Timeline established for the handling of data security and access concerns at Lydney Town Council | Zac Arnold

In a letter to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Lydney and the Town Clerk of Lydney Town Council on 10 July 2021, Zac outlined the timeline he plans to work to with regards to severe concerns about the handling, security and lawful right of access to data the Council holds:

“I’m writing further to the correspondence received from the Town Clerk on 18 May 2021 and Cllr Harley on 28 May 2021 in which it was stated that arrangements had been made for the retrieval of and provision of access to personal data held by Lydney Town Council relating to myself. For memory, the email dated 18 May 2021 stated that time had been allocated on 25 May 2021 to ‘work through’ emails from TateTech with a view to providing me with the results by the end of that week, 28 May 2021. The latter email of 28 May 2021 stated that due to the volume of emails it could be expected to take longer commencing on 7 June 2021 when more resources were expected to be available.

“As I have made you aware I have been attempting to access this data since the summer of 2019, and, whilst I appreciate the scale of the data held and the limits on staffing resources, I am finding it increasingly tiresome that I do not have access to information that I needed urgently last year. The fact Cllr Harley’s email of 28 May describes the arduous process of isolating emails relating to myself suggests that this basic stage had not been started for 10 months after my initial request. I can understand delays in processing such a large volume of data but I struggle to understand why it took 10 months to send an email to TateTech asking them to gather the emails.

“I have also queried, which has yet to receive a response, that the Council understand that emails are not the only form of data included within this SAR. Other forms of data include but are not limited to: documents, digital files such as screenshots, data collected through direct notifications from Council social media channels, written notes, paper-copy files including those held by the Personnel Committee relating to my activities from 2018-2019 and ANY and ALL other data held by the Council relating to or mentioning myself. Could you please confirm that this point is understood?

“As all deadlines set by the Council so far have lapsed with little to no progress, I am informing you that I have set a deadline of 6pm on Monday 13 September 2021– the first Full Council meeting after Summer Recess – for my data to be supplied to me in full. This will provide for a grace period of approximately 4 months since Cllr Harley’s election as Mayor of Lydney. If this has not occurred, on Tuesday 14 September 2021 I will submit a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office relating to this matter alone and will supply a copy of this complaint to yourselves.

“Following this, as advised previously, there are other data matters to be dealt with. I will submit a preliminary complaint to Full Council on Friday 1 October 2021 as formal correspondence for the meeting to be held on Monday 11 October. This complaint will relate to the potentially unlawful and non-approved disclosure of extremely sensitive employment and other internal data between June 2020 and May 2021.

“This initial complaint is for information and comment only by the Council – not for review under Council complaints procedures. The Council will have until 6pm on Monday 8 November 2021 to provide comment on the substance of the complaint. Upon receiving comment I will decide whether, in my view, the matter can be resolved locally. If not, or if no comment is received, the complaint shall be submitted to the Information Commissioner’s Office on Monday 15 November 2021.

“My right of access to the information requested through this SAR is asserted under Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulations 2018, I reserve my right to take formal action – through relevant watchdogs or legal action – to ensure I, and others, can access our data rights.

“Thank you in advance for your time and co-operation in this matter. I hope that you can agree that the above timetable is both extended enough to not overwhelm you and clear enough for us to see a way out of this issue in a way that upholds my rights and helps strengthen the Council’s data handling processes and security measures.”

UK has no right to condemn Canada statue toppling | Zac Arnold

Statues of British monarchs are right to be torn down in the countries that were occupied and treated like human farms – if that is what they wish to do.

Downing Street and the UK has no right to condemn what they do on their own soil.

Why should they be stared down upon by their former owners anyway?

The whole statues of people thing is really weird anyway. Regardless of who they are.

The fight to replace McCluskey at Unite is pivotal for the Labour movement | Zac Arnold

In two days time, 5 July 2021, voting papers will be dispatched to members in the election of the next General Secretary of Unite the Union. Whoever wins will replace Len McCluskey, a strong man for the Labour Party’s left wing in securing Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, who has been in place since 21 November 2010.

Unite is a powerful block in the trade union movement, and by consequence the Labour Party, boasting 1.4million members in workplaces and communities stretching across the four nations. The union already donates millions to the party each year, but this figure was cut by 10% in 2020 as McCluskey warned Keir Starmer over the direction of the party under his leadership.

This upcoming election, which will see the new General Secretary of the union announced on 26 August, is pivotal in the future of securing the voice of grassroots members on the left majority of the party.

Three candidates are on the ballet fighting for the position to take Unite forward, or arguably backward, over the next 5 years – leading the union up until and for some time after the next General Election.

Gerard Coyne is standing from the right wing, having narrowly lost to McCluskey in the last General Secretary election, Coyne expresses firm support for a centrist Labour Party and has committed to continue to fund the machine come what may.

Sharon Graham was one of three, allegedly, ‘left wing’ candidates. She is making a play along the ‘first woman General Secretary’ narrative within her campaign and refused to stand down when discussions took place to unify the left vote around a single candidate. She paraphrased Margaret Thatcher – a Prime Minister that led a vicious war against trade unionism – stating that ‘this lady is not for standing down.’

Howard Beckett was the second ‘left’ candidate. He has gained a higher public profile, especially on the politicised left, through his membership of Labour’s National Executive Committee representing Unite. He, after discussions, stood down in favour of the last candidate – Steve Turner.

Turner won the internal left caucus of Unite earlier in the process and, by some margin, the majority of union branches – 525 – with the nearest rival, Graham being nominated by 349. Right wing Coyne received just 196.

Because of Graham’s refusal to take part in negotiations to unite the left vote, members are left in the precarious position of a three horse race, with two self-declared ‘left’ candidates splitting the vote.

This election will not only decide the future of the union, pushing forward with a green industrial revolution and boosting the power of workers or tagging along at the whims of the flailing Keir Starmer, but will also decide the future of the Labour Party.

With the General Secretary of fellow union, Unison, already seized by the right it is all that more important that such a figure on the left is lost too. This could change everything. It could enable leadership rules to be changed and the party to be shut off from its membership and the public again.

Keir Starmer’s leadership is untenable as Leadbeater defies national trend | Zac Arnold

The Leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, is catching his breath after an unlikely by-election victory in Batley and Spen with the sister of assassinated MP Jo Cox, Kim Leadbeater, as their candidate.

National nuisance and former Labour and Respect MP, George Galloway, tried to shift the campaign’s debate onto the diabolical leadership of Starmer – particularly highlighting issues such as Kashmir and Palestine to inflame the sense that Labour’s Muslim voter base were being taken for granted by the party’s leadership. A sense that is increasingly correct leaving the 85% of British Muslim voters that voted for Labour in 2017 to consider alternative options.

The run up to the election had been plagued by reports that Labour were set to lose the contest. The local Labour Council, resented by large sections of their own community, were firmly of the position that they’d lose. The polls said the Tories would take the seat and George Galloway said he would eat his hat if they didn’t come third.

Today’s result, clearly, did not meet these predictions – but Labour lost votes leaving their majority down in the hundreds, not the thousands seen in elections post-Jo Cox and under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Whilst the immediate threat to Starmer’s leadership, even from his top team, that built up prior to the election has been settled for now, the underwhelming majority has added to an extensive list of signs that he is not up to the job of winning a Labour government for all.

In the first half of 2020, Keir Starmer stood for election with ten pledges. The popular policies of Jeremy Corbyn, that mostly gain huge support individually within the public, but with professionalism, electability and a united party.

Since his election, Starmer has led Labour to historic defeats in by-elections and local elections, he’s divided the party with the unprecedented move of suspending a former leader and suspending tens if not hundreds of ordinary members across the country for tabling motions and has backtracked on his weak pledges of his election campaign to replace them with no pledges at all.

Further division has erupted within Starmer’s top team as a rift builds between Starmer and Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, who was seemingly scapegoated – being sacked by him as National Campaign Coordinator after the party’s devastating defeat to the Tories in Hartlepool. Reports emerged in the run up to yesterday’s election that Rayner was scoping a leadership bid if another loss occured.

More concerning however, even than the lies and factional wars, is Starmer’s top team’s willingness to hurl minorities under the bus to save face for their failed political strategy. Senior officials within and supporting the Labour leadership begin to blame, what was believed to be an incoming defeat, on the ‘fact’ Muslim voters are anti-Semitic and homophobic.

This is the last straw for Keir Starmer, or it should be, for when the leader of a party founded to represent the underrepresented turns to fabricating racist narratives to avoid responsibility for the simple fact that they give nobody any reason to vote for them.

Keir Starmer cannot maintain his position for long.

Batley should not be a signal of a strong leadership for Keir Starmer | Zac Arnold

If a swing of 3% from Labour is considered a win I’m concerned about how secure Keir Starmer is going to feel after this result.

If the same trend fell across the country in a General Election, Labour would have lost 11 seats – dropping even further below the worst result since 1935 in December 2019.George Galloway has been shown to be the same opportunistic wanker he has been for some time, over-assessing his abilities and under-assessing his reputation as a waste of fresh air.

I did kind of want him to come second though, whatever Kim is like as an individual candidate, Starmer needed to go. His inability to take a relevant position on anything, his entirely accurate rebrand to Captain Hindsight, his lies around his 10 pledges making his mandate meaningless to begin with and a local candidate that openly admits that her policies will be decided after the election.

That’s without even talking about the spin and racism being orchestrated by senior officials, briefing to the media that the reason Muslim voters have had enough of being taken for granted is because they are homophobic and antisemitic.

None of these are qualities we want in the leader of a peoples’ party. None of them are qualities that will win or achieve what needs to be achieved.

BLM: Healing History Plan

Zac launched a campaign for a Healing History Plan for Lydney on 20 June 2021, the first anniversary of the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bathurst Park in the town.

The aim in the campaign is to acknowledge the past and the lived experiences of minority groups whilst bringing together the community well into the future.

A year on from BLM Lydney, we need a proper Healing History Plan | Zac Arnold

A year ago, this week Lydney was divided over the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Lydney. The community remains divided and lessons remain unlearned. Lydney Town Council and its Trusts have a duty to heal these divides, acknowledge our history and promote strong community values going forward. In this light, a year on from theContinue reading “A year on from BLM Lydney, we need a proper Healing History Plan | Zac Arnold”

Get involved with the Healing History Plan

Get involved with the Healing History Plan and the campaign to bring Lydney’s community back together by completing the contact form below:

A year on from BLM Lydney, we need a proper Healing History Plan | Zac Arnold

A year ago, this week Lydney was divided over the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Lydney. The community remains divided and lessons remain unlearned.

Lydney Town Council and its Trusts have a duty to heal these divides, acknowledge our history and promote strong community values going forward. In this light, a year on from the demonstration in Bathurst Park, I am calling for a proper Healing History Plan that:

Acknowledges that:

  1. Sir Benjamin Bathurst (1635-1704) was Deputy Governor of the Leeward Islands in the late seventeenth century, a heavy investor in the Royal African Company and Governor of the East India Company.
  2. These organisations were significant parts of Britain’s colonial rule that participated in the slave trade and led in the plundering of India.
  3. The 15 acres of recreational land owned by Bathurst Park and Recreation Trust, and the 51 acres of recreational land owned by Lydney Recreation Trust, were given from an estate built with wealth acquired through this means.
  4. Whilst the British government purchased the freedom of all slaves in the British Empire for 40% of its national budget in 1833, the debts from these payments to slave owners and their families were still being paid by taxpayers until 2015.
  5. The lives of every individual matter, but people of different ethnic origins experience unique challenges merely based on the colour of their skin, their voices or the country they or their families originated from.

Believes that:

  1. Lydney’s community assets were provided to bring people in the community
    together and those that manage them must take their responsibility to include people regardless of differences.
  2. We must acknowledge all aspects of our history, the bits that make us proud and ashamed, and assist to heal long-standing rifts between different sections of our community.
  3. The facilities of the Trusts and the Council have huge potential to bring people together with a focus on remembering, learning and co-operating. With the Memorial Garden as a starting point for this, to remember the sacrifice of our own, but moving on to providing lessons in the other enormous costs that have been paid to get the things we take for granted today and how we should treat other people in our lives and the wider world.

Commits to:

  1. Commission research at the earliest opportunity into the extended history of Bathurst Park and Lydney’s other community assets, including the connection – through Lydney Park Estate – to proceeds from the slave trade and the wider British Empire.
  2. Work with the Local Equality Commission and other groups to ensure that the views of ethnic minority communities are represented.
  3. Build partnerships with local ethnic communities and seek to promote more regular community events across the spaces that are operated by the Council or its Trusts that celebrate and educate the wider community about different lived experiences, cultures, entertainment, food, clothing etc.
  4. Provide public information boards in Bathurst Park and Lydney Recreation Trust Ground explaining the full history of the facility and the commitments of the Trust to ensuring it is used to promote strong values of equality, respect and education for years to come.
  5. Seek to install a public artwork representing the connection of the park to proceeds from slavery and the British Empire and its future in pursuing a fairer, more equal and cohesive society that celebrates and supports everyone. For example, a broken chain could simply represent this transition from this past to the future.
  6. Actively defending and facilitating the human rights of all individuals within the Lydney community.

Only through acknowledging our history can we heal it, not to destroy the past but to recognise and learn from it rather than ignoring the reality because it hurts our idea of ourselves as a country and as communities.

One year on: the BLM event that divided a Gloucestershire town | The Observer

In May 2021, Zac was interviewed exclusively by the The Observer about his thoughts on the aftermath of Lydney’s BLM demonstration and the impact it had in tackling racism in the Forest of Dean. The full un-edited interview reads:

‘I wouldn’t say I was surprised by the reaction to the BLM protest in Lydney. I was, however, quite surprised by which people fell on which side of the dividing line. The Forest of Dean is a strange place, stuck in its ways and – largely – quite tribal and old-fashioned in both its beliefs and actions. The fact that there was going to be a demonstration in the town was more surprising than anything, a glimpse of hope in an otherwise completely disengaged and left-behind rural community.

‘The aim in the demonstration was to bring together and educate people about the lived experiences of minority groups, but, the reaction from certain elements in the community led to the initial short-term impact being widespread division and an atmosphere of abuse and intimidation. Signs left on a designated fence were repeatedly ripped down, a cabinet member of Forest of Dean District Council was forced to resign after significant online abuse, mobs of veterans turned out to defend war memorials that nobody had any interest in destroying, I had to pull out of speaking at the event as I was assaulted by two men in the early hours of the morning on the day of the protest and the organisers described receiving vile abuse and being bullied by both the public and officials. This didn’t surprise me, but the scale of it did. Facts didn’t matter.

‘Following the demonstration, Khady and Eleni did an amazing job at launching the Local Equality Commission and reaching out to the local community to try and bridge the divide. The protest made sure everybody was aware that there was an issue, but I think the change will be incredibly long term. The response we saw against this protest was one that showed no interest in gaining the perspective of minority groups. The parroting of ‘all lives matter,’ even by the Mayor of Lydney, showed that certain elements didn’t want to understand and would prefer to try and out-victim the actual victims of our system. For a lot of the people that need to, I’m not convinced they will ever change their views, so all we can do is hope that the next generation don’t grow up in ignorance and repeat history again.

‘Despite all this, the fact that this conversation was ever opened in Lydney is pretty close to a miracle and any small changes that arise from that are solid foundations to keep talking about the things that have remained undiscussed for far too long.’

Complaint lodged about alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct by the Lydney Town Council Finance Chief | Zac Arnold

Today, I lodged a complaint with the Monitoring Officer of Forest of Dean District Council outlining a number of alleged breaches of the members’ Code of Conduct by the Chairman of the Lydney Town Council Finance and Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Roger Holmes.

The complaint consists of 3 pages with 7 pages of supplementary evidence and the allegations are summarised as follows:

  • In breach of Section 1.1 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to provide for effective and ethical leadership of Lydney Town Council and the community within its area by personal example;
  • In breach of Section 1.2 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to respect others and not bully or threaten any person;
  • In breach of Section 1.3 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to respect the confidentiality of information by disclosing confidential information without a clear and over-riding public interest in doing so and by obstructing third parties’ legal rights of access to information;
  • In breach of Section 1.4 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure conduct is not in a manner which is likely to bring the council into disrepute;
  • In breach of Section 1.5 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure that his use of his position as a member and as Mayor of Lydney was not for personal advantage; and
  • In breach of Section 1.8 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure his conduct does nothing to cause the council to act unlawfully.

Complaint lodged about alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct by the Mayor of Lydney | Zac Arnold

Today, I lodged a complaint with the Monitoring Officer of Forest of Dean District Council outlining a number of alleged breaches of the members’ Code of Conduct by the Mayor of Lydney, Cllr Walter Leach.

The complaint consists of 7 pages with 72 pages of supplementary evidence and the allegations are summarised as follows:

  • In breach of Section 1.1 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to provide for effective and ethical leadership of Lydney Town Council and the community within its area by personal example;
  • In breach of Section 1.2 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to respect others and not bully or threaten any person;
  • In breach of Section 1.3 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to respect the confidentiality of information by disclosing confidential information without a clear and over-riding public interest in doing so and by obstructing third parties’ legal rights of access to information;
  • In breach of Section 1.4 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure conduct is not in a manner which is likely to bring the council into disrepute;
  • In breach of Section 1.5 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure that his use of his position as a member and as Mayor of Lydney was not for personal advantage;
  • In breach of Section 1.6 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure that his conduct did not use his office or public resources for private or political purposes;
  • In breach of Section 1.7 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to take decisions for good and substantial reasons, a failure to state reasons for decisions where those reasons are not apparent and a failure to pay due regard to the advice of officers; and
  • In breach of Section 1.8 of the Code, Cllr Leach failed to ensure his conduct does nothing to cause the council to act unlawfully.

LTC: Demand a Full and Independent Inquiry

After the Lydney Town Council by-elections in May 2021, Zac launched a social media and strategic interventions campaign to demand a full and independent public inquiry into the culture, structures, conduct, financial management and employment practices of Lydney Town Council, its members and employees from September 2018 to present.

Zac had previously been calling for an inquiry since the summer of crisis at the Council, of which he was a member, in 2019.

Get involved with the fight for an inquiry

Vote for a future where the people of Lydney are put first on May 6 | Zac Arnold

The past decade has been tough for the Lydney community, and residents had been shut out by a closed shop that didn’t listen to you and did not deal in transparency.

At this election, you can make a choice to go back to the way things were by re-electing members of the last administration, or you can continue on the path to being a real, healthy, democratic community and Lydney could rise from the ashes.

This can only happen with fresh ideas, new approaches and real representatives that care deeply about not just the symbolism of their town, it’s history and it’s gold quality award but the present conditions and the bright future of the community in the real world.

I know which decision I would make, I know which future I would want. One that puts every person in Lydney first and rethinks what it is possible for local communities to achieve, because the limits of your most grassroots level of local governance are not always as restrictive as people like to believe.

On May 6 you can make a choice to go back to your money being wasted, your views being unrepresented and your rights not being respected… or you can take the other path. I know who I would trust to continue the process of changing Lydney for all. In favour of people and planet, not profit and power.

