New St Albans council reveals plans for the future

PROBLEMS with the planning service and a fresh look at the Westminster Lodge leisure centre scheme are top priorities for the new Conservative administration of St Albans council which took the reins last night.

Cllr Julian Daly was elected as leader of the council and has appointed five members of his Conservative group as the portfolio holders who will sit on the cabinet.

It means that the Tories are running a minority administration with 29 councillors while the Lib Dems now have 24, Labour three, Green one and Independent one.

The new administration received unanimous support at annual council and mayor-making ceremony including backing from some Lib Dem councillors.

Cllr Daly, who also becomes portfolio holder for resources, said that by reducing the number of portfolio holders, cash would be freed up for youth initiatives in the district specifically fitted-out shelters for teenagers which his group had supported previously but for which no funding was then earmarked.

He hopes that a least a couple of such meeting places will be installed with the first in Harpenden where the youth town council has done a lot of work on a suitable scheme and has some of its own funding available.

Cllr Daly said he would be meeting with council chief executive Daniel Goodwin and head of culture and development Richard Schwe to “get our teeth straight into Westminster Lodge” - the new St Albans leisure centre scheme which has generated an outcry from supporters of a larger pool. Work has already started on the multi million pound scheme.

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His planning portfolio holder, Cllr Teresa Heritage, would be meeting head of planning, Heather Cheesbrough, about delivery of the service, which had been the subject of a number of complaints to councillor, he added.

The new administration has also put a stop to any further work on the Maltings Arts Theatre for which �500,000 had been allocated to turn it primarily into a digital cinema. Cllr Daly added: “We want to have a look at it and would like to encourage people who use it to let us know their views.”

Deputy council leader and portfolio holder for sport, leisure and heritage will be Cllr Mike Wakeley with Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles taking the environment portfolio, Cllr Brian Ellis, housing, and Cllr Beric Read, community engagement and localism.