solid determination to keep our high street thriving and not let it suffer the fate that some have elsewhere in the country.

Watford Junction: August closures info

Here is the update I have had today from London Midland regarding the details of the August closures, which will see Watford Junction closed and no service running between Hemel Hempstead and Euston.

As a reminder, this is London Midland’s Watford Area Renewals programme, during which time they are renewing all signalling between Kings Langley and Bushey, as well as laying 15km of new track. The idea being that there will be less breakdowns, so less disruptions to service as a result.

The weekend closures are:

  • Sat 9 until Mon 11 Aug
  • Sat 16 until Mon 18 Aug
  • Sat 23 until Tues 26 Aug

The Abbey Line will be closed entirely from Saturday 9 until Tuesday 26 August.
They have also provided a further breakdown of information: Read more »

£4.5 million from Lottery for Cassiobury Park!

Heritage Lottery Fund win

I am absolutely thrilled that we have been successful in securing £4.5 million of lottery money for restoring Cassiobury Park. Council officers worked really hard, together with local residents, groups and councillors who helped shape the proposals, to prepare our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund – and that hard work has really paid off. With this money we can now restore much of the history to the park as well as improving the facilities we offer our residents.

The £4.5 million will be added to the pot of money we has a council have allocated to create a total investment of £6.6 million into the park. For that money we are creating a new sustainable park hub building with café, community and exhibition room, education facilities, toilets and changing facilities.

We’ll also be extending and improving the Cha Cha Cha tea pavilion and revamping and improving the pools. We’ll see the historic bandstand returned to its rightful place in the park and the restoration of the historic 18th century Lime Avenue. We’ll also be improving the entrances to the park and the management of Whippendell Wood and the Local Nature Reserve. The money also goes to providing an on site park manager, community park ranger and education officer. Read more »

County Council plans to reduce opening times of tip – sign petition!

The County Council is currently consulting on proposals to reduce the opening hours of waste recycling sites, including the complete closure of two sites – one of which is at Elstree – and so used by some Watford residents.

The main site for Watford is Waterdale would be closed on a Thursday and Friday, but open the rest of the week, on reduced hours – closing at 4pm instead of 6pm. The County Council is suggesting that when Waterdale is closed on a Thursday and Friday that local residents should make the 16 mile round trip to the next nearest one in Rickmansworth.

I worry that some residents might not drive the extra distance or wait until the tip has re-opened on the Saturday, so we may see more dumping of waste in local streets.

Also closing the site as early as 4pm on a Saturday and Sunday during summer, when I know myself I can still be busy having a clear out or sorting the garden at that time, just feels wrong.

Many of you will remember that just a few years ago the County Council justified forcing through the closure of the Wiggenhall Road Waste recycling site by saying that Waterdale was the alternative, a much more modern site and open 7 days a week. Now they want to cut the hours there as well.

I pleased to tell you that Liberal Democrat county councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst has set up an online on the county council web site as a way of showing the opposition to these changes.

You can sigh this petition at: https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=196681

The formal county council consolation on waste site closures is at: www.hertsdirect.org/wastechanges.

Do also fill this in and there is a petition to stop the Elstree site being closed at: https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=194420

Owen Parry – funeral details

Owen Parry

Shopmobility has asked me to share the funeral details of this lovely gentleman, Owen Parry who sadly passed away recently. It will be held at West Herts Crem on Thursday 10th July at 4pm. This photo was taken at last year’s Audentior Awards when I presented with him the Mayor’s Award for his work in the voluntary sector for many years.

Owen was a Scout Master and upon retirement in 1993 joined Shopmobility Watford, initially to man the office. Over the years he undertook many more activities such as collections, carnivals and looking after stalls. Despite being disabled himself, Owen always found the time and energy to be a committee member of The Disability Forum, Chairman of PASS, Vice President of POHWER and a trustee of Roundabout. He will be missed.

Watford pond – last paving slab laid!

Watford Parade Redevelopment

This morning I was joined by pupils from Watford Central Primary school to lay the symbolic last paving slab of our top of the town improvements – the work is now complete and our historic pond has had its much needed make-over!

It isn’t the first time the pond has had a new look, and hopefully it won’t be the last, but I am so pleased with the results of this transformation. It looks really impressive and has given the whole area a completely new look and feel. I love it!

There is new lighting, seating areas and granite steps around the pond. A state-of-the-art filtration system and UV filters will keep the water cleaner. There are three new fountains too and of course the new bridge, complete with illuminated hand rails and decking.

The children that came here today were so enthusiastic about how it looks and were really excited about our Big Events programme – especially the ice skating rink and the outdoor film screenings next month. That’s what it’s always been about for me – reclaiming this part of town as somewhere Watford families can come to enjoy themselves during the day and in the early evening.

I hope you will join us for the official opening celebrations on Friday. All the info at watfordsbigevents.co.uk.

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Dorothy Thornhill

Town Hall
Watford
Herts
WD17 3EX
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