Don’t Let Lydney Burn Again

In the run up to the Lydney Town Council by-elections in May 2021, Zac launched a public awareness campaign with the aim of raising awareness of wrongdoing by candidates who were standing who had resigned from the Council during the 2019 crisis and ensure the continuation of the progressive changes that had been started under the administration Zac was a part of.

This campaign has concluded.

The priorities of Lydney Town Council are still not the priorities of the people | Zac Arnold

The decision by Lydney Town Council to award their employees a £500 bonus each is abhorrent as small businesses and the poorest in society suffer the most as a result of this pandemic.These employees who have been working from home, now believed to be on full pay, are already not experiencing the level of suffering of those left to the will of the insufficient furlough scheme, or even those that miss the opportunity to access even this basic support.

Whilst I was on Lydney Town Council real progress was made in many areas, but this progress appears to be being undone by the autocratic leadership of Cllrs Walter Leach and Richard Kemsley alongside their new Town Clerk. None of these individuals seem to grasp the concept of democracy, all have showed consistent disregard for basic human rights and senior officials are of the opinion they don’t need to follow the law, but you do… and I did when I was a member. In my time at Lydney Town Council reforms were made that began to bring the Council’s Standing Orders and Financial Regulations into the 21st Century, the scheme of delegation was largely scrapped to restore an element of democracy and your hard earned money was saved through the reform of the staffing leadership structures. The secret Cabal that was the Personnel Committee was disbanded, all but one of the corrupted members and officials removed from the Council and majorly overhauled.

The savings that were made then allowed for a small but important freeze in Council tax, putting that extra little bit of money in the pockets of ordinary residents. We declared a Climate Emergency and started to work more proactively with youth groups and young people and I attempted to expand the accountability the public has over its Council by pushing for livestreaming of Council meetings online, a proposal dismissed then but conveniently revisited now. The benefit of hindsight I suppose, it provides the excuse for ineffective leadership. Whilst there is some good work that the Council continues to do, the fundamental attitudes have not changed. They look after each other over their community, they walk all over the laws that they say we have to abide by and they will consistently trample on the human rights of those that express opinions that they don’t like.

I broke ranks with Labour to put Lydney before my party, I believed that this was best served with a vote for Cllr Walter Leach as Mayor of Lydney. Something that contributed to my eventual suspension from the Labour Party. Its safe to say that throwing my party away to support this man is a decision I bitterly regret. Somebody who appeared at face value to be level-headed, understanding and collaborative was instead autocratic, completely out of touch with the struggles of those that are suffering the most in our society and willing to pick which parts of the laws that govern his office he wants to follow.

The people of Lydney shouldn’t be getting disengaged right now, there needs to be real scrutiny and there is still no sign of a proper independent investigation into the events surrounding Lydney Town Council in the past decade, in particular from 2018 to 2020.

Watch them, always.

Zac Arnold

Former Vice Chairman of the Lydney Town Council Finance & Scrutiny Committee

Please abide by the new lockdown, protect the NHS and save lives | Zac Arnold

As the situation with Covid-19 continues to deepen and with an abject failure of leadership and competence to take the fight to this pandemic, our small collective actions are often the best we can hope for.

Please abide by the new National Lockdown wherever possible, only leaving your home if absolutely necessary for your physical and mental health or if another exemption applies.

Together, we can get through this and build a better world that puts people and planet before profit and power. But to do this we must again stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

For the latest guidance on Coronavirus and to find out what you can and can’t do, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

Clap for Carers is a slap in the face to front line NHS staff | Zac Arnold

Whilst nobody deserves to receive abuse for something like this, Clap for Carers was always a slap in the face to front line NHS staff.

Staff that have watched the same people that stand clapping and banging pots, soaked in their own self righteousness, go and vote for Governments election after election that deliver real terms pay cut after pay cut.

Instead of standing on your doorstep doing something of no use to society, instead why not try looking at how your actions contribute to the crippled society we now live in.

Save your claps and use your votes, or just stay inside and be quiet.

I am ashamed to have shared a platform with Debbie Hicks | Zac Arnold

Over the past week the privacy and safety of patients and staff in Gloucestershire’s hospitals has been put at risk by the actions of a particular individual holding particularly unsavoury opinions.

NHS staff are putting themselves at risk day in day out to protect lives whilst a minority of individuals with no respect for anyone other than themselves throw it all away.

I’m ashamed to have shared a platform with this person in the past and apologise for doing so. Together, we can work together to create a better world and we can only do that from a foundation in solid facts and humility. Not paranoia, manipulations and selective memory.

Coronavirus has made the need for two hospitals clearer | Zac Arnold

Coming on four years from the creation of HOLD – Hands Off Lydney and Dilke hospitals, NHS bosses in Gloucestershire are still determined to close Lydney and District Hospital and the Dilke Memorial Hospital. They do this to replace them with one new, single, smaller facility in Cinderford.

This pandemic should have made things even clearer, any further reductions in beds, services or health care facilities is a risk to the public. Any further reductions are working against the very idea that the NHS was born to achieve.

As we get closer to the final decision, when HOLD will finally be able to trigger legal action against the trusts, it is more important than ever to unite behind our vital services. These closures will impact the whole of Gloucestershire.

Together it has been achieved before and together it will be achieved again. We need at least two community hospitals in the Forest of Dean.

We can all help in some way, even if it’s just signing this petition and sharing with a friend. Let Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust know that they cannot carry on ignoring the majority.

HS2 Rebellion

HS2 Rebellion is an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against HS2. HS2 Rebellion does not represent the protection camps and each camp is independent from each other. The protection camps have been around for many years and were originally set up by people from local communities who were affected by HS2. HS2 Rebellion is entirely distinct from Extinction Rebellion but does form part of the Movement of Movements.

Zac was involved with the HS2 Rebellion campaign from August to December 2020. He worked on graphics and social media as part of the Media and Messaging Team, later becoming Graphics Coordinator for the Parliamentary and Public Affairs Team leading on the visual design of projects including National Tree Killing Day and a social media campaign to lobby Ministers in the Department of Transport and the Treasury.

Get involved with HS2 Rebellion

Find out how to get involved with HS2 Rebellion here: Get Involved – HS2 Rebellion

The moral turmoil of the Deputy Mayor cannot be a distraction from the real issue | Zac Arnold

It doesn’t matter whether we are scared, human rights cannot be allowed to be trampled over by people in positions of authority who feel like they can do as they please.

Too many times now, the leadership of the Mayor of Lydney has seemed, although good intentioned, often autocratic. The way in which this issue was approached and the comments made by Walter Leach and Richard Kemsley was a flimsily executed swing at our internationally recognised human rights and our democratic process, with not so much as a vote being cast.

There is no place for abuse of human rights in any of our ‘democratic’ organisations, and the internal ‘moral’ turmoil of the former Deputy Mayor cannot be allowed to be used as a scapegoat to distract from the fact that those that feel they can abuse our rights and their power, are still in their seats.

Lydney Town Council set to backtrack on withdrawal of support for BLM Lydney | Zac Arnold

Today, the Police have confirmed that for Lydney Town Council to prevent the BLM protest in Lydney this Saturday would be a breach of Article 11 of the Human Rights Act and would result in potential ‘legal ramifications against the Council.

It is clear, both the decision of the Mayor to interfere with the enactment of this right and the way in which this decision was made were both unlawful.

There is no getting around this, several officials and members of Lydney Town Council must face scrutiny and should now consider tendering their resignations. Not least the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

Together, we will defend our human rights and we will right oppression and systemic racism, and I am excited to attend Lydney’s first celebration of BAME culture – once it is given the green light, as expected, this evening.

He couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t speak. My resignation from Lydney Town Council | Cllr Zac Arnold

“In January 2019, I was unlawfully arrested for breach of the peace at Lydney Town Council for refusing to allow those in control of our town to escape scrutiny – simply by asking questions. On 14 January 2019, my human right to peacefully protest was ripped away by Lydney Town Council and Gloucestershire Constabulary. This became the turning point for me to stop talking about what I think is right, and start trying to implement what I think is right based on principles of human rights, equality and actual real-life democracy. In May 2019, 384 people in Lydney East supported these well-publicised values and I became a member of Lydney Town Council and a Trustee of Bathurst Park and Recreation Trust.

“In June 2020, the Mayor of Lydney and the Chairman of the Trust ripped away the human right of everyone to peacefully protest – with strict social distancing measures, a Police presence and free PPE distribution, to prevent the permanently ongoing oppression and murder of minority groups of all kinds in this country and around the globe. They did this without even a vote by other Trustees or Councillors. They did this, primarily, due to a campaign orchestrated by a few members of the community based on a contempt for opinions other than their own, manipulations and selective memory. The same individuals that attempted to lobby the rich land and property owners of Lydney and predominantly elderly, straight, white males to “use their influence” to buy Lydney Town Council out of permitting the human right to peacefully protest.

“384 people voted for my defence of my human right to peacefully protest and hold our representatives to account. Now, some of the same people are saying it is ‘childish’ and ‘just a power game’ for me to stand by these same values. Clearly because rather than supporting the protection of human rights, they merely seek the protection of their rights.

“Regardless of what is said about me, the delusions that are fabricated or the allegations that are thrown my way that I do not support the right to disagree with this protest – I couldn’t care less about what you have to say because it is not the truth. My protection of the rights for the Black Lives Matter cause, is also a protection of your rights to disagree or protest about another issue in the future. Rights that could be at risk when dangerous precedents are set in desperate times.”

BLM: Black Lives Matter

“WE ARE ANTI-RACIST – We are you the Black and Brown citizens with a long black history of discrimination and have had enough, we are you the black man who receives harsher sentences and disproportionately incarcerated compared to white counterparts, and we are you the youth who is targeted by the police. stopped, searched, handcuffed simply for being black innocent without any other suspicion, we are you the young black girl who is overlooked, all but invisible, we are you the black women who is seen as loud and or aggressive just for being you, we are you the black child, the black student who is disproportionately excluded from school, we are you at the end of racist abuse, we are you who has suffered racial discrimination all your life, we are you the white British citizen, man women and child who believe black lives matter, we are YOU who will no longer remain silent or be silenced. We are you and you are us, we are anti-racist!

“We are you who wants justice for black people and who wants to eradicate racism from Britain forever. We are you.”

Zac resigned from Lydney Town Council strategically to help defend the right of BLM to protest in the town in June 2020, a right that was threatened by the Mayor of Lydney (Cllr Walter Leach) and the Chairman of Bathurst Park and Recreation Trust (Cllr Richard Kemsley)

Get involved with BLM UK

Contact BLM UK to find out more here: Contact Us | BLACKLIVESMATTER.UK

Learn more about the Local Equality Commission, the group set up by BLM Lydney’s organisers after the protest, and how to get involved here: Local Equality Commission

Rooftop Housing Group, you are the master of your own destiny | Cllr Zac Arnold

This morning, I met with the Assistant Team Leader of Rooftop Housing Group’s Young Peoples’ Service in relation to a series of ongoing and unresolved issues that cause concern at the company’s supported accommodation project on Albert Street
in Lydney.

Concerns about services:

✓ Increased anti-social behaviour and criminal damage to property;
✓ A failure to act on repeated physical assaults and threats to life;
✓ A failure to comply properly with fire and electrical safety regulations;
✓ A failure to prevent and act on safeguarding concerns including suicide
✓ A failure to maintain safe accommodation; and
✓ A failure to act upon the use of their premises for illegal activity and
dispose of dangerous and stolen goods.

These concerns are extremely serious and I have been working closely with
members of Senior Management of Rooftop Housing Group, other organisations and all levels of local government to bring a swift and effective resolution to the problems at Lydney Gateway. It is our combined aim to ensure that vulnerable young people are provided the services they need to move effectively from reliance to independence.

Both the facilities and the services provided by Rooftop Housing Group, the
Guinness Partnership and Guard Group Nationwide are unsafe and, over a number of weeks and months, put the lives of the young people under their care at repeated risk.

Whilst we are working with Rooftop to bring a resolution to the issues, their internal investigations have provided nothing but conflicts of interest and interference. Therefore, we have no faith in their processes and believe that an independent, transparent and publicly accountable review of Rooftop’s fitness for their contract should be established.

The least the people of Lydney deserve right now is a council tax freeze | Cllr Zac Arnold

Cllr Zac Arnold said that the council had had ‘extortionate’ precepts in the past years so having ‘a year off’ might not be a bad thing.

He added: “Because the people of Lydney have paid an awful lot of money, they deserve a break for at least a year.”

Why I am resigning from the Labour Party and becoming an Independent | Cllr Zac Arnold

It is with the deepest of regret that I am writing this letter to you this morning, however I have come to the conclusion over an extended period of time that this is both the right and the necessary thing to do. Please accept this letter as formal notification of my resignation, with immediate effect, from the Labour Party including of the Labour Whip on Lydney Town Council.

The ordinary people of our communities have been attacked for decades under neoliberal political, social and economic systems that has remained unchallenged for far too long. This system must now be challenged and the result of yesterday’s General Election has only proven to confirm that the institution that is the Labour Party is fundamentally unable to meet the challenges that we must face in enacting the change necessary to truly create communities, a country and a world that works for all.

This election has summed up the structural and political issues within the Labour Party that so many of us have been warning against for years. The willingness of the party establishment to discard the result of the 2016 Brexit Referendum shows a complete assault on democracy and this has been reflected in the dramatic loss of support in some of the most working-class constituencies in the country. The consequences of betraying democracy in favour of the views of the London bubble have resulted in the
party letting down those that relied on it most when they needed it most.

Those who need us most, who will suffer as a result of not having access to free at the point of use healthcare, those on Universal Credit where 5 more years of Tory rule could easily be a matter of life or death. Those most vulnerable people in our society need this change, not in 5 years’ time, but now. It is clear that the only way forward is not through a party that has been built to protect the status quo as part of a flawed and rigged system, we need a democratic revolution where instead of factions being united against factions, our communities as a whole come together in unity to take on our shared enemy.

Community organisation to create a real people-powered movement that discards the defunct systems of the past is the only way forward, this cannot be achieved from within the system but by the total rejection of it by every local community at the most grassroots level. To paraphrase Chris Williamson, a thoroughly decent and loyal antiracist campaigner who was chucked under the bus in an attempt to appease the established classes, the Labour Party needed to grow a backbone now more than ever
and it hasn’t.

This will take time but I, as have many, have come to the conclusion that this in the only way to build a system, a country and a world that works for the many, not the few. We are Lydney, we are the UK and we are really taking back control.

Pointless Lydney cycle-way improvements are risking lives and property | Cllr Zac Arnold

“The recent roadworks being completed across Lydney as part of the cycle way improvement scheme is a welcome consideration by HM Government and Gloucestershire County Council in attempting to increase the number of both residents and tourists cycling around our market town.

Whilst the thought process behind this scheme shows a halfhearted and asphalt friendly approach to tackling the climate emergency, I am sure I echo the sentiments of many infuriated severnsiders wrangling with the congestion and meteoric craters in what were once our roads and

The works being carried out have already caused major congestion problems, not only through the main flow of traffic through Newerne Street but also on Hams Road. The problems have been severe enough to result in several road traffic collisions including involving buses.

Yet, these works are set to continue with the closure and disruption of the majority of the core transportation arteries of Lydney being affected, our children’s journeys to school are being made less safe, our small businesses are suffering and emergency services are finding it
increasingly difficult to access life threatening situations. These works are literally putting lives at risk.

Then, once we all believe the pain and suffering is over, the contractors will be back to surface the mess they’ve left behind, bearing in mind it is winter and the science behind that would suggest that the slight freezing of the exposed lower surfacing before complete will soon leave us some glorious paddling pools for the summer months.

Instead, if it wasn’t for the inability of our self-proclaimed County Planning and Infrastructure Champion Cllr Alan Preest to show vision and an ability to plan for the future, we could stop the spaffing of one million pounds worth of hard-earned money up the street and invest in real, positive infrastructure that connects Lydney for all in a meaningful way.

Together, we can achieve much better. Our disconnected new communities need to be connected with real, meaningful links by foot, cycle, road and public transport. We need to embrace our local environment and intertwine ourselves with it by finally completing the Parkend to Lydney Multi-Use Track and we need to launch a system of green super highways, bringing people together, offering real alternatives to the car and saving our planet. We need real unapologetically radical change, and we need it now.”

Lydney Town Council need a full and independent public inquiry | Cllr Zac Arnold

I am pleased that the Independent Complaints Process that investigates Code of Conduct complaints regarding members has found that there is no case to answer regarding a malicious complaint lodged by the former Mayor of Lydney against myself. I would like to unequivocally deny allegations that I have conducted any campaign of harassment against any employee, former employee or elected member of Lydney Town Council and am pleased that this has been confirmed by this decision notice.

Naturally I cannot comment on matters relating to employment and personnel however, with regards to elected members, I can say that when the people of Lydney East put their faith in me to represent them in May’s Town Council elections I promised a “shake-up” at Lydney Town Council and naturally this could only have been possible with the ruffling of some feathers along the way that did not wish to be ruffled. The desperate grasping at straws by former Mayors and Councillors, who resigned amid severe alleged wrongdoing, hardly comes as a surprise.

It is time that Lydney was allowed to put the problems of the past few months behind us, but in my view, this can only happen with a full and independent public enquiry covering the events of the last few weeks, months and years in order to fully resolve these issues so that they cannot arise again. Lydney has the opportunity to rise from the ashes and form a true people-powered democracy with community engagement at it’s core and a reinvigorated, unapologetically radical vision for rebuilding the gateway to the Forest of Dean. The council is already looking forward to a brighter future for Lydney with strong ambitions on tackling the climate emergency, a heightened focus on community engagement and participation and a strong team of dedicated people facilitated by a brilliant new balanced Mayor in fighting for the best possible deal for Lydney.

Statement regarding the resignation of the Mayor of Lydney | Cllr Zac Arnold

Unfortunately, last week, the Mayor of Lydney made the decision to resign from Lydney Town Council. This morning, in the local press, the former Mayor made comments that in my opinion must be addressed.

In May, I was elected to Lydney Town Council with a mandate to create the real change necessary to undo the damage caused by the appalling actions of the previous administration and administrations before that, which included Brian Pearman. I am motivated by this task and there is no element of truth behind his conspiratorial assertions that we are trying to ‘ruin it.’ We are not trying to ruin Lydney or the council, we are trying desperately to save it before it is too late.

Brian says in his comments that he has ‘tried’ to resolve the current issue within the administration. I would refute this falsehood in the strongest of terms. He has merely attempted to keep the status quo against elected members and an electorate that have had enough. For too long this council has served the few, not the many.

At the recent Extraordinary Full Council meeting I raised a Point of Order expressing my concern as to the lack of impartiality during a report on an incident which was being given by one of those involved in said incident. Similarly, I raised a separate concern regarding a previous event and was told by Brian that I was lying despite the former administration and its officers admitting the fact at the time. The day before Brian resigned, I submitted a complaint regarding this.

Lydney’s challenging issues set to be tackled | Cllr Zac Arnold & Cllr Brian Pearman

‘On Monday 8 July 2019, Lydney Town Council laid the foundations to tackle two of the most serious and challenging immediate problems that Lydney faces. These being the lack of provision of services for young people aged up to 25 and the ever-increasing risk of imminent climate catastrophe across the globe.

‘At its Full Council meeting, members unanimously declared a climate emergency and have immediately set to work with a “think global act local” attitude to the issue. However, words will not solve this crisis. Real action is necessary and a new working group is to be established to scrutinise every aspect of council policy, develop new proposals to tackle climate issues in our town and hold other stakeholders to account to ensure that we develop a strong, united force against climate change throughout Gloucestershire.

‘Similarly, a new working group is to be established in order to investigate new and innovative approaches to delivering youth services. This new group is hoped to form part of a wide-reaching and collaborative network across the district, and further afield, with an aim to ensuring a wide range of services to meet the needs of all young people up to 25 years. Both groups aim to involve a wide variety of stakeholders and organisations including local community groups, other levels of local government, schools, housing associations and other organisations and individuals in order to build a collaborative approach that results in real, cross-authority action that produces successful outcomes.

‘These issues will not miraculously come to a conclusion overnight, but we are committed to thinking outside of the box and working with all elements of the community to deliver the best for Lydney.

Cllr Zac Arnold (LTC Youth/Education Liaison) who proposed both motions and is leading the new groups said: “The climate emergency and the crisis in youth services are two issues that must be at the heart of our combined mission to deliver the best for the people of Lydney. I’d like to thank members who supported both resolutions unanimously and look forward to working together on these important issues.”

Cllr Brian Pearman (Mayor of Lydney) said: “Both of these issues can only be addressed successfully by working collaboratively with partners both locally and in the wider arena. There is a wealth of talent, knowledge and experience within our communities which we need to tap into. We may have different views on some subjects, but if we concentrate on working together where we have common ground much can be achieved. Exciting times ahead.”’

J4G: Justice 4 Grenfell

“Justice4Grenfell (J4G) is a community-led organisation, focused on the long-term goal of obtaining justice for the bereaved families, survivors, evacuated residents and the wider local community, collaborating with representative organisations.

“J4G was set up a few days after the Grenfell Fire disaster and officially launched on June 19th 2017 with a silent walk. Together with many other local groups and individuals, J4G stepped into the void left by the authorities, to try to meet the urgent needs of those impacted. Our work continues because of the on-going failure of the authorities to respond adequately to the disaster. J4G’s ultimate aim is to ensure that such an event never happens again.”

Zac has been a member of J4G since 2019 and spoke at Gloucester’s Justice4Grenfell rally and memorial in Gloucester Park the same year.

Get involved with J4G

You can contact J4G and offer your support here: Contact – Justice4Grenfell

You can donate to J4G here: Donate – Justice4Grenfell

No hesitation in working to fulfil our promises to voters | Cllr Zac Arnold

Since my election in last month’s local elections, myself and our Labour Group have been working on radical and innovative proposals to rebuild Lydney into the thriving market town and gateway to the Forest of Dean that it once was. Lydney needs action to follow up on our words in order to ride the wave of 21st Century innovation and to tackle the biggest issues of the day at a local level.

We are proposing rapid action on three of the biggest issues Lydney is facing: Transparency and Democracy, the Climate Emergency and Youth Services. This evening’s full council meeting (10th June 2019) proved that we are not hesitating in tackling these issues and the Town Council faces a packed agenda in July as Labour tables motions on these issues.

This evening, during a discussion on the filming of council meetings I proposed, in a unanimous vote, that officers seek quotes for audio visual recording equipment in order to progress towards the livestreaming of all council and committee meetings. This is a move already taken by Forest
of Dean District Council, Gloucestershire County Council and Cinderford Town Council. This is a vital step in improving transparency and ensuring that the public can hold their representatives to account. Similarly, I have tabled a motion which will be heard at the September meeting of Full
Council to amend standing orders so that all votes are “recorded votes” meaning that the minutes will show which councillors voted for what. Another vital step in the right direction.

I also proposed that the council initiates a working group to investigate a series of Youth Services proposals, this will be further discussed and decision will be made at July’s meeting.

Finally, I have tabled a motion for discussion in July that Lydney Town Council declares a climate emergency, a long overdue move, and initiates a further working group to discuss and develop proposals around how we will tackle climate change at the grass roots. Cllr Louis Arnold also
raised again the possibility of investing in renewable energy to help tackle the climate emergency but also to develop a community investment fund which could potentially be used to provide grants to start-up businesses to assist Lydney’s economy to thrive.

These are serious issues that require serious and immediate action. Action that Labour are working tirelessly to deliver as part of our plan to rebuild Lydney so it works for the many, not just the privileged few.

Cllr Zac Arnold (Lab, Lydney East) said: “during the local elections we promised radical and innovative change, these are promises that we are determined to deliver and we are setting the ball in motion to introduce our policies for real change. Transparency, climate change and youth
services are three issues at the heart of our town’s struggle, and the country’s struggle, and from the bottom up we are developing people-powered proposals in consultation with residents to make Lydney Town Council a representative and approachable body that doesn’t shy away from the challenges that we face.”

Thank you for lending me your vote for Lydney Town Council | Zac Arnold

“I am humbled by the level of support the voters of Lydney East gave me in the local elections, unfortunately we didn’t quite manage to grasp hold of a district council seat but we are making real progress and I think that is because Labour are the only party offering real change both nationally and locally in Lydney. Labour are also the only major political party in the Forest of Dean that is listening to the views of the public. On issues such as the closure of our hospitals, car parking charges and the obliteration of our youth services, Labour has been listening and campaigning on the issues that affect us the most on a day to day basis.

“In Lydney in particular, we have had some severe issues locally in recent years and Labour are offering an alternative, a strong opposition, to the status quo. Naturally, our new group on the council is going to be pushing for much change within the council as well as outside of it, because the people of Lydney have had enough. But we take our responsibilities seriously and we are looking forward to meeting, discussing and working with our fellow councillors of all and no party allegiance. It’s time that we began working together, bringing our communities back together, in the interests of rebuilding Lydney into a true gateway to the Forest.

“As for the district council elections in four years time. Your guess is as good as mine. I have no inclination to become a career politician. I stood for these elections because I truly felt that these particular circumstances needed to change, so if there is something that I feel strongly about at the time, yes I probably would. A lot can change in four years though and there will be a lot that happens in them, so other paths may reveal themselves.”

Who is Zac and what are his commitments in today’s Town and District Council elections? | Zac Arnold

Zac has lived in Lydney his whole life and is a member of the
core group of the campaign to protect our hospitals and has
been standing up for Lydney on issues such as youth
provision and council spending.

Our Environment.

Fight to defend our climate from imminent catastrophe and pledge to protect the public forest estate from privatisation and fracking.

Our High Streets.

We will create thriving community hubs in our town centres and investigate the viability of a small business loyalty card scheme.

Our Health.

Labour will fight for our NHS to maintain and enhance the services currently offered with adequate bed provision provided.

Your Labour Candidates support the retention of two community hospitals
in the Forest of Dean and will continue to fight for this. Lydney and Tidenham Labour Party contributed the second largest lump sum donation to a potential legal challenge to defend our health services.

Our Culture.

Labour will defend the rights and traditions of Foresters. We will work to protect freemining and communing for future generations.

Our Housing.

Labour is the party of decent, affordable housing for all. We will look into setting up a council-run housing company.

Our Young People.

Labour will fight to defend the limited youth services we have and will look at fresh new approaches to plug the gaps left by the Tories at Gloucestershire County Council. Labour supports the Youth Association initiative being led by the Forest Voluntary Action Forum and will work to provide funding and support for this and other projects.

We need an enhanced, powerful and far-reaching effort to protect the lives of our generation | Zac Arnold

Zac Arnold, Labour’s Candidate for Lydney East in tomorrow’s Forest of Dean District Council elections, is to call for a more “enhanced, powerful and far-reaching” effort to “protect the lives
of a generation”.

The proposals come in light of the death of well-loved Gloucestershire teen Callum Paskin who is believed to have passed away as a result of an Epileptic Seizure whilst asleep in his Quedgeley home. The proposals also come after a young Lydney man in his 20s tragically committed suicide
earlier this week.

Zac Arnold is set to call for a “united, non-political effort against the mental health crisis in the Forest of Dean and an enhanced, powerful and far-reaching awareness initiative to tackle the stigmas and consequences of Epilepsy, Autism and other additional needs” in a bid to “protect
the lives of our generation.”

According to the Epilepsy Society: “Anyone can develop epilepsy, at any time of life. It happens in people of all ages, races and social classes. Epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in children and in people over 65. There are over half a million people with epilepsy in the UK, so around 1 in
100 people.”

According to the Guardian in 2018, “Growing numbers of teenagers in England and Wales are killing themselves, official figures show, sparking fresh concern about the deepening crisis in young people’s mental health.

There were 177 suicides among 15- to 19-year-olds in 2017, compared with 110 in 2010 and more than in every year since then except 2015, when the toll was 186, the Office of National Statistics data shows.”

The proposals will include the development of a cross-authority board working with local schools, the police, the National Health Service and other bodies and authorities to develop a “joined up approach to protecting our generation”. Other proposals include a large-scale public
awareness campaign and an education programme in partnership with local schools.

Zac Arnold said: “With a deepening mental health crisis, a failure of our authorities to meet their responsibilities and a lack of public awareness around issues such as Epilepsy and other additional needs, the lives of a generation need protecting.

“We need to abandon this stiff upper lip mentality and talk about the real issues. But, not only do we need to talk about the real issues. We need to take real, hard-hitting action to tackle the

“This is why I am launching this project and I am asking for local schools, political parties on all sides and other authorities to get on board. We need to take real, immediate action to, wherever we can, protect the lives of our young people both here in the Forest of Dean and in the South West as a whole.”

Zac’s Town and District Council election campaign suspended for 24 hours | Zac Arnold

For the next 24 hours I will cease campaigning in memory of a friend Callum Paskin and fellow candidate David Humphreys (Green Party, Newent) both have sadly passed away in recent days.

Solidarity and love to the families and friends of Callum and David. Both will be remembered for decades to come. Campaigning will resume tomorrow evening. The election for Newent and Taynton Ward will now take place on June 20 rather than May 2.

The Oakdale bus link and the messiah, Alan Preest | Zac Arnold

I write in response to the letter by Lydney Town Councillor Claire Vaughan in Vol 42 No 9 regarding the classification of the Oakdale Bus Link by Cllr Alan Preest as “sorted.” I find this letter amusing to say the least. The isolation of the Oakdale Estate, amongst various other issues within the development, has trudged on since the estate was constructed.

The segment of the letter that amuses me the most is the last where Cllr Vaughan, using Preest’s words, declares that “Sorted means that Oakdale will no more be isolated.” Now forgive me if I am wrong but Gloucestershire County Council have simply declared this route a ‘bus route.’ Gloucestershire County Council could declare the outer edges of my bedroom a bus route if they so wished, it doesn’t mean a bus is going to run along it, and amidst the decision by James Bevan to pull out from the Lydney to Chepstow routes (which also include Lydney Train Station) and the “review” of bus routes by Stagecoach West, it is looking more likely for my bedroom to see a bus than the Oakdale Estate.

I find the praising of Alan Preest as some kind of Messiah similarly entertaining. The letter seems to forget that Alan has been a member of FODDC, the council he and Vaughan direct the blame to, for the entire duration of this farce. Not only this, he is a member of the party that ruled the council with a majority for 10 years prior to their ousting in 2017. Yet conveniently in the run up to May’s elections the issue is being portrayed as “sorted” despite this being far from the case.

The party of which he waves the banner also, conveniently, rules the roost at the County Council which has also maintained subsidies for bus routes in Gloucester and Cheltenham but not provided any support to maintain transport links in the Forest of Dean. It is also deeply ironic for Alan to sign off his letter in the same issue as “Gloucestershire County Council Planning and Infrastructure Champion” despite slagging off the area’s infrastructure on your page 3 feature on the bus link issue.

Instead of pushing out propaganda ahead of an election to win votes, Labour will always fight for the interests of our community. A Labour Government would introduce free bus travel for the Under 25s and would give local authorities the power to set up their own bus companies to ensure that our communities are better connected and to reduce the environmental impacts of having the freedom to travel. And a Labour-led FODDC would fight for better transport links for all our residents all year round rather than just when it is strategically beneficial to us.

Alan Preest isn’t a messiah, he isn’t a superhero… he’s an absolute joke.

Letter to the CEO of Lydney Town Council regarding continued personal data disclosure | Zac Arnold

In a letter to Ms Jayne Smailes, CEO of Lydney Town Council, Zac said:

I am appalled by the decision taken by Lydney Town Council to re-publish the press pack previously published on Thursday 21 February 2019. You have at least made the effort to remove the personal email addresses of some individuals, however some are still visible including the personal email address of Cllr Brian Pearman and the personal email address of Dr Judith Mortimore.

Confidential emails from the Labour Party and the names of various individuals including Labour Party Headquarters staff are still available in the release. Due to your complete inability to protect the personal data of individuals and therefore potentially placing them at risk, I will be filing an immediate complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office regarding this matter including my correspondence over the course of today and yesterday and related evidentiary submissions including the original press pack, current version and documents sent to me under a Subject Access Request in January detailing the email addresses of several council members without prior written permission.

You can find guidance on your obligations under information rights legislation on the ICO’s website (www.ico.org.uk) as well as information on their regulatory powers and the action they can take.

If there is anything you would like to discuss, please contact me via email to (email address)

Response to the removal of the press pack released by Lydney Town Council | Zac Arnold

In a letter to the CEO of Lydney Town Council, Zac said:

Firstly, I would like to thank you for the removal of the press pack published on your website on Thursday 21 February 2019 containing confidential and personal data as a result of my letter to yourself earlier today.

Unfortunately, the swift removal of such is not able to overwrite the fact
that the breach in data protection legislation under the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) has occurred and copies of the data in question have been retained for the purposes of an official complaint to the Information Commissioner’s
Office (ICO) if this is deemed necessary.

It is also unfortunate that this is not an isolated event with Lydney Town Council and therefore I feel an obligation to raise my concerns regarding another breach in data protection legislation that has occurred this year from your office. Once again, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Monitoring Officer of Forest of Dean District Council have been copied into this correspondence for noting.

On Friday 18 January 2018 I submitted a Subject Access Request (SAR) under Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation in order to gain copies of all information held regarding myself by Lydney Town Council. I received a response with a variety of documentation signed by yourself on Monday 21 January 2018.

One piece of data provided, namely Appendix B, details an email regarding a Forest of Dean District Council press release in which I am quoted. This document also contains the full uncensored personal email addresses of all of the elected members of Lydney Town Council.

Thus, you have unlawfully disclosed the personal email addresses, to myself, of: Cllrs Bob Berryman; Carol Harris; Claire Vaughan; Derek Biddle; James Greenwood; Harry Ives; Kevin White and Roger Holmes.

If you had disclosed this information to another individual you could have potentially put the safety of these elected members at risk, fortunately for you they were disclosed to me and this is not something that I would ever contemplate.

A copy of this email is enclosed. This is a clear breach of data protection legislation and I advise that if a satisfactory response is not received to both these concerns and the concerns expressed within my previous letter earlier today with 1 calendar month, I will lodge an official complaint on
both counts with the Information Commissioner’s Office who could potentially issue a fine to Lydney Town Council of up to £500,000 or bring criminal charges in court against officers of the council responsible for the breach.

You can find guidance on your obligations under information rights legislation on the ICO’s website (www.ico.org.uk) as well as information on their regulatory powers and the action they
can take.

Please send a full response within one calendar month. If you cannot respond within that timescale, please tell me when you will be able to respond.

If there is anything you would like to discuss, please contact me via email to (email address).

Concerns about the disclosure of personal data by Lydney Town Council | Zac Arnold

In a letter to Ms Jayne Smailes, CEO of Lydney Town Council, Zac said:

I am writing to you with regards to a selection of documents released to the press and public on Thursday 21 February 2019 by Lydney Town Council. These documents including a series of confidential emails, screenshots from social media platforms and related documents concerning
myself and other individuals.

In this series of documents, you have acted in a way that, in my view, amounts to gross negligence with regards to the protection of personal data, namely email addresses, of many individuals including elected members of Lydney Town Council, members of the public and officers of third-party organisations of which you have communicated with.

As a public servant and somebody in a professional position that involves the strict protection of the data of individuals and organisations under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA) I would hope that you would understand the serious nature of the breaches present in this document as outlined in this correspondence.

Firstly, the failure to remove personal email addresses from documents before their release into the public domain. On page 3, despite attempts made to ‘block out’ personal email addresses. You have failed to do so and thus made the personal email addresses of Cllr Harry Ives, Cllr Bob Berryman and Cllr Carol Harris freely available in the public domain.

On page 6, you have made the email address of Dr Judith Mortimore available in the public domain without prior written consent from the individual. This individual is an officer of the local Labour Party and therefore this is no longer just a breach of your internal data but the data of other organisations and members of the public.

On page 9, you have made the personal email address of Cllr Bernie O’Neill available in the public domain without prior written consent from the individual. This individual is an officer of the local Labour Party also.

On page 11, despite attempts to ‘block out’ you have made the personal email address of Cllr Brian Pearman available in the public domain. Presumably if you attempted to block out this email address you also did not obtain prior written consent for this release.

As a body that holds personal data you are categorised as a ‘data controller’ under the Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulation. I advise that the release of personal email address without prior written consent is in breach of the law and therefore, if the
Information Commissioner’s Office deem it necessary, Lydney Town Council could be subject to a fine of up to £500,000 or the officer of the council responsible could face criminal prosecution. I have copied the Information Commissioner’s Office into this letter.

Secondly, you have released a series of confidential emails between officers of Lydney Town Council and members of staff at Labour Party Headquarters regarding myself. Whilst you are entirely within your rights to release emails written by Lydney Town Council into the public domain, providing you comply with the law, you are not in a position to release emails from a
third party without their prior written consent. This is especially the case considering the emails in question are subject to confidentiality statements.

The confidentiality statement on the emails from Labour Party Headquarters employees states as follows: “The Labour Party’s complaints process operates confidentially. That is vital to ensure fairness to you as a complainant and to the member against whom a complaint is made, and to
protect the rights of all concerned under the Data Protection Act 2018. I must therefore ask you to ensure that you keep all information and correspondence relating to your complaint private, and that you do not share it with third parties or the media (including social media). That includes the name of the member you have complained about, the allegations you have made, the identity of any witnesses, and the names of Party staff dealing with the matter. If you fail to do so, the Party reserves the right to take action to protect confidentiality…”

In the documents released by Lydney Town Council you have breached both this confidentiality statement and the Data Protection Act 2018. Please see pages 4 through 11. The council have released: the name of myself, the allegations that you have made, the identity of multiple witnesses and the name of the member of staff that was dealing with the complaint in question breaking all aspects of the confidentiality statement and potentially putting Labour Party staff, witnesses and council officers at risk of harm.

On page 6 of the pack, the confidentiality statement is visibly highlighted by yourselves and on page 11 in an email signed by Cllr Pearman he explicitly states in one of his points that the correspondence with Labour Party Headquarters is “marked as confidential” and therefore it is fair
to assume that the council and its officers were fully aware that this was confidential correspondence and decided to release it anyway.

The Labour Party Legal and Governance Unit at Party Headquarters have been informed of this data breach and have been copied into this letter.
Finally, you have failed to redact the names of various individuals that are not publicly involved in this issue potentially putting these people at risk. The release of names is not usually a breach of the Data Protection Act or General Data Protection Regulation as it is unlikely that it could be
deemed that they identify a specific person (multiple people could have that name.)

However, these names have been used in a context, sometimes with job titles and registered business addresses that allow for the individual to easily be identified. Some of which also have public profiles in the local area and thus many will be aware of them.

In the initial statement on page 1 of the pack you state that the release of this data was “supported by legal opinion” if that is truly the case, I suggest you may wish to find somebody else from which to obtain an opinion.

You can find guidance on your obligations under information rights legislation on the ICO’s website (www.ico.org.uk) as well as information on their regulatory powers and the action they can take.

Please send a full response within one calendar month. If you cannot respond within that timescale, please tell me when you will be able to respond.

If there is anything you would like to discuss, please contact me via email to (email address)

Response to Lydney Town Council’s press pack detailing complaints against me | Zac Arnold

This morning (Thursday 21 February 2019) Lydney Town Council released a
press pack in response to recent events regarding the Clerk to the Council, Jayne Smailes, likening myself; another member of the public and an elected member of the council to the far-right terrorist responsible for the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP in an email to Gloucestershire Constabulary in November 2018.

In this statement, Lydney Town Council state the following: “At no time has
any individual or group been described in this way by Lydney Town Council”
this point is entirely accurate and nobody ever claimed that it was. Instead I
asserted that the Town Clerk made these comments by means of a
“comparison” not a “description” which is an entirely accurate assertion to make as can be seen in the email which is attached to this statement.

Included in the pack released by the council there are a series of private and confidential emails as well as screenshots of my Facebook page in a desperate attempt to link this ongoing dispute with the Labour Party, of which I am a member. As a fundamental basis to determine the truth, it is important that you are aware of the simple fact that I have never attended a meeting of Lydney Town Council in my capacity as a member or officer of Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party nor in a capacity with any other organisation with which I am affiliated or am a member.

My motivation prior to and during this farcical series of events has always and will always be a determination to fight for the community in Lydney and the surrounding areas and in doing so I have built a coalition of residents of a variety of political persuasions including several members of Forest of Dean District Council from opposing parties to where my political beliefs lie. This is not about me, this is not about politics, this is about the people of Lydney… this is about the community.

From exposing the council’s despicable attitude to young people which they
are determined to cover up with false promises and token gestures; to
highlighting the council’s apparent determination to chuck the hard-earned
money of tax payers down the drain at every possible opportunity that arises; to the culture of bullying and harassment that appears to have settled within their day to day operations both towards the electorate and their elected members.

These are just some of the reasons why this administration must be opposed and shown to be what it is. This is not party political despite their attempts to make it such.

The attempts by the council to connect my political views and affiliations to
my actions as an individual is a clear attempt to try and shut down criticism and their actions amount to discriminatory behaviour based on political opinion. It is entirely unacceptable for a council to do so in order to gag individuals and prevent them from lodging constructive and legitimate criticism via the appropriate channels.

In order to maintain their grip on our town they are willing to gag anyone that dares to criticise them in any way whether this be by calling the police,
discussing motions to ban their attendance or publicly berating them on social media and in the press. They have run riot over our town… our community, for far too long.

In the press pack, they have released a series of emails between themselves and Labour Party Headquarters in a pathetic attempt to shoot down the concerns of the people of Lydney by suggesting that there are political motives behind our questions. Once again, this is not the case. These emails are private and confidential and in releasing these communications they are in clear breach of privacy and data protection law. This issue has now been reported to and is being investigated by the Legal and Governance Unit at Labour HQ as a breach of confidentiality.

The people of Lydney have woken up to the attitude and actions of Lydney
Town Council. Enough is enough. Our questions remain unanswered and they continue to abuse and dismiss us at every turn. It’s time for change

Response to the resignation of Councillor Kevin Greening | Zac Arnold

In response to a letter in a local newspaper by former Councillor, Kevin Greening, post his resignation from Lydney Town Council, Zac said:

“I found the letter published in last week’s edition from the former Lydney Town councillor Kevin Greening regarding my “negative views” rather amusing to say the least. Firstly, I would like to remind Kevin that as somebody fairly new to the council, I am willing to forgive his ignorance as to my positive approach to attempting to work with the Town Council prior to him being instated on the council, not by the electorate may I add. In fact, I recall entering a brief discussion with him over a drink at the Greyhound with another Town Councillor and another member of the public just after he arrived in Lydney.

“To answer his question. Yes, I did raise the issue of B&M with Chris Williamson MP during his visit to Lydney amongst many other things both locally in Derby and in the Forest of Dean. He would have been quite welcome to attend the meeting as, unlike the council, we are a welcoming space for discussion, constructive criticism and debate for members of the public.

“With regards to the events at the January full council meeting, let me just “correct a few inaccuracies” – at no point did I undertake a negative rant, if you dismiss all questions and constructive criticism from those you are supposed to represent as a “negative rant” I question why you are allowed anywhere near a public position of authority. Simultaneously , maybe if I wasn’t persistently shouted down during the period when I was entitled to ask questions I may have been able to finish and they may not have appeared so negative. As for the point regarding my questions not being relevant to agenda items, I struggle to understand how asking a question regarding a statement given to the press by the Mayor does not fit under “Press Releases and Statements” on the agenda but I suppose that’s subjective as to whether or not you want the person to ask the question.

“Finally, I refer you to Cllr Richard Leppington’s comments, in an article also published in last week’s edition. Anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to local politics, as you should, would realise that me and Richard have hardly been the best of friends in the past, however I admire his integrity to come out and give an impartial account of events and shed some light on the reality of the situation, and if I was truly so scary, abusive and intimidating, why did only 2 councillors present vote to have me barred from future meetings? Why was I not charged? Also, please do not refer to me as “this young man” as if my age makes my views any less important than the propaganda that you spout.”

Forest of Dean Labour Chair responds to backlash over Parliamentary All Women Shortlist decision | Cllr Bernie O’Neill

Zac formatted and distributed the following press release on behalf of Bernie O’Neill, Chairman of Forest of Dean Labour Party.

Bernie O’Neill, Chair of the FoD CLP, states: “I think it is important to put the record straight on the issue of the AWS, which the National party has decided we in the Forest of Dean must carry out for our next Parliamentary Candidate. Regional office state, “The Labour Party has a long held policy of supporting positive action to improve the gender balance of our candidates and elected representatives at every level. Also, whilst I understand there may be some local opposition, the decision to run Forest of Dean as an All Women Shortlist was made by the National Executive Committee, and their decision is final.

“Before Christmas we were informed that we were, as a CLP, to undertake consultation with members regarding whether we would support an AWS or Open selection. It was made very clear that the final decision would be for the National Party to make, and that the CLP would simply give guidance as to the views of its members. Branches were invited to consult their members and take their views forward to a General Committee meeting, which all members were also invited to attend. The timescale we were given for completing this was very short. At the GC, a very constructive discussion took place in which the views of branches and individuals were expressed. Views seemed evenly divided, and a vote was taken at the insistence of our regional representative which we were assured was indicative, not binding. The outcome of this vote was 12 to 11 in favour of AWS.

“Our Regional representative then composed a brief report of the meeting stating how the debate had been carried out and noting the views of delegates. This was forwarded to the National Executive Committee, who take all decisions relating to selections. This exercise was carried out in a number of other CLPs across the country who were eligible to open the selection process for PPC.

“We were informed on Friday of last week that we were to have an AWS. This is NOT a decision taken by the Constituency Party NOR by the Labour Group, NOR by me as Chair. This is the position that we now find ourselves in and are we are awaiting further information as to how we proceed.

“Personally, I am disappointed with this outcome as I have consistently spoken against AWS for more than 20 years, but I have been disappointed with a number of decisions taken by the Party in over 40 years membership. However I am still an active member, and shall continue to be so. I trust that those members who have expressed views complaining about AWS will seriously consider the fact that the most important thing is that we rally around our future candidate in order to de-seat Harper, to ensure a Labour MP, which the Forest so desperately needs.”

Response from Forest of Dean Labour Party to the complaint lodged by Lydney Town Council | Cllr Bernie O’Neill

In a letter to Lydney Town Council regarding the complaint, later released by Lydney Town Council, Cllr Bernie O’Neill (Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party Chairman) responds:

“I note your correspondence dated 15 January regarding your complaint against Mr. Zac Arnold. Having taken advice from the National Labour Party I have to inform you that no action will be taken by the Local or National Party as your complaint is concerning a resident of Lydney in his private capacity, and not with the Labour Party. Certain assumptions appear to have been made because Mr Arnold is a member of the Party, but this does not preclude him from voicing his opinions in a person capacity.

“Regarding issues raised in the attached emails about a meeting in November 2018, there are some insinuations which cause concerns and the comment about the tragic murder of Jo Cox is particularly galling and beyond belief.

“The events of 14 January at your Council meeting are your concern and not one for us to be involved in, but I do have to say that there are witnesses who are prepared to give a different opinion of the proceedings of that meeting and I trust that you will reflect on the matter.”

The next Labour MP for the Forest of Dean will be a woman | Forest of Dean Labour Party

Zac formatted and distributed the following press release on behalf of the Forest of Dean Labour Party.

“The next UK General Election will offer voters in the Forest of Dean a female Labour Candidate. Following a consultation exercise involving all four branches in the district and a decision by the party’s National Executive Committee it’s decided that The Forest candidate should be selected from an “All Women Shortlist” or AWS.

“The problem of under representation of women in Parliament is fairly evident. Even now in 2019 only 191 out of 650 MPs are women. Labour has 99 women MPs out of 232 (42 percent) but the Conservatives only 68 out of 330 – only 20 percent.

“Labour are committed to trying to increase the number of women in parliament and started the AWS policy with the 1997 General Election, which returned a record number of Women MPs (see picture). Indeed many of the current most impressive Labour MPs – eg Angela Rayner, Jess Phillips, Lisa Nandy – were selected from all-women lists.  The Conservatives remain opposed to an AWS, the party chairman  Patrick McLoughlin said “We don’t try and impose all women shortlists because we  try and give local associations as much freedom as possible in the way they go about selecting their candidates.” It’s safe to say that at 20 percent women MPs, whatever the conservatives think they might be doing is failing.

“The Forest of Dean of course has only ever had one woman MP – Diana Organ. Her period of office coincided with Tony Blair and since she departed no other women have been adopted as candidates.

“Cllr. Bernie O’Neill, Chair of the Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party said, ” We shall now have to make sure that the woman we choose to stand as our Candidate at the next General Election, is the very best that we can find and the most suitable to represent the residents of the Forest.  I am sure that she will have the full support and help from the members of the Labour Party in the Constituency in what is sure to be a tough campaign, whenever it comes.”

“The party also wished to thank Shaun Stammers who stood as Labour Candidate at the last General Election and who will now not be able to stand as a potential candidate next time around.

“Any interested women candidates should now make contact with the Forest of Dean Labour Party.”

Complaint to the Labour Party regarding Shaun Stammers’ social media activity | Zac Arnold

“Dear Chair and Secretary,

“I was appalled this evening to read a post published by Mr Stammers who currently holds the offices of Vice Chairman Policy, Joint IT/Media Coordinator, LGBT+ Officer and Chairman of Cinderford and Mid-Dean Branch this evening on his public Facebook page regarding the decision by the National Executive Committee, in consultation with this Constituency Labour Party, to implement an All Women’s Shortlist to select the next Prospective Parliamentary Candidate.

“Whilst I understand that this is an emotional time for Mr Stammers, the wording in which he made the announcement on his “The Forest Matters” Facebook page has quite frankly done a serious amount of damage to the standing of this CLP and has now begun to spread to the CLPs official social media channels including members of the electorate stating that they will not vote Labour again and stating that they “want a list” of the 13 individuals at the consultation meeting that voted for an All Women’s Shortlist so that they can be “fined for sexism.” At no point in his exchanges with these members of the public demanding names and threatening, effectively, to bring out the pitchforks to puncture Labour’s electoral chances in the district, did Mr Stammers make them aware of the fact that it was actually HIS vote that tipped the balance in favour of an All Women’s Shortlist being the 13th vote – making a majority of 1. Yet, despite this fact, he declared that the CLP “unfortunately” voted by a small majority in favour of an All Women’s Shortlist.

“Simultaneously, after the consultation meeting when approached regarding the reason for him voting for an All Women’s Shortlist he stated that he had to because that is what he had “always stood for.” – Funny how times change now that it is confirmed he is unable to have another shot out of making a career at the membership’s and electorate’s expense.

“In this post, he stated, “I am only saddened that I will not have the opportunity to seek the support of Labour Members in an open and honest selection process this time around.” This statement clearly suggests, and in my eyes is a clear accusation, that either the consultation vote, NEC decision or upcoming selection process is corrupt or rigged. This is utterly despicable and has now led to a sentiment in the comments of his post and elsewhere of members of the public suggesting that we are not trustworthy, we are corrupt and that they will no longer give us their votes. Either Mr Stammers has just committed membership suicide, is grossly incompetent and shouldn’t be trusted with any kind of access to Labour Party social media channels, or worse still, is deliberately attempting to smear the local party as a result of him no longer being able to stand as our candidate. I remind you, the vote was won by a majority of 1 – Shaun Stammers voted in favour of All Women’s Shortlist in the consultation meeting – How is any of this process not “open and honest” thus far?

“This online activity amounts to discrediting the party on social media and could easily severely inhibit our chances of removing Mark Harper from office at the next election, whenever that may come. I have cc’d Phil Gaskin and Sonia Wright in to this email.”

Lydney Town Council back down on threat to skatepark due to pressure | Zac Arnold & Cllr Roger Holmes

This evening (Monday 28 January 2019) Lydney Town Council’s Recreation Trust backed down on their consideration to demolish Lydney Skate Park due to a reluctant and active campaign led by our Youth Officer, Zac Arnold and Labour’s only current town councillor, Cllr Roger Holmes.

“This is great news for the young people of Lydney who have been targeted and labelledby Councillors and Officials

Zac Arnold, Forest of Dean Labour Party Youth Officer

The trust asked to keep “all options on the table” regarding the tackling of “anti-social behaviour” at the facility which was seen widely as the continuation of an unsuccesfull war on young people by the council.

After the vote at Monday’s trust meeting. Cllr Harry Ives (Conservative Party Member) proposed a motion trying to wipe the slate clean and act as if the council was never considering this option when they most definitely were.

Zac Arnold, Youth Officer for Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party, said:

“This is great news for the young people of Lydney who have been targeted and labelled as “thugs” and “chavs” by councillors and council officials due to the actions of a small minority of young people who’s behaviour isn’t acceptable.

However, the attitude of Lydney Town Council is still far from acceptable in itself and we must continue to push for real change in the approach that our elected representatives take when it comes to representing our young people.

Removing a facility such as this would have only increased tensions, moved issues elsewhere and would have come at an extortionate cost to the tax payer.

Cllr Roger Holmes, Lydney Town Council (Lydney North)

Forest of Dean Labour Party is still incredibly concerned at the failure of the council to participate in the district-wide youth services initiative currently being led by the Forest Voluntary Action Forum.

The fight is by no means over and we hope that the people of Lydney will realise this May that Lydney is in desperate need of real change to ensure it works for the many, not just the privileged few.”

Councillor Roger Holmes, Labour’s Councillor on Lydney Town Council proposed a motion at the trust meeting calling for the trust to leave the Skate Park “as is” and install CCTV cameras which are deemed to be more effective in tackling anti-social behaviour.

Cllr Holmes said:

“I’m extremely proud to have proposed this motion on Monday which committed the trust to retain the Skate Park and Multi Activity Games Area on the trust ground.

Removing a facility such as this would have only increased tensions, moved issues elsewhere and would have come at an extortionate cost to the tax payer.”

We must all condemn the actions of the few, and work to improve things for the many | Zac Arnold

Zac Arnold, Youth Officer for Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party, said:

“Yesterday (Friday 25 January), it was reported that the newly refurbished bridge across Dean Forest Railway from Lydney Boating Lake to St. Mary’s Church had been hit by an arson attack suspected to have been committed by young people. This is the latest in a series of acts of mindless vandalism across the town in recent years.

These acts must be condemned wholeheartedly and in the strongest of terms, but, simultaneously we must realise that these acts are committed by a very small minority of individuals and we must work together to find a solution.

For far too long, our young people have been left feeling isolated and attacked as a result of persistent cuts from both the Conservative government and the Conservative-led Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) and this must stop. In order to stop acts like this, we must build a strong and constructive relationship with all parties, work to take our young people off the streets and provide them with the services and facilities they need to thrive and take pride in the community they live in.

It’s time for change, it’s time to rebuild our youth services so that they work for the many not the few. This is the only way we have a chance of ending this. If anyone has any information regarding the vandalism directed at the bridge please don’t hesitate to get in touch, all information will be treated anonymously and reported to Dean Forest Railway and the Police.”

Locally, Labour Will:

  • Fight against any attempts to demolish Lydney Skate Park unless the equipment is re-sited in an alternative location.
  • Put pressure on relevant authorities and work with key partners to provide dedicated outdoor and indoor spaces for our young people to socialise and give them something to do.
  • Put pressure on town and parish councils to cooperate and participate in the Forest Voluntary Action Forum district-wide youth services initiative which was launched this month.
  • Fight to ensure Gloucestershire County Council reverses the cuts to frontline youth services that are leaving our young people behind.

Nationally, A Labour Government pledges:

  • Abolition of tuition fees and reintroduction of maintenance grants.
  • Free lunches for pupils.
  • Votes for 16-17 year olds.
  • Extend schools-based counselling to all schools to improve children’s mental health.
  • Restore the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16 to 18-year-olds from lower and middle income backgrounds.
  • Improve careers advice.
  • Investment – in teachers and facilities – in FE sector.
  • End the cuts to youth services.
  • Extend Staying Put arrangements to support all children and young people in residential and other forms of care until they are 21 (not just foster care).
  • Ensure that young people understand and are able to easily remove any content they shared on the internet before they turned 18.
  • Introduce free bus travel for under 25s.

Chris Williamson MP joins Forest of Dean Labour on the doorsteps of Lydney West | Zac Arnold

Throughout today Forest of Dean Labour Party have held a day of action across Lydney ahead of May’s local authority elections. This included a morning street stall and Councillor meet and greet followed by canvassing in Lydney West for Steve Stockham’s Town and District election campaign and a community meeting on a swathe of issues including local government funding and the future of the Labour Movement.

We were lucky enough to be joined in the afternoon on the doorstep by Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North and a former Shadow Minister, who then led discussion at a packed meeting at Regent Hall.

Zac Arnold, Campaign Coordinator for Forest of Dean Labour Party and organiser of the event, said:

“I would like to thank Chris for his time in coming to Lydney and providing us with valuable insight direct from Westminster and his extensive life experiences. It’s been a great day and has really lifted spirits in the run up to us asking the public to join us in rebuilding Lydney for the many, not the few.”

Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North and former Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services and former Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, said:

“Excellent day campaigning on the #LabourDoorstep with the Forest of Dean Labour Party, followed by a great meeting with members. Big thank you to Zac Arnold for organising today’s event. #ChangeIsComing in the Forest of Dean.”

Final decision from Labour Party HQ on the complaint lodged by Lydney Town Council | Tim Dexter

In an email to, then Executive Officer of Lydney Town Council and later Assistant Clerk, Carol Wheeler, Labour Party Complaints Officer Tim Dexter said:

“Thank you for providing the additional information.

“If Mr Arnold is attending these meetings as a private individuall and resident then this would not be a matter that the Labour Party would be able to take any action on. We are unable to arbitrate on members’ conduct outside of their participation with the Party, and matters such as this would therefore be irrespective of their membership.

“I would advise that any concerns over safety or potential behaviour should be reported to the Police.”

Lydney Town Council supply Labour Party HQ with additional information regarding their complaint | Carol Wheeler

In response to a request for more information from Tim Dexter, Complaints Officer for the National Labour Party at Southside, Carol Wheeler wrote to him as Lydney Town Council’s Executive Officer saying:

“Mr Arnold openly publicises the fact the he is a Labour activist, the news article relating to this recent incident and indeed Mr Arnold’s own FB page promotes his status as CLP Campaign coordinator for The Labour Party.

“As Mr Arnold has in the past been publicly vocal in his views concerning the closures of local hospitals in both Lydney and Cinderford, he is therefore well known to many people; likewise when he attended a previous Lydney Recreation Trust Meeting at the Council Chambers he later placed a Press Statement on his FB page with the banner saying he was Youth Officer FOD Labour Party.

“At Monday’s meeting Mr Arnold, in line with Standing Orders (the Council’s Meeting protocol) was asked to state his name and address; as well as being known to all present, he gave the same home address as shown on his banner. Furthermore during/following the incident he has continued to post to his FB page which associates him with the Labour Party and the news article attached also advises of the fact that he intends to cause further disruption.”

Lydney Town Council lodge formal complaint to the Labour Party | Cllrs Bob Berryman & Brian Pearman

“Dear Sir or Madam

“We would like to make an official complaint against Mr Zac Arnold regarding his behaviour towards our Council/Council Members and Employees.

“At our Full Council meeting last night Mr Arnold, under the Public Forum agenda item, asked three questions of our Council. Under our Council’s Standing Orders questions raised under the Forum must relate to items on the agenda. However, our Council had previously provided Mr Arnold with answers to two of his questions a number of months prior.

“Under the first question, raised under Lydney Town Council’s budget for 2019/2020 (Agenda Item 9b), Mr Arnold sought to challenge/berate our Council for resolving not to participate in providing a District-wide Youth Worker as he felt that the Council held sufficient finance as it has elected to purchase a Town Flag/one of it’s Charitable Trusts had chosen to invest in sculpturing a tree trunk in Bathurst Park into a tourism feature. Mr Arnold was also derogatory towards our CEO and Proper Officer of our Council, and requested that his questions be answered by an Elected Official rather than unelected Bureaucrat. Mr Arnold had previously been informed by our Council that it had resolved to invest in youth provision locally, rather than contribute to a District-wide initiative and Mr Arnold was advised that the CEO was appointed to respond to matters on behalf of our Council. Furthermore, that the initiative referred to by Mr Arnold would likely result in an expense of £25,000.00 to our Council. Mr Arnold was also informed by a fellow Councillor that his question did not relate to the agenda item he had referenced as Mr Arnold had not had sight of the Council’s budget at that time.

“The second question raised concerned a complaint which had been made against our Council by Mr Arnold which Mr Arnold raised under Agenda Item 14 (Committee and Other Reports). Whilst the matter had been considered and resolved and duly minuted (publicly accessible) , with Mr Arnold being informed of the outcome of his complaint in writing mid-November, Mr Arnold did not accept the Council’s decision and requested that he receive a formal apology. Mr Arnold was advised that he had already received the Council’s response regarding his complaint, by this time Mr Arnold had become increasingly agitated.

“The third question Mr Arnold raised under Agenda Item 19 – Press Release/Statement which he referenced an article in Gloucestershire Live, in which the Mayor was interviewed regarding the submission of a planning application from retailer B&M to utilise a vacant, vandalised retail premises in our Town as their new store. Mr Arnold then sought to berate the Mayor for welcoming the news that the retailer was seeking to open a store in our Town, and he launched into a tirade against the management practices of B&M and their facilities provided to their employees. During this tirade Mr Arnold was warned by the Mayor that if he continued with his speech/argumentative manner the meeting would be suspended. Mr Arnold refused to pay any attention to the warnings given, our meeting was duly suspended and Mr Arnold was asked several times to leave the meeting by our CEO/Proper Officer. However, Mr Arnold refused to leave the meeting which resulted in the Police being called to our office to escort Mr Arnold from the building. Mr Arnold then refused to leave the site, despite the Police making a number of requests for him to do so, and we believe he was then arrested for Breach of the Peace and taken to Gloucester (Incident Number 366 of 14 January 2019 refers).

“We would advise that this is not the first time our Council has had cause for concern over Mr Arnold’s intimidatory manner and we would refer you to the enclosed e-mail which has been sent to the Police. Whilst we appreciate Mr Arnold is passionate in his political beliefs, we feel his actions have overstepped the mark of acceptability.

“We trust that you will take action regarding our complaint and we look forward to hearing from you.

“Yours Faithfully (for and on behalf of Lydney Town Council)

“Cllr Bob Berryman (Mayor) and Cllr Brian Pearman (Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the Personnel Committee”

Heading for Extinction and what to do about it: a free talk | Zac Arnold

‘Our climate is at crisis point and we must act now. We see the
climate changing rapidly. We see the extinction of over 200 species a
day. We face huge threats to our lives and the lives of our children
and our grandchildren. But what can we do about it?

‘Extinction Rebellion Forest of Dean is the organisation coordinating
non-violent direct actions and education around the challenges we
face in protecting our environment and are excited to invite the
public to a free talk entitled “Heading for Extinction and What we can
do about it.”

‘The talk will take place at Yorkley Community Centre from 7pm on
Sunday 13th January and is free of charge. It is vital that as many
people know about the environmental catastrophe that we face and
how we can work to pressure those that have the power to prevent
imminent disaster.

‘A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Forest of Dean said:
“Attendance at this talk is a must. The situation that we are in is an
incredibly serious one and only people who understand the
problems can work to ensure the solutions come to fruition. We
don’t have long left to change the course of the planet and save our
planet, our species and all others from extinction.’

CWU: Save Our Post Office

“…is the CWU’s fight to save our nation’s cherished Post Office network, which has been recently launched by the union in response to the bombshell announcement that 74 Crown offices are to be franchised (privatised) to high-street retailer WH Smith – a move which will impact some 800 jobs and drastically cut services to communities.

Our union is fighting back, with a range of high-profile local and national campaign activities being planned over the next couple of months – particularly in the run-up to Christmas.

We’ve created dedicated campaign website – www.saveourpostoffice.co.uk – which has all the essential facts, aims and demands and also features a quick and easy ‘write to your MP’ guide.

From the main page of the site, simply click to find your own MP and then click again for a model letter to her or him – or write to the Government Minister responsible for the Post Office, Greg Clarke, urging him to stop the wrecking of our Post Office.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward says: “At a time when the government is claiming to be on the side of workers, it is an outrage that it is allowing well rewarded jobs to go from a public service, handing them straight to a second-rate employer like WHSmith – recently rated as the worst retailer on the high street who will undoubtedly provide a significantly inferior service.”

And he’s asking all CWU members to “please visit the campaign site, write to your MP and watch out for upcoming Save Our Post Office activities in your local area.””

Zac was attended a protest and stall in Gloucester and supports the campaign to maintain the independence of the Post Office.

Get involved with the CWU Post Office Network

Find out more: CWU: Save Our Post Office

Regional Liaison sends submission of CLP to Labour Party HQ regarding All Women Shortlist | Sonia Wright

“The Forest of Dean CLP held their consultation meeting on Tuesday 18th December. The meeting was attended by approximately 24 members. Before the meeting branches in the CLP had the opportunity to discuss their views on whether the CLP should be an AWS or open selection- this was fed back to the meeting Lydney Branch overwhelmingly supported AWS whilst the others supported Open selections. The GC discussed the benefits of having an AWS, and in the event of not having an AWS what actions could be undertaken to ensure women candidates come forward. There was a general agreement that having an AWS would increase female participation in the CLP by supporting and empowering women and it could encourage more electors to participate in elections. It was also noted that much more needs to be done to engage women to run for MP and get equal representation. There was a counter view, the Forest struggles to engage women to run for local elections so finding local women for an AWS could be hard and the view that an open selection process would allow a broad panel of candidates – concern was also raised that if a snap election happened, someone external to the CLP might not have the chance to build a profile in the constituency. The CLP acknowledged that representation of women locally is poor and more work needs to be done to identify and encourage women to stand for positions. More needs to be done to make meetings welcoming to women and that parliament itself can do more to encourage women by being more aware of the issues that prevent women from running for parliament. The CLP was fairly split, an indicative vote was narrowly in favour of AWS.”

Foodbank Britain: How Universal Credit is hitting this rural area | Zac Arnold

Zac Arnold writes about the effects of the Tory policy in his Gloucestershire community. This article was originally published by Left Foot Forward on 10 December 2018, you can view the original here.

Original Image: Left Foot Forward, 2018

The negative impacts that Universal Credit is having on ordinary people across the country is a path that has been walked plenty of times by “non-mainstream” media outlets.

The campaign to have the system scrapped entirely is in full swing. 

The real impact of this flawed project – of which ex-Tory leader and former secretary of state for the Department of Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is the architect – is clear. However, it is also clear that Theresa May will not, at any costs, back down on the vanity project of her disgraced predecessor. 

The Forest of Dean, a small rural district in Gloucestershire ranked 303rd out of 324 local authorities in terms of social mobility, dragged itself through the full roll out of Universal Credit in November 2017 and the impact was clear within days. 

According to a source at Forest Foodbank, in the days following the roll out of Universal Credit across the district, use of the local foodbank operated by the Trussell Trust increased by 85%.

Even by early 2018 usage of the foodbank had only slowed to 50% and now, over 12 months later, usage is still up by 30%. 

The foodbank source also stated it “doubled the normal three vouchers in six months limit for those who can show us they are transitioning to UC” due to the demand and strain on claimants being so significant, and due to problems with payments not being received on time. 

What the Conservative government appear to forget is that the people suffering under this programme are just that. People. People that are vulnerable. People that are struggling to survive. People that need that extra hand and some humanity.

It appears that the government have no real grasp, or do not want to have a real grasp, on the level of devastation they are causing. 

The source also said foodbank staff “hear many stories of long initial wait periods well over the 5 week minimum, and very punitive sanctions for seemingly trivial transgressions.”

One such story being a “heavily pregnant girl in her early 20s who missed one job centre appointment due to health issues related to her pregnancy, and was sanctioned 47 days money, leaving her with absolutely no money for over a month.” 

The foodbank is also falling behind demand despite seeing an 11% increase in donations since last year and they are also experiencing a significant turnover of volunteers.

“There is only so much we can do, and it puts a lot of pressure on our wonderful volunteers and volunteer management team, leading to a higher than desirable turnover of volunteers, and we are currently recruiting in all areas, including a manager.” 

Forest Foodbank Volunteer

This is only a small sample of the impacts that Universal Credit is forcing on our communities. On our neighbours. On our families. On our friends. The Trussell Trust estimates that there has been an average 52% increase in foodbank usage in areas where Universal Credit has been fully rolled out with 1,332,952 people receiving emergency food supplies from Trussell Trust foodbanks in the 2017/18 year compared to the 2016/17 year. 

In the Forest of Dean, 3368 three day emergency food parcels were handed out to people in need in 2016/17 year alone. This was before the increase in usage due to Universal Credit. 

The full roll out of Universal Credit across the country is yet to be completed, with all local authorities set to have transitioned by 2022, and there is already a clear correlation between foodbank usage and the roll out of Universal Credit.

According to the Trussell Trust, the average 52% increase in foodbank usage in Universal Credit roll out areas in the 2017/18 year so far, slows to an average 18% increase in areas where Universal Credit is yet to be rolled out. 

Of course, the increased usage of foodbanks is not the only impact of Universal Credit. There are many more, with the likes of rent arrears and eviction included, but these are stories for another day in this saga of devastation.

It is clear that this government couldn’t care less about the people of our country and they have the nerve to pose for selfies at foodbanks in the run up to Christmas. 

Zac Arnold is an A Level Student from the Forest of Dean.

Zac Arnold

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Chris Williamson MP to visit Lydney in January 2019 | Zac Arnold & Cllr Bernie O’Neill

The Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party is excited to announce that Chris Williamson MP for Derby North, former Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services and former Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government will be coming to Lydney as part of a day of action being held on Saturday 19th January 2019.

The Forest of Dean has been forgotten by Westminster for far too long and this is changing… I’d like to thank Chris for coming”

Zac Arnold, Forest of Dean Labour Party Campaign Coordinator and Event Organiser

The day of action will begin at 10am outside Lydney Co-op on Newerne Street where members will be reminding constituents of the importance of registering to vote ahead of May’s local elections. Chris will be joining us at 2pm and members will be hitting the doorsteps with Chris to spread Labour’s plan to rebuild Britain so that it works for the many not the few.

An informal meeting for Labour Party members and affiliates will then take place at 3.45pm until 5pm on the topic of internal party democracy and cuts to local authority budgets.

Zac Arnold, Campaign Coordinator for Forest of Dean Labour Party and organiser of the event, said: “The Forest of Dean has been forgotten by Westminster for far too long and this is changing, the Labour leadership are determined to rebuild our country so that it works for the many and nobody is left behind any longer. I would like to thank Chris for coming and extend an invitation to the public to come and meet with us at some point throughout the day to discuss Labour’s plans for the district and for the country after May.”

“It will be really great to welcome Chris to Lydney to meet, not only members, but the general public.”

Cllr Bernie O’Neill, Forest of Dean Labour Party Chairman

Councillor Bernie O’Neill, Chairman of Forest of Dean Labour Party, said: “This is excellent news for the Forest of Dean Labour Party, as for too long we have been in the shadow of larger areas such as Gloucester and Bristol. It will be really great to welcome Chris to Lydney to meet, not only members, but the general public. I trust this will be the first of many more visits from National figures to the Forest to see what we have to offer, and to give support in the run up to the Council elections in May.”

Mindful of the Jo Cox case we do feel that this behaviour warrants noting ‘on file’ | Jayne Smailes

This email was not in the public domain and had not been seen by myself prior to Lydney Town Council publishing it in their press pack on 21 February 2019, not even the rest of the Councillors had seen it prior to 20 February 2019.

In an email to Gloucestershire Constabulary; namely Sergeant Andrew Doyle, and Lydney Town Council Personnel Committee members Cllrs Alan Preest, Bob Berryman, Brian Pearman, Carol Harris and Harry Ives, Jayne Smailes (Chief Executive Officer) states:


“Dear Personnel Committee/Sgt Doyle

“We write in order to make you aware that following last night’s Meetings three individuals (Trustee Holmes, visitors Zac and Louis Arnold) remained outside the building when everyone was leaving.

“As Carol and I were about to exit/set the building alarm Louis Arnold came back into the office the use the toilet so we had to wait for him before locking up; had Bob/Brian not remained in the Car Park talking we would have had to walk past the three of them for they remained at the planter at the top of the entrance ramp by the door to the building for no apparent reason.

“We do not propose any action be taken however, given recent Facebook posts in which the Council have been heavily criticised of late and mindful of the Jo Cox case we do feel that this behaviour warrants noting ‘on file’ by members of the Personnel Committee and the Police.”

XR: Extinction Rebellion UK

Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse.

Our world is in crisis. Life itself is under threat. Yet every crisis contains the possibility of transformation. Across the world, heralded by the young, people are waking up and coming together. 

We hear history calling to us from the future. We catch glimpses of a new world of love, respect and regeneration, where we have restored the intricate web of all life. It’s a future that’s inside us all – located in the fierce love we carry for our children, in our urge to help a stranger in distress, in our wish to forgive, even when that seems too much to ask. 

And so we rebel for this, calling in joy, creativity and beauty. We rise in the name of truth and withdraw our consent for ecocide, oppression and patriarchy. We rise up for a world where power is shared for regeneration, repair and reconciliation. We rise for love in its ultimate wisdom. Our vision stretches beyond our own lifespan, to a horizon dedicated to future generations and the restoration of our planet’s integrity.

Together, our rebellion is the gift this world needs. We are XR and you are us. 

Zac was involved with Extinction Rebellion Forest of Dean from November 2018 to January 2019, he assisted in press relations, graphic design and video content.

Get involved with XR

Find out how to get involved with XR UK here Contact – Extinction Rebellion UK

Get involved with XR Forest of Dean by joining their Facebook group here XR FOREST OF DEAN GROUP (facebook.com)

The Tories want the Forest to fail | Zac Arnold & Cllr Di Martin

On November 5 a meeting of the Forest Economic Partnership was held at the new Gloucestershire College Campus on Cinderford’s Northern Quarter. The FEP is a coalition of councils and other organisations working cross-border in both England and Wales to build a strong economy for the region and increase regeneration.

The County Council’s representative is Councillor Alan Preest. Recently Cllr Preest stated on Facebook “beware, not friends of GCC, or basic day to day Conservatism” despite the reality that the FEP is working hard against all odds to regenerate our communities, and is slowly but surely making significant progress in doing so.

Zac Arnold, Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party Youth Officer, said:

“These kinds of comments from Cllr Preest go to summarise the lack of support that the Forest of Dean receives from Gloucestershire County Council and it has been clear for some time that the Conservatives at GCC have one aim, and that’s to abolish FODDC and initiate a unitary authority for Gloucestershire no matter of the cost to the district’s development. They are only serving themselves and are out of touch with reality and we cannot let them get away with it.”

Cllr Di Martin, Leader of the Labour Group on Forest of Dean District Council, said:

As Leader of  The Labour  Group on the Forest of Dean District Council I  fully support and an involved in the FEP, viewing and embracing it as a means of developing skills bringing employment and opportunity to the people of the FOD.

I was shocked and dismayed at Cllr Preest’s comment on Facebook , reinforcing the Group’s concern and suspicion of the reason why this area often seems to be overlooked  by the County Council and concerns that plans are being hatched for the future that may threaten our Council’s very existence.

Unitary Authorities decrease representation, are more at risk of ignoring local issues, are easier for people to manipulate, the authority is controlled by a select few and other examples across the world have shown how Unitary structures can at best be completely ineffective at dealing with local issues, and at worst, become tyrannical. A Unitary Authority is something that we cannot and will not accept.

Cllr Preest should be replaced as the County Council representative to the FEP by somebody who is actually interested in supporting the development of the Forest of Dean both economically and physically. Alan Preest is not this person.

No money for a Youth Worker but £491.39 for a flag | Zac Arnold

On Monday evening I attended the Lydney Town Council meeting and note with great concern that decision by the council to purchase a flag with the town council crest to fly outside the council chamber at a cost of £491.39.

In a time of continued austerity, where out high street is on the brink of collapse and youth services continue to be cut – the decision by the council to purchase this flag goes to reinforce my previous comments that this council is nothing but self-serving and out of touch.

However, I would like to note the presence of common sense in Cllrs Roger Holmes, Claire Vaughan, Tess Tremlett and Harry Ives who had the decency and sense to vote against this colossal waste of tax payer money.

The proposal was put forward by the Cllr Bob Berryman, Mayor of Lydney, and those who spoke for the proposal showed they had the emotional range of a rusted teaspoon when it comes to recognising the day to day struggles of working people.

 I also note how this comes just a month after the Mayor refused to contribute funds to the district-wide youth services initiative being developed by ALL OTHER parish and town councils alongside the Forest Voluntary Action Forum.

The sooner these councillors are removed from office, the better.

Lessons from Labour: The Hogan statement and membership accountability | Zac Arnold

This content is retrospective, meaning that it was written some time after the event took place. This post was written on Friday 16 October 2020, however it is tagged 9 November 2018 as this is when the event took place. It is an insight into the inner workings of the Labour Party and it’s aim is to analyse and learn from events in order to improve the effectiveness of opposition movements.

Bruce Hogan, a longstanding member of the Labour Party and former teacher. Representing Lydbrook on Forest of Dean District Council, his career in local politics, which spanned from local government to two unsuccessful parliamentary bids and several elections as the candidate’s “agent,” ended in a two year long spiral of unruly behaviour including verbally abusing opposition canvassers whilst leafleting, punching a man in the face outside a local public house and then attempting to change the rules for the standards body that upheld the complaint. He then almost was separated from the red flag when he shouted down and pounded his fist on the table at Cllr Di Martin, the Leader of the Labour Group on Forest of Dean District Council during a public Full Council meeting.

Cllr Bruce Hogan at the October 2018 Full Council meeting, as captured from the councils livestream on their website [Image: Gloucestershire Live, 2018]

On 8 November 2018, I was asked by Shaun Stammers, 2017 General Election candidate and one of the Vice Chairman’s of Forest of Dean Labour Party to formulate a press release regarding Hogan. This press release was due to be issued after the Executive Committee advised Cllr Martin to take a particular course of action. The statement was as follows:

Councillor Bruce Hogan has been a long-standing, loyal and hard-working representative of the community over the course of many years and has been a figurehead of both local politics and the labour movement for decades serving the party as a Councillor, Parliamentary Candidate in two General Elections and as an election agent in numerous elections.

As I am sure you are aware, recently, events have come to light regarding an incident outside a public house in Lydbrook between Councillor Hogan and a member of the public which Councillor Hogan has rightly taken responsibility for and admitted his wrongdoing.

It is with deep regret that, as a result of these actions and his conduct during the October Full Council meeting, that we have been forced to withdraw the whip from Councillor Hogan. We do not take this decision lightly and are saddened that we have been left with no choice.

We recognise Councillor Hogan’s years of dedicated service both to the Labour Party and to the electorate and wish him all the best for the future.

Draft Press Statement from the Leader of the Labour Group on Forest of Dean District Council, Cllr Di Martin
Forest of Dean District Council Labour Group Leader, Cllr Di Martin, who later went on to stand for the constituency in the 2019 General Election with Shaun Stammers as her election agent (Photo: The Forester, 2019)

Now, this statement never ended up being used. The decision was made around a round table in an awkwardly large room in a pub in Coleford, the Executive Committee of Forest of Dean Labour Party – which in itself was in the midst of a major identity crisis. The left pushed for the whip to be withdrawn, “moderates” struggled to argue against the behaviour. Naturally, I took no displeasure in stoking the fire more generally that Hogan’s time was up. The minutes naturally reflected that no consensus had been present in the room and that the EC would support whatever the decision of the Labour Group was. They had to say that, because the group is sacred and does not answer to the membership or even the officers of the party.

Withdrawal of the Whip: The act of expelling an elected member of a political group from that group

When a Councillor or MP has the whip withdrawn, they stop being a representative of that political group and become an independent representative, unless they accept the whip of another political group.

In the end, he cut a deal – between himself and the Labour Group against the will of the party – to slip away quietly by not standing at the next elections in May 2019. A decision that did not best serve the Labour Party, the council or the electorate. It proved that for political capital, the right thing to do is often delayed, deferred, delegated and diverted until there is no real accountability anymore. Where the impression is given that there are no consequences for the actions of elected representatives at any level of Government.

The lesson from this is fairly simple, if we are going to remain within party structures as we know them we need to improve the methods of local party units, and by extension members of the local community, can hold their representatives to account for their actions. Whether this be breaching the Code of Conduct or abandoning policy commitments.

Shaun Stammers was the 2017 Parliamentary Candidate for Forest of Dean Labour Party, when Bruce Hogan acted as his electoral agent. Stammers later took over the role of agent for Di Martin in 2019’s snap vote (Photo: Shaun Stammers, 2017)

In instances where Councillors act in a manner such as this, which either brings themselves or their party into disrepute or acts in a manner that disregards the democratic processes of the Labour Party, the membership and the policies developed by it, there needs to be appropriate checks and balances.

Whilst it is true that the democratic legitimacy, at least in our present electoral system, of a Councillor needs to be respected as their mandate to act on the council is given by the electorate who voted for them at the last election. This, however, does not impact the ability of the political group to implement a series of consequences on their members. Any assertion otherwise is just avoiding the consequences.

The easy solution to this, in my eyes, is for an effective internal recall system within political parties. Within the Labour Party it is stated that Councillors are not “beholden to the party” – meaning that they can effectively do as they please as they are representatives of the electorate not the party. As I have stated, this is untrue. They are representative of the electorate on the council whilst representing Labour as part of the Labour Group, and they need to represent both.

It is unacceptable for policies and consensus hard fought for within the party to be discarded by a council group, they are supposed to be representative of the party not the party representative of them. More generally, it is unacceptable that political groups, in supposedly democratic parties, are treated as more significant with their opinion holding more weight than that of ordinary people and rank and file members.

Instead, could there be a recall process that allows for members and party units to hold their representatives to account, whilst preventing such mechanisms from being manipulated on either side for political or personal gain?

Currently, members of the Labour Party that live in that electoral area for the position in question – in this case, Lydbrook – select their candidate prior to an election. This is a selection meeting and unsurprisingly, especially in rural wards in less active CLPs (Constituency Labour Parties), they are very rarely quorate (at the minimum number of members needed to legally conduct business) and therefore whichever members of the CLP Executive Committee attend step in to make up the votes.

Now, the issue of the way in which candidates are selected is another one which I will link to here when I’ve spewed out some words on it, but the issue here is of accountability between elections. There is currently none of this. Councillors avoid internal meetings or leave as early as physically possible after important votes have taken place. They have the final say over the manifesto for local elections, even over the rest of the candidates who are not incumbents – giving them the power, for example, to remove a pledge to fight to retain two community hospitals which was in line with local and national party policy. Again, I have plenty to say on this which I will link to here. They can maintain their position regardless of behaviour for so long as the group is controlled by a small clique of old friends who’ve been playing the game for decades, they then use this weight to try and control the party.


If we are going to continue with the political structures we have now, we need to implement a proper internal recall and sanction system. A committee consisting of three members: one member from the electoral area the candidate represents (representing the views of those members as a collective); one member of the Executive Committee, if time permits representing the views of the General Committee (if applicable); and one member of the Labour Group representing the group.

The committee has the power to issue warnings to members for breaches of policy and breaches of an internal code of conduct, which all three elements of the party have had input into. These warnings increase in severity and relate to issues such as conduct and voting. If a Councillors exceeds a set number of warnings agreed by all parties, a vote takes place between the three members, representing the views of their respective party units which will have discussed the matter and mandated a vote in advance. This method applies for the suspension of the whip, which shall be done for investigative purposes if necessary, but also for the withdrawal of the whip for simple cases or those where the investigation is concluded.

This is a simple solution to holding Councillors to account, who can often drift into their respective council structures or defend each other in small collectives that operate as they see fit and defend each other in the face of the indefensible.

The statement

I emailed the draft statement to the Chair, Secretary and Vice Chairman (Policy) of Forest of Dean Labour Party and the Leader and Secretary of the Forest of Dean District Council Labour Group on the morning after the meeting. Cllrs Di Martin and Bernie O’Neill responded stating that they would get back to me, then the whip was never withdrawn.

HOLS: Hands Off Lydney Skatepark

Zac launched a political and media campaign against Lydney Town Council and Lydney Recreation Trust when it became public that they were considering demolishing Lydney Skatepark as a response to a minority of young people exhibiting anti-social behaviour.

The campaign was successful in ensuring the skatepark remained and that CCTV was installed to tackle anti-social behaviour and is no longer active.

They said it was a consultation not a referendum… | Zac Arnold to iNews

The full edited interview after Zac spoke to Paul Gallagher for iNews read as follows:

“We’ve had two consultations from the CCG and Gloucestershire care services – the first on whether we wanted to close the two hospitals and have a new single, smaller one: 46 per cent said no, 43 per cent said yes. They ignored that result and pushed ahead anyway. They said it was a consultation not a referendum…

“The second was on location – a ‘citizen’s jury’ recommended Cinderford, a town which has got a hospital. The final decision will be made on 30 August. We’ve got a rapidly increasing and ageing population here. Bed occupancy is 95 per cent – higher than is safe – all the time. They haven’t confirmed the amount of new beds yet but in the consultation it said a minimum of 24 – half the number we currently have at each of the two hospitals.

“So we could be going down from nearly 100 to 24 in the coming months. And it’s going to take so many people longer than 30 minutes to get there, which goes against one of the key points of their own criteria – that everyone had to be able to get to the new hospital within half an hour.

“If it goes ahead, they’re hoping to have the new hospital open by 2021-22. The campaign is in the middle of legal action now, taking the decision to judicial review. The officials have responded saying they haven’t formally made the decision to ‘close’ the hospitals, they’ve only made the decision to ‘replace’ them. So we have to wait for them to say the word ‘close’ before we can carry on with the case.”

You can read the feature also on the iNews website here.

Please note the author made a factual error in reporting what I had said regarding the number of beds at the hospitals.

Forest hospitals: The verdict? We fight on harder than before | Owen Adams & Zac Arnold

Today the Citizens’ Jury that was tasked to deliberate over one very difficult question – not whether or not we should keep or lose our hospitals (we are not allowed a say on that) – but the vague location of a new hospital (but not the site itself) decided on a verdict: Cinderford narrowly won the vote, with Coleford coming second and Lydney third. If anyone’s interested, the final tally after three rounds of counting (and checking with electoral rules in the process), was Cinderford 11, Coleford 8 and Lydney 6. Local media turned up for the verdict but no one reported on all the evidence that came out during the past few days except HOLD. The Forester didn’t speak to us, and The Forest Citizen have been nowhere to be seen throughout, but we did get a short bit on BBC1 Points West both today and on Monday.

Although Cinderford is the most central of the three towns up for consideration, none of the locations can be reached by all of the Forest of Dean district within a 30-minute drive, according to the map modelling used by the Jury. The evidence presented to the jury made it blatantly obvious the Forest of Dean district needs two hospitals. Residents in the west of the district have no realistic alternative to using a minor injuries unit in the Forest of Dean as the nearest other hospital providing the facility is west of Caerphilly, would face a longer journey to get the help they needed, or to visit loved ones in hospital (if they are able to get a bed). If the hospital had been sited in Coleford or Lydney, the north of the district would have lost out. So the NHS now has jettisoned its responsibility to provide hospital-based care and emergency treatment for people living west of Lydney, rather than providing accessible health for all.

The Gloucestershire Care Services Trust and Clinical Commissioning Group arrogantly presume they can shut down and sell off two hospitals which were built predominantly from hard-earned wages of miners and other workers. We have been informed from several different people that at the recent Forest Health Forum meeting, the Trust’s new CEO Paul Roberts misled local press and councillors by telling them our legal battle is off – this is not true and he should know that from the Trust/CCG solicitor. This is just one example of a mounting catalogue of deceit, misinformation, changing goalposts and just incredible unaccountability to us all, who the NHS and our hospitals belong to.

Nevertheless the Citizens’ Jury itself, although applied to a farcical situation where democracy was wholly disregarded for the crucial decision to replace our two hospitals with one, offered the first chance for 18 “ordinary people”, non-politicians, in the Forest of Dean to scrutinise the proposal and uncover all its holes even though the brief they had to follow was limited – to “make a recommendation for a location” rather than be given any idea of the exact location, type and size of site, or the bed numbers. So in many ways their decision had to be a blind one. They could not, for example, determine whether the hospital would be built on a coal mine or field, whether it needed millions of pounds of groundwork or road layout, or whether it would have adequate facilities. From Monday to Wednesday, HOLD reported on the Citizens’ Jury proceedings at Forest Hills Golf Club, and we observed throughout the five days.


See our reports from each of the first 3 days of the Citizens’ Jury:

Day 1 https://theholdcampaign.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/the-journey-begins/

Day 2 https://theholdcampaign.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/our-observations-citizens-jury-day-two/

Day 3 https://theholdcampaign.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/our-observations-citizens-jury-day-three/


1. A conversation we had with a Dilke and Lydney hospital staff member revealed that there is sometimes (acute) Accident & Emergency treatment at our community hospitals – although this is not the norm people have been treated for heart attacks and other life-threatening emergency situations.

2. When the lift to the operating theatre broke down at Lydney Hospital, rather than fixing the lift, the operating theatre was closed. It is now used as a store room. This is one of a great many examples we have heard of “managed decline” or chronic underinvestment in our two hospitals.

3. Although not considered relevant so not included in any of the evidence to the Jury, thanks to the closure of many of Chepstow hospital’s facilities, with the nearest A&E in Newport, and nearest minor injuries unit in Ystrad Mynach, near Caerphilly, an increasing number of people from across the border are having to use the Dilke and Lydney Hospitals – the staff member estimated 40% of those needing aid for minor injuries and illnesses.

4. Several jurors have declared on several occasions, including yesterday, that they and most people they know still want two hospitals.

5. Gloucestershire CCG told the Jury the 1,600-plus people who completed its latest consultation on Locality are not representative of the Forest of Dean, and did not total the figures for preference (or no preference) in its outcome report, but only provided totals for each postcode area (unsurprisingly the majority for the town nearest them). In the next presentation on Equalities, however, it revealed Lydney had the largest percentage, with just over 50%. Despite taking out a double-page spread advertisement in the Forest Review, the results are only being considered by the CCG as a “broad indication” – it is the “rich data” the CCG is interested in. The CCG claims there was nothing to stop someone taking 50 forms and filling them all out. Surely this could happen for every consultation? Consultations were not sent to everyone because of the huge cost implication, the CCG said.A total of 9000 consultation booklets were produced. She did not have the figures of all those who had filled in more than one box, but they were included in the overall (disregarded) results. We will update when we discover how much this waste-of-money exercise cost us in public funds.

6. As one of the criteria for choosing the town location was that it was in an area of “regeneration”, Cinderford was marked out as a key place by Forest of Dean District Council planning officer Nigel Gibbons in his presentation due to the Cinderford Northern Quarter former opencast/ deep mine and former public Forest site near Hawkwell and Steam Mills, where so far millions of pounds of public money have been sunk into a college, one-third of a proposed spine-road network and “bat hotels” which alone cost £500,000. Chris Witham, chair of the town council who won over the jury, also mooted the Northern Quarter could become a new public transport hub. Cllr Witham also told the jury he did not know where the site would be but it is public knowledge that Cinderford councillors have been lobbying for a new hospital to be built on top of the Northern United deep mine since 2016 – an area previously designated for light industrial use but parts of it still occupied by protected bats. Expert engineers have previously warned this site is unsuitable and dangerous to build on. The college next door is said to have cost £50 million due to the massive ground-stabilisation work required. We hasten to add that we do not know – and the NHS say they do not yet know – which site they want to build on. This mystery site has to be within two miles from Cinderford Town Centre (the War Memorial) by road or 1.5 miles as the crow flies to meet the Location criteria. Chris Witham told the jury that the Northern Quarter was a £450 million development.

7. One juror spoke about mistrust of “many people where I live given that 46% didn’t want” a single replacement hospital and a “concern we are just ticking a box by going through this”. He asked for a commitment that “it won’t happen again” and that “proper deliberation would be given to our decision” by the NHS Boards who meet on August 30th to “consider” the Jury “recommendation”. He was “assured” by Caroline Smith, public engagement officer of the CCG, that the decision would be listened to – for the original consultation they “did have a preferred option”. She said they “genuinely did not have a preferred location”, and if they did not go with the Jury recommendation and “made a different decision” (on August 30) “we would need to be absolutely clear why we did that.”

8. We managed not to laugh out loud when we heard that the CCG is “properly scrutinised” by “elected members” (councillors) and the statutory Quedgeley-based Gloucestershire Healthwatch.

9. There is an “expectation” there will be free parking at the single hospital – the CCG said.

10. The future of GP care for people in Lydbrook using the Brunstone House practice is uncertain due to the proposed Coleford Health Centre, Coleford mayor Nick Penny said.

First thing on Friday morning, the Jury began with a short session for Jurors to raise points that they had over night or that morning or questions that they had from the previous day. The most interesting of which are listed below:

1. One Juror suggested that the presentation given by Councillors Nick Penny and Marilyn Cox on Tuesday contained misleading information. The Councillors emphasised both during this presentation and during their closing remarks on Thursday that Great Oaks Hospice in Coleford previously carried out a vast amount of research when deciding where to locate to and that this could be re-used to argue why Coleford was a suitable location for a new hospital. The Juror suggested that the land had been gifted to Great Oaks and that this was the reason for them locating to Coleford rather than a “vast amount of research.”

2. Another Juror suggested that the lack of thought by the Jury and it’s witnesses to consider the locations of the district’s schools in their decision was concerning and disappointing.

3. Another Juror suggested that some cause for investment should be split between Coleford and Lydney as Cinderford has had a history of receiving vast amounts of public investment with the other two towns receiving fairly little.

4. Dr Malcolm Oswald, Director of Citizens Juries CiC answered a question from a Juror as to why the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) was relevant to the Jury. Dr Oswald stated that this was presented to the Jury to ensure that they had the same information as the NHS boards will have later this month, and thus give the boards less reason to  “deviate” from the recommendation of the Citizens’ Jury.

5. Another Juror also suggested that they should have been given the evidence by the Community Transport providers as to how many users, use their services for health related purposes. This information was not given to them during the community transport presentation on Wednesday.

6. A Juror stated that what was proposed was a “new type of hospital” and was “not what the public expect” or support.

7. Dr Oswald stated that there were “no plans” to bring a maternity unit into the new facility and that it was “very, very unlikely to happen.”


Many other observances came out which we will examine in due course and may form part of the legal action we intend to take against the NHS and CCG when they attempt to close our two hospitals, the Dilke and Lydney Hospitals. If you want to help save them, our advice is not to be despondent and consider how many fights we have won in the Forest of Dean against the powers-that-be, recently and historically. We also call for everyone to stay united in the district and not let themselves become be divided by town allegiances.

Our observations: Forest hospitals citizens’ jury Day 3 | Owen Adams & Zac Arnold


1. Forest Routes community transport run by volunteers such as Dial-A-Ride (Lydney and Newent, plus Bream and Lydcare) are running at full capacity and facing a serious crisis due to proposed Government legislation which will force volunteer drivers and the charities to be licensed as commercial operators – and they are also facing sharply increasing demand due to the shortcomings of the NHS-contracted Arriva patient transport. Public transport in the Forest of Dean is awful – especially in the north of the district. Services from Mitcheldean, Ruardean and Newent and other north Dean villages are non-existent or very few to the three Forest towns. Jurors said it had been an “eye-opener” hearing about these crises.

These volunteers provide an “armchair to armchair” service, charging 45p or 50p per mile, some services for health appointments only, others also for social events – but are increasingly forced to cancel social bookings to prioritise on health. They also run public minibus services (sometimes daily, more often once or twice a week) which reach areas commercial operators fail to.

Recruiting suitable volunteers is not easy – as they have to be able to also provide care and a rapport with their clients, ensuring they help them from their homes to their destinations and if necessary wait for them to complete their appointments. Now with the new impending licensing changes, they face a very uncertain future.

A Juror later paid tribute to the work they did, saying the perilous state of community and public transport in the Forest of Dean was an “eye-opener”.
2. Forest of Dean District Council, GPs, community transport providers, county council highways, ambulance workers have no preference about hospital location – as long as it meets their various criteria (including planning regs, easy access for parking, ambulances, minibuses and Dial-A-Ride cars and not in several town centre congestion zones).


* Dr Paul Weiss, chair of the Forest of Dean GP “cluster” (representing 11 practices) explained that though Newent is part of the Tewkesbury GP “cluster” patients would generally go to the Dilke Hospital.

* Given that HOLD has been very careful to follow the rules – not to speak to any jury member and not to go near the jury room, we were concerned when we spotted an NHS CCG employee wondering into the jury room. We raised this with the Citizens’ Jury staff, and were told by the CCG that their employees were allowed to go and get food and drink from the jury room but not to talk to the jurors. As we cannot – and indeed should not be able to – observe the jury room itself we raised concerns. At the end of the day, it was announced that no observers should approach the jury as there had been complaints some had.

* Another concern of ours was that while statistics show that about one-third of minor injuries cases go outside the Forest of Dean for treatment – no statistics or information was offered, the subject did not arise, about all those using the Dilke and Lydney minor injuries units who were either visitors or had come from Chepstow or Monmouth areas, as they no longer have these facilities anywhere nearby. We were told this was not really relevant to the brief, which is about residents choosing a location.

* Dr Paul Weiss told the Jury that Forest of Dean GPs could not reach consensus on a preferred location at their June 2018 meeting. Each GP wanted the new hospital to be in their nearest town. He also spoke about the plans for a new health centre on Valley Road in Cinderford, and proposed Coleford health centre. He told the Jury that midwives, health visitors and other NHS staff would be based at the new health centre (as they currently are at Dockham Road). However, this is contrary to what we have been told and Dr Weiss afterwards said he didn’t know whether they would be.

HOLD was told at the launch of the proposed Cinderford health centre by NHS representatives that midwives and health visitors not financed by GPs (instead NHS employees while doctors are independent businesses) will not buy into the new centre, to be built by Assura Plc. Instead they will either be based at the community hospital(s) and other GP practices. The developer confirmed they have designed space for a pharmacy (which puts the future of the mandatory two pharmacy licensees in the town into question).

HOLD will be back tomorrow as the Jury continues. The agenda for tomorrow’s sessions includes the presentation of the outcome of the second public engagement around the location of a hospital and “closing remarks” from the representatives of Lydney, Coleford and Cinderford. The Jury will then vote on their recommended location around Friday lunchtime. Our observations from both days will be online each evening.

Our observations: Forest hospitals citizens’ jury Day 2 | Owen Adams & Zac Arnold

Today, the Citizens’ Jury to develop a recommendation on the location of a new, community hospital continued on day 2 of 5. Two members of HOLD’s Core Group were observing, here is what we learned:


1/ Friends of Lydney Hospital’s Tony Midgley said that if Lydney is not chosen for the new location, the Friends will review its current support for the single hospital proposal. The Friends also do not know what they would do with their £1.5 million assets if Lydney is not the chosen hospital site, as they were raised for Lydney hospital.

2/ There was confusion over whether Newent is part of the catchment area for the Forest of Dean hospital. We were told yesterday it wasn’t but today we and the Jury were indeed told it was. Lydney and Coleford had presented their 30-minute travel times maps but not considered Newent, while Cinderford did. As part of Lydney’s presentation, Dr Stefan Scheuner (resident of Stroud, GP in Blakeney) said Newent wasn’t part of the Forest of Dean as it was not part of the Forest of Dean GP cluster. He said it was a “matter for the health authority”.

Towards the end of the day, the Jury director Dr Malcolm Oswald confirmed the GP cluster designation (where Newent, and Staunton and Corse are part of Tewkesbury) is not relevant to the community hospital – the whole Forest of Dean District must be considered.

This advice does, however, contradict page 5 of the Case For Change which formed the basis of this whole proposal, which states:
“Of particular relevance is the commitment within the One Gloucestershire STP to the development of place based models of care, focused around groups of general practices and their registered population. The Forest of Dean cluster comprises the 11 GP practices within the Forest of Dean with a combined registered population of approx. 63,000 (Newent and Staunton to the north fall within the Tewkesbury cluster). Additionally, the CCG has assumed responsibility from Wales for commissioning healthcare services for those people who live in England, but who are registered with a Welsh GP. This adds a further 8,811 people to the overall population considerations.” (page 5 of document, or page 34 here https://theholdcampaign.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/fod-health-governing-body-papers-part-1.pdf

While jurors noted Lydney and Coleford had not including the north of the district in their travel / transport considerations, it was noted that Cinderford’s 30-minute travel time missed out Tidenham and everywhere west of Lydney.
3. Coleford has included provision for a new hospital as a last-minute addition of its Neighbourhood Development Plan despite not specifically consulting on that (only on its Health Centre). If the town is unsuccessful, the recently added paragraph will then be removed from the NDP’s Policy CITPA3 before it goes to referendum on September 13. See http://www.colefordtownplan.com


* Lydney billed itself as “the town of the future”. Lydney was set to have the highest population rise of the three towns, plus up to 1,000 new homes in Beachley – by 2031 the Lydney team’s population estimates are 16,000 for Lydney, and 9,000 each for Coleford and Cinderford. John Thurston, presenting, said “we are not allowed to tell you about the two sites” identified and that they “did this before the exercise started”. As well as the lack of mention of Newent (see above), one juror said they were unhappy to see Mitcheldean was not within 30-minutes’ driving time (the criteria is that the majority of the Forest must have that maximum travel time). Lydney said it was the “best benefit for the most population easy to reach”.

* Dr Scheuner, an “unscripted” late addition to the Lydney team of five, raised fears about the “downgrading” of the Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust’s recently built c.£11m Vale Hospital near Dursley, where beds are being converted from non-acute community use to specialising in strokes. He also spoke about staffing problems, with Gloucestershire community hospitals relying on agency and locum staff.

* Coleford’s case was presented by town mayor Nick Penny and town councillor Marilyn Cox. They argued Coleford was “fresh, new and dynamic”, had 35 green spaces, and also it was the only part of the Forest where a majority (54%) had supported the consultation’s “preferred option” of a single hospital. They said Coleford was twice or four times better than Lydney or Cinderford in terms of bus links and frequency, and Coleford was set for a population growth of 23%, including “affordable” and “lifetime” homes. The Mayor said the town council did not know which two sites had been identified for Coleford, they had earmarked half a dozen sites for planners to verify as viable.

* Chris Witham, chair of Cinderford Town Council said the council had “consulted widely” with NHS professionals, as well as “third sector colleagues”. He did not reveal the potential sites, but the “£450-million investment” of the Northern Quarter, he said, would allow new transport links to be configurated. He argued that because Cinderford was accessible from the A40 or A48 it would make all the difference if one of those routes was closed if taking a patient for acute care in Gloucester. He also stressed that the support of helimed is invaluable in acute trauma specialist cases needing to go to Bristol, such cases are more likely in the Forest of Dean’s younger residents. Friends of the Dilke Hospital “fully support” Cinderford’s bid, but does not have £1.5 million in assets. Cllr Witham emphasised he wanted a hospital location that was “available to all” and that Cinderford was known as the “heart of the Forest”.

HOLD will be back tomorrow as the Jury continues and will be posting our observations tomorrow evening.

Our observations: Forest hospitals citizens’ jury Day 1 | Owen Adams & Zac Arnold

Today, the Citizens’ Jury to develop a recommendation on the location of a new, community hospital began on it’s 5 day run. Two members of HOLD’s Core Group were observing, here is what we learned:  

* On Friday the jurors will make a “recommendation” (not actual decision as, say the NHS Trust, they are not a “publicly-accountable body”).

* This “recommendation” will then be considered by the NHS Trust and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) boards at their meeting on 30 August.

* The “recommendation” could go four ways is for a rough location rather than the actual site: within two miles by road of Lydney town centre, Coleford town centre, Cinderford town centre, or no preference

* Several jurors expressed fears that the site had already been chosen, but they were assured by Dr Oswald that, to his knowledge, it hadn’t been and dismissed rumours as “conspiracy theories”

* Tomorrow (Tuesday) representatives from the three towns (Newent is not considered part of the Forest catchment area any more) will each give a presentation – two sites will be identified for each town, but the jurors will not be considering any site, as this might cause land prices to skyrocket. Forest of Dean District Council planners have verified all are viable sites.

* The 18 jurors seem to be about half-and-half male and female, half-and-half born-and-bred Foresters, other half residents who have moved here and lived here for at least five years, and from many different backgrounds. A number of jurors asked pertinent questions – those relating to the unknown facilities, beds issue (work on “bed modelling” is still continuing) whether the sites would be big enough or could be potentially expanded, whether public transport links would be provided. We did not witness any of these questions being answered today.

* The Citizens’ Jury itself appeared to us to be efficiently and well-intentionally run by the founders, the non-profit charity, the Jefferson Center from St Paul’s, Minnesota, USA, who conducted the introductory session – and the UK director of the Citizens’ Jury CIC, Dr Malcolm Oswald, with an accent on encouraging “deliberation” rather than debate. Dr Oswald met us at the end of the presentations and we told him we thought it was a pity the Citizens’ Jury could not have been used to make the crucial decision, where our majority views were ignored, as it seemed a positive concept for increasing public participation (if applied correctly).

* We only spotted one councillor observing some of the proceedings today.

*According to Candace Plouffe, Chief Operations Director for Gloucestershire Care Services, maternity services are controlled by Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust, not Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust.

*The quality of care is excellent and the quality of services has been rated good by CQC in the current sites. According to Plouffe, these are not the problems with the current site. The issues are the ‘poor infrastructure and difficulty balancing services and staff across two sites.’

*There will another round of consultation in the future in Winter 2018, Spring 2019 or Summer 2019 which will focus on the facilities and services that will be available in a new community hospital, with Candace Plouffe (Chief Operations Director for Gloucestershire Care Services) stating that this consultation “could possibly include maternity.”

*It is likely that the business plan for the replacement of Lydney and the Dilke will be published in early to mid 2019.

*Construction on a new hospital is scheduled to commence in mid to late 2019 and is scheduled for completion around 2020/21.

Gloucester Area Trade Union Council unanimously back the HOLD campaign | Zac Arnold

“A huge thank you to Gloucester Area Trade Union Council for unanimously endorsing the HOLD campaign. They also agreed to pass a recommendation to all union branches who are affiliated to the council suggesting that they do the same and pledge funds when they are needed. This is one huge step in getting trade union support for our cause. It was a pleasure to meet with them this evening.”

Zac, representing the HOLD campaign, meets with members of Gloucester Area Trade Council as they back HOLD in the fight against the closure of the Forest of Dean’s two hospitals (Photo: Zac Arnold, 2018)

Legal, public and political efforts and positive, joint working in NHS campaigning | Zac Arnold with Aneira Thomas & Dr Tony O’Sullivan

First NHS baby slams government handling of health service | Swindon  Advertiser
Zac Arnold speaks on a panel at an NHS campaigning conference organised by Swindon Trades Council, photographed with the events organiser and Aneira Thomas, the first baby born into the NHS (Photo: Swindon Advertiser, 2018)

Zac speaks about the “three-pronged” legal, public and political approach that HOLD was taking towards the campaign and how positivity and joint working across divides is the only way to succeed, on a panel alongside Aneira Thomas the first baby born into the NHS and Dr Tony O’Sullivan. The event was reported in the Swindon Advertiser.

HOLD Campaign urges NHS to drop closure proposals, or face court battle | Zac Arnold

Speaking on behalf of the HOLD Campaign as Press Liaison, Zac said:

The Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust will face a Judicial Review, funded and supported by the community of the Forest of Dean, when they make the decision to close Lydney and Dilke Memorial Hospitals. Or they could just scrap the proposal now and save us all some money!

Lawyers for the CCG and GCS, have now replied to our pre-action letter. They have assured us that the decision has yet to be made to close the hospitals. They have been made aware of HOLD’s major concerns on the decision-making process in connection with the proposed option to replace the two hospitals with an unspecified new £11m facility in a yet-to-be decided location. Public donations of more than £4,000 have paid for this initial “pre-action” legal stage, with half remaining in reserve to pay towards further legal work.

HOLD will next need to get pledges of £30,000 in funding for the whole process, should the CCG and GCS continue to ignore the opinion of the majority of the community rather than doing the right and democratic thing by scrapping its proposals and instead investing its £11m in improving the existing hospitals and their sites.

HOLD calls on the CCG and GCS to abandon its plans and reverse its hugely unpopular, unreasonable and irrational initial decision to replace the two hospitals, and instead consider the option of joint investment and improvement of the Lydney and Dilke Hospitals as the preferred option.

HOLD announced there 3 Demands last night.

HOLD is also calling for an assurance from the CCG and GCS that various care in the community programmes it is funding will be additions to, rather than replacements of, existing community hospital and healthcare services, including beds. Both sides will be anxious to avoid litigation, but HOLD is not prepared to compromise its aims.

HOLD would like to thank everyone who has supported us so far, which is a growing number of people and businesses. While the threat of legal action now hangs over the CCG and GCS in its decision-making, we will need to keep up the public pressure as well.

We urge people now to lobby their councillors and MP, organise fundraisers and help raise awareness, and join in any demonstrations until we achieve our aims.

We once again urge the CCG and GCS to listen to the people served by the NHS and what they want, abandons its proposals and commits to investing in the Dilke and Lydney Hospitals, rather than obliging us to take costly legal action.”

HOLD On The Road raises £526 for the hospital judicial review fund | Owen Adams & Zac Arnold

“Thanks everyone who came and played at the HOLD On The Road legal fundraiser last night at Westbury Hall, and thanks also to the Hall and Bar staff, as well as everyone who donated raffle prizes. We raised an impressive £526. We still need more and have less than a week to raise about £900? Can we do it? https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/holdourhospitals/

Zac suspended from membership of the Labour Party for alleged uncomradely behaviour | Nareser Osei

In a letter to myself, Nareser Osei as Acting Head of Disputes at Labour Party Headquarters, said:

Notice of administrative suspension from holding office or representing the Labour Party

Allegations that you may have been involved in a breach of Labour Party rules have been brought to the attention of national officers of the Party. These allegations relate to social media posts posts and uncomradely behaviour towards another member of the local party. It is important that these allegations are investigated and the NEC will be asked to authorise a full report to be drawn up with recommendations for disciplinary action if appropriate.

I write to give you formal notice that it has been determined that the powers given to the NEC
under Chapter 6 Clause I.1.A of the Party’s rules should be invoked to suspend you from office or representation of the Party, pending the outcome of an internal Party investigation. Because of the nature of the allegations received your presence at branch meetings and all party activity which includes campaigning, may be detrimental to the Party, while subject to this administrative suspension, you cannot attend any campaign activity or party meetings including those of your own branch or CLP, or Annual Conference, and you cannot seek office within the Party or be considered for selection as a candidate to represent the Labour Party at an election at any level*

In view of the urgency to protect the Party’s reputation in the present situation the General
Secretary has determined to use powers delegated to him under Chapter 1 Clause VIII.5 of the rules to impose this suspension forthwith, subject to the approval of the next meeting of the NEC. The General Secretary has appointed Phil Gaskin, Regional Director, to arrange conduct of the Party’s own investigation. You will be contacted in due course with details as to how the
investigation will proceed. Please quote case number DCN-0363 on all correspondence. It is hoped you will offer your full co-operation to the Party in resolving this matter.

*In relation to any alleged breach of the constitution, rules or standing orders of the party by an
individual member or members of the party, the NEC may, pending the final outcome of any
investigation and charges (if any), suspend that individual or individuals from office or
representation of the party notwithstanding the fact that the individual concerned has been or may be eligible to be selected as a candidate in any election or by-election. (Disciplinary Rules, Chapter 6 Clause I.1.A)

**A ‘suspension’ of a member whether by the NEC in pursuance of 1 above or by the NCC in
imposing a disciplinary penalty, unless otherwise defined by that decision, shall require the
membership rights of the individual member concerned to be confined to participation in their own branch meetings, unless the reason for the suspension in part or in full is their conduct in party meetings or there are concerns that their presence at branch meetings may be detrimental to the Party, and activities as an ordinary member only and in ballots of all individual members where applicable. A suspended member shall not be eligible to seek any office in the party, nor shall s/he be eligible for nomination to any panel of prospective candidates nor to represent the party in any position at any level. The member concerned will not be eligible to attend any CLP meeting other than to fulfil the requirement to participate in ballots. (Disciplinary rules, Clause 6.I.3)

Less than little support from Coleford for single hospital plan in Forest of Dean | Zac Arnold

Image may contain: 2 people
Owen Adams and Zac, from HOLD, at Coleford Carnival of Transport as part of a #PetitionStorm event. (Photo: Zac Arnold, 2018)

“Great morning out petitioning at the Coleford Carnival of Transport. Only 2 people we stopped were for the plans to close Lydney and Dilke hospitals and replace them with a single, smaller, new facility.

This is becoming a pattern now. Visit https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/holdourhospitals/ to donate and share… can we get another £60 today so we reach one-third of our target?”

HOLD Campaign rockets towards a Judicial Review | Zac Arnold

HOLD (Hands Off Lydney and Dilke Hospitals) Community Campaign Group has now commenced proceedings towards a Judicial Review to challenge the lawfulness of the Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) decision of 25 January 2018 to close both hospitals, replacing them with a newly built single site of unspecified location.

Following an initial CCG’s proposal in 2017 to close the two hospitals, a public consultation that ran from September to December 2017 concluded that 46% of those who took part voted against the hospitals’ closure. CCG upheld their initial decision despite public opposition to the consultation.

HOLD believes that the consultation was flawed in many ways, not least because the actual document lacks sound, factual information to enable the public to make an informed decision (whatever that might be) in the first place. Impact on equality, inadequate assessment of the number of beds required, etc add to the series of failures tainting the CCG’s decision making process.

The legal fees for bringing a claim of this magnitude to the courts runs into the tens of thousands of pounds and we can only do this by joining efforts from the community and the general public. Thus, alongside our legal campaign HOLD has now launched a CROWDFUND FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/holdourhospitals/ to fund the legal case. Every pound counts, so if you can only donate (pledge) a small amount, please do so. If you cannot donate, please share.

Zac Arnold, Press Liaison for the HOLD Campaign said: “the response received from our Crowdfunding so far has been amazing. In a time when people have very little money to spare we are seeing people dig around in their pockets to stop this frankly unlawful process.

” within 30 minutes of the launch of our Crowdfunding site at 6pm last night (Thursday 29 March) we had hit 5% of our total target and within 90 minutes we had hit 10%.

“people realise that this is worth their money and that we need to stop this process before our health and social care assets are ripped from us and replaced with a single, smaller, new hospital which is not fit for purpose.

” the campaign would like to thank everyone for their support so far and we hope to be ceberating in 30 days time when we hit our target amount of £5,000.

“Meanwhile we are not letting our campaigning activities grind to a halt. We will be continuing to run our regular #PetitionStorm events across the District and encourage anyone who may wish to take part to email the campaign at hold@writeme.com.”

The decision to close.. is of great concern to me as a county resident, ex NHS employee and a Councillor in Gloucester | Cllr Deborah Smith

“The decision to close two of our local Community Hospitals, Dilke and Lydney in the Forest of Dean and replace with one smaller one has recently been made by Gloucestershire Care Services and the local Clinical Commissioning Group. It is of great concern to me as a county resident, ex NHS employee and a Councillor in Gloucester, and its why I’m proud to support HOLD in their Campaign to save both hospitals, for the residents of the Forest of Dean and of our county.

The consultation about this proposal focused solely on Forest of Dean residents, which I feel made the consultation less than comprehensive. Community Hospitals are a county resource; the inpatient beds and the services they contain can and are used by all of Gloucestershire’s residents. The whole county should have been consulted about these huge changes which will mean a substantial decrease in inpatient bed numbers and will certainly impact on services elsewhere.

The dominant theme of this proposed change is Care Closer to Home, and understandably most patients would prefer to be looked after at home or closer to it. However, this can only happen if there are sufficient resources to make this a safe and appropriate option, including more GP’s, more District Nurses, more “other professionals” including Physio’s and OT’s. Of course, all of this is underpinned by more money.

Are these boxes ticked in the Forest of Dean or Gloucestershire? There is a national shortage of GPs, Radiographers and District Nurses; across England we have lost 50% of our district nursing staff since 2010. Gloucestershire Care Services currently has this staff group on their risk register due to the dwindling numbers.

So, who exactly is going to be caring for patients? Social Care? Well, we are all acutely aware of the state of social care, plus that is a contributory service. It is more likely that patients will end up in Gloucester Royal, which is already under increasing strain. Closing beds in the community simply shifts the problem somewhere else in the system.

There is no evidence of under-utilisation of community inpatient beds in Gloucestershire either; in fact, they were occupied 96.3% of the time in January 2018, they are clearly needed so why are they proposing to close at least 24 of them? Especially given the identified expected increase in population across our county?

Another main argument of this proposal is that a shiny new one-site hospital will attract staff and services. This is debatable because:
1. There is a shortage of staff across the whole of the NHS. Where are these new staff coming from?
2. There is no incentive in our increasingly privatised, and internal market driven NHS for providers such as Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust to place services distant from their main acute sites. It is simply not cost effective for them to do so. So, who will provide the service?

Finally, alternative forms of care are likely to be proposed to replace these inpatient beds, so I want to make one thing clear. Voluntary, CIC -Community Interest Groups, Charity, Not for Profit, Social Enterprises ARE not Public Sector provision, they are not National Health Service Providers, they are private providers in all but name and mean exactly the same thing: money being siphoned out of our National Health Service”

A definitely not public consultation | Zac Arnold

On Saturday 17th February the HOLD campaign launched their series of #PetitionStorm Events in Cinderford East. Since then, the campaign has hosted two more similar sessions at Wyedean Sixth Form Centre and,  most recently,  in Lydney East on Saturday 17th March.

Zac Arnold, Press Liaison for the HOLD Campaign said: “The launch of our #PetitionStorm campaign was a great success with 14 volunteers joining us in Cinderford for a door to door petitioning session. But it also reinforced some very serious concerns we have regarding the validity of the public consultation.”

The public consultation ended in October last year and the outcome was published in early January this year. The outcome report made clear that from the small amount of responses received, the majority were still either against the proposals to close Lydney and Dilke hospitals or undecided. The responses being 46% against the proposal, 12% undecided and the remainder were for the proposal.

Arnold continued: “From petitioning so far, the HOLD campaign have identified three trends that reinforce serious concerns that we previously had. When looking at the responses received by our volunteers on the ground, we can see three trends. The first being that 90% of all residents we have canvassed have been against the NHS proposals.”

So, the campaign has identified that if the same patterns of responses continue, residents of the Forest of Dean are against the closure of Lydney and Dilke hospitals by a substantial majority of upto 90%.

Arnold continued: “whilst we have been canvassing, we have asked a series of questions, the most important being ‘Were you aware of the public consultation?’ and this is where a major concern arises. From data collected by the campaign, roughly 2 in every 3 residents canvassed were completely unaware of a consultation even taking place. Some residents were not even aware of the threat to the hospitals at all. This shows clearly how the consultation was an absolute shambles. It was not a public consultation at all, as not everyone was aware of it even taking place.”

The final trend picked up by the campaign questions the entire concepts of democracy and accountability within the District. Councillors from Cinderford Town Council have previously defended their stance over the hospitals and claimed that they have ‘spoken to residents who live within our wards’. Two councillors who have said this are councillors for Cinderford East.

Arnold continued: “speaking to residents of Cinderford East was particularly interesting especially when we asked the question ‘have your local councillors asked you about this?’ to which we didn’t hear a single yes. Not a single one of the residents we canvassed had been approached by the people who were elected to represent them.”

The HOLD Campaign will be hosting similar events across the District over the coming weeks and months with our next events taking place in Sedbury and then Ruardean and our supporters will be notified as soon as we have dates and locations finalised.

Launch of HOLD #PetitionStorm gets 450 signatures and 9 in 10 people backing two hospitals | Zac Arnold

“Thanks to everyone who helped with our #PetitionStorm today in Cinderford. We estimate between us all going door to door, outside the Co-op and in the street, we got approximately 450 signatures (exact figure to be confirmed), 9 out of 10 people were eager to sign and many expressed how much they were against the closures and had many reasons how it would adversely affect them. Just a handful of people (perhaps less than 10) said they were FOR the proposal, and no one said they had already been canvassed by their local councillor.

In Cinderford East ward, where we went door to door, it is clear our cause has the mandate from an overwhelming majority of people. We are planning more #PetitionStorms in other towns/ villages and also mass demonstrations, as we are now assured the people have not and will not be conned and want to stop the closure of our two hospitals. They belong to us and we have the tenacity here in the Forest, proven time and time again, that we will not allow our hospitals to be robbed from us by anyone!

Onwards and upwards. Join in if you can! Feeling very positive about the massive support we have in Cinderford.”

A Valentines for our Community Hospitals | Zac Arnold & Louise Penny

Supporters of the HOLD (Hands Off Lydney & Dilke hospitals) campaign have delivered Valentine’s cards to the Dilke and Lydney Hospitals on behalf of all those who do not support the proposal by the Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust and Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group to close them – 58% in the recent consultation (46% no, plus 12% unsure).

HOLD has also installed a temporary Valentine’s display outside the Dilke Memorial Community Hospital, showing our enduring love for our National Health Service and the two hospitals, which were built by and funded by the community.

HOLD’s Zac Arnold said: “These two hospitals were built mainly by local workers’ subscriptions and they belong to us, the people. We do not recognise any legitimacy in the decision to close them and sell them. We know they have been chronically underfunded by the GCS NHS Trust and its predecessor Trusts for more than a decade, and we insist the £11m the Trust has in its pot for a single cheap new, under-sized, under-equipped hospital must be spent on the two hospitals to provide a better working environment for staff and improved facilities for patients.

“The country cannot cope with any further cuts in beds, and the £11m community hospital model the Trust and CCG want to impose on us (as they already have done in Tewkesbury, Dursley and the North Cotswolds) is a 20-bed building design with scant facilities.

“The Case For Change advanced by the county’s NHS overlords does not stand up to scrutiny, lacks clarity and is merely a smokescreen for asset-stripping. The Dilke and Lydney Hospitals are in desirable locations for developers – but we refuse to consent to our hospital sites being sold off to the highest bidder.

Zac with HOLD’s Valentines Day card before it is handed in to staff at Lydney Hospital

HOLD artist Louise Penny said: “We refuse to allow our Minor Illness and Injuries Units reduced from two to one, particularly with the increase in sports visitors and population rise when the Severn Bridge tolls end later this year. We will need more beds, and more facilities, not less, and as we fund our public healthcare through our National Insurance we demand full healthcare, not half measures and a feeding frenzy for private profiteers. There is also the knock-on effect of closure of facilities in the Chepstow/ Wye Valley area as well as elsewhere in Gloucestershire, meaning our acute hospitals are struggling to cope, with nowhere else to go for non-acute care, impossibly overburdening our city hospitals. This cannot go on.”

“We will thwart the process of rival land bids for a single new site and the kangaroo court con of a ‘citizens’ jury’ the CCG is proposing. The plan to close our hospitals and replace them with an indequate single facility has been formulated in secret. The general public was not made aware or given a say – and even when we were given a say, we have been ignored. Until the CCG/ NHS reverses its decision or it is quashed in a court of law, we the public will ensure that we can’t be ignored.

“We call on everyone who wants to stop these savage and dangerous cuts in Forest of Dean healthcare to join us in fighting it. Foresters have saved our hospitals before, we can do so again – and we win our battles here!”

* The HOLD campaign will be at the Triangle in Cinderford from 11am to 2pm on Saturday (February 17th) to launch a door-to-door #petitionstorm – which will help ascertain the extent of the majority opposing the closures.

Deputy Chair breaks Cinderford Council ranks to back the HOLD Campaign | Zac Arnold & Cllr Andrew Knight

Zac Arnold, HOLD press liaison, said:

“It’s great to have Councillor Knight on board”

Cllr Andrew Knight, Deputy Chair of Cinderford Town Council, said:

“My worry is that we will lose two vital community hospitals within the Forest and ultimately lose out. For this reason, I support the HOLD campaign as reinvestment in existing hospitals will give the whole of the Forest what they need.

“Up and down the country the Tory Government are slashing budgets, cutting costs and forcing the public to make impossible decisions under the impression that they have a choice in the matter.

“I support reinvestment for the whole of the Forest, reinvestment in our NHS and a government that doesn’t give us impossible choices masquerading as choice. We deserve better and HOLD will give us that.”

It’s a cost cutting exercise, one that could easily cost lives | Cllr Jake Lewis & Zac Arnold

Zac Arnold, Press Liaison for the HOLD Campaign, said:

“Another Councillor has joined our ranks of supporters. Thanks to Cllr Jake Lewis of Tidenham Parish Council for backing the HOLD Campaign. It’s important that we fight to save our much-valued and much-needed hospitals in the Forest.”

Cllr Jake Lewis, Tidenham Parish Councillor, said:

“It’s becoming clear that the single hospital plan will simply not cover the outskirts of the Forest, wherever it is placed. It’s for that reason alone we ought to oppose this, the single hospital plan will be to the detriment to people across the Forest.

“It’s clear from the onset that this plan will result in less services, more excuses for cuts and the slow, excruciating disassembly of the NHS. What the consultation has shown is that a single hospital is not desired, it also shows that people want to keep their services close to them, with hospitals that are accessible.

“Contrary to what they are claiming, this is not about centralising services, it’s a cost cutting exercise, one that could easily cost lives.”

HOLD announce plans for legal battle against confirmed closure of Forest Hospitals | Zac Arnold

Yesterday (Thursday 25th January 2018) the NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust held two back to back meetings in Coleford in the Forest of Dean to discuss and decide whether the proposal to close the two community hospitals in the Forest of Dean would go ahead despite the proposal receiving the less than half of the support of the responses to the public consultation.

The meetings begun at 12noon on Thursday despite this time and venue meaning that many people who wanted to attend couldn’t due to work and school. This is just the latest in a series of causes for concern around the adequacy of the entire process.

Zac Arnold, Press Liaison for the HOLD Campaign said “we are very disappointed at the blatant lack of respect that the NHS have showed to the public in ignoring their concerns. Several members of the public asked serious questions regarding various aspects of the consultation at the meeting on Thursday and these questions were met by no satisfactory answers from NHS representatives.”

This decision to continue with the proposals despite the public not backing the decision has been met by an announcement from the HOLD campaign who have stated that a crowd funding page to raise the funds for court and solicitor fees will be set up within the next few days as plans for legal challenge against the NHS are set in motion.

Arnold continued “As announced on our Facebook page yesterday, the HOLD Campaign have are preparing to launch legal action against the NHS in regards to these proposals and we have a line up of very strong legal challenges that the NHS will have to answer to. The fight is not over and we will be launching our crowd funding page to raise the funds for legal action within the next few days.”

Owen Adams, another of the campaign’s organisers stated yesterday on their Facebook page “As feared, the proposal to shut our 2 hospitals was agreed by the NHS/ privatisation overlords. So now our legal fight begins and we have a number of strong legal challenges. We will soon be launching a crowdfunder through a recognised platform, so watch this space!”

Further plans for legal action will be announced as they become available but the action in question has been confirmed as being a Judicial Review. If you would like to donate towards the funds needed to take legal action, a crowd funding page will be set up and connected to the campaign’s Facebook page in the coming days.

I fully support HOLD… the people want to keep the Dilke and Lydney hospitals | Cllr Jackie Fraser

Forest of Dean District Councillor, Jackie Fraser, said:

“I fully support the HOLD Campaign. Our two community hospitals offer excellent services and 47 beds. GCS proposes one new hospital with half the number of beds and no inkling as to what services would be provided.

“With the projected new housing to be built across the Forest of Dean we need more not less.

“This proposal is government asset-stripping policy as proposed in the Naylor Review. The £11 million should be spent on our two existing hospitals. The results of the public consultation show the people want to keep the Dilke and Lydney hospitals.

“Well done to HOLD in leading the fight for our community hospitals.”

Backlash against Cinderford Labour Council over decision to back hospital closures | Zac Arnold

On Tuesday 9th January 2018 protesters gathered in the car park of the Belle Vue Centre in Cinderford in a display of anger and upset at the decision of Cinderford Town Council to support the ‘preferred option’ of the NHS to close Lydney and District Hospital and the Dilke Memorial Hospital and replace them with a single, smaller, new hospital. 

Cinderford Town Council voted in November 2017 to support the ‘preferred option’ as set out in the public consultation document and after the full council meeting and protest in December were postponed due to heavy snow, the time finally came for the public to tell their councillors how they felt about their decision.

The protest begun at 6:30pm prior to the meeting starting at 7pm with a great turnout of around 35-40 members of the public attending to stand up to their elected representatives. Once the meeting began, members of the public entered the council chamber and were allowed 3 minutes each to speak for a total time of 15 minutes for public questions.

One protester asked “the projected cost to build this new hospital is £11 million, is that correct?” which was met by a response of “no idea” from many of the town councillors. This shows that they were not in the position to make an informed decision and raises the question, ‘did they ever read the consultation document?’ as within said document it mentioned repeatedly that the projected cost was £11 million.

Cllr Lynn Sterry, the Chair of Cinderford Town Council repeatedly threatened to shut the meeting down and refused to answer questions on topics such as the controversial Northern United site, which is the location that the council proposed for the new hospital to be built in their letter to the GCCG and GCS. The attempts to silence opposition, if anything, made the public dissatisfaction stronger as people felt more and more like their elected representatives were not representatives at all.

Zac Arnold, Press Liaison for the HOLD Campaign said “we are here tonight to express our disappointment at the decision of the council to back the ‘preferred option’ to close our community hospitals and replace them with a single, smaller, new hospital and urge them to listen to the public who stated clearly in the consultation that they are not convinced by the image of a shiny new hospital presented to them by the NHS.”

Around 20 Cinderford Parish residents attended to express their concerns and were met with little acknowledgement of these and a persistent dismissal of the issues they raised.

After Cllr Sterry declared the session had ended early during the public engagement session, Cllr Mark Turner (Independent) argued against the chair to ensure that the voices of the residents were heard. This resulted in the meeting continuing.

Arnold stated that he thought “the protest has been a success. The aim was to ensure that the public are listened to, and although the councillors refused to back down on their stance, a clear message has been sent that they are being watched by their residents now and the people of Cinderford will no longer sit in silence.”

“unfortunately both Coleford and Lydney Town Councils have also backed the ‘preferred option’ in the consultation and despite them not being called out yet, they have not slipped off the hook. The will of the people will be heard, and our elected representatives will learn to represent. ”

”I would also like to clarify that these protests are not down to the HOLD campaign not respecting differing opinions, this is due to the blatant influencing of the decision making process and the fact that all three councils have suggested possible sites to the NHS. This is about health care for the entire Forest of Dean, this is not a tug of war competition between councils to see who can get the better deal. The lack of consideration for the rest of the Forest by these councillors upsets us and it must change. ”

No details are confirmed as to HOLD’s upcoming plans for the other two Town councils.

Campaigners demand that the NHS scraps plans to close hospitals | Zac Arnold & Owen Adams

On Tuesday 9th January 2018 campaigners took to the steps of Shire Hall in Gloucester to demand that NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust scrap their plans to close two community hospitals and replace them with one single, smaller, new hospital after 46% of consultation responses oppose the “preferred option” and 12% of respondents did not know.

At 9am, protesters assembled on the steps of the County Council Offices at Shire Hall in Gloucester to demand that the NHS respect the will of the people and scrap their plans to push forward their ‘preferred option’ of closing two community hospitals and replacing them with one. This comes after the report on the outcome of the public consultation was published on Monday revealing that 58% of respondents were either against the proposals or were not sure.

Zac Arnold, one of the protests organisers, said “The consultation carried out has delivered a clear message, the people of the Forest of Dean are not convinced by the picture of a shiny new hospital as it is portrayed by GCCG and GCS. The Forest has stood up time and time again and we will continue to fight until the NHS takes public feedback on-board and scraps their proposals to close our hospitals.”

The protest concluded at 10am when the campaigners entered the council chamber to hear the outcome of the consultation as it was presented to the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Once the meeting had concluded campaigners reflected with anger and disappointment as the committee decided to vote in favour of declaring the consultation ‘adequate.’

Arnold said “This is a disappointing result as the consultation process was clearly flawed in many ways. Just to name one example, if you look at the original consultation booklet and compare it to the easy read version, the questions in places are completely different. As far as I am concerned, the committee has completely failed in it’s duty today by accepting an incredibly inadequate consultation as adequate.”

The example of the differing questions is just one of many flaws, another example is the blatantly misleading content of some parts of the document. The booklet claims that a new facility will improve the recruitment and retention of staff, however, according to the NHS’ own figures, Tewksbury Community Hospital (a new hospital) has significantly worse levels of recruitment and retention than the Dilke Memorial Hospital.

Owen Adams, another one of the protests organisers said “The majority of people have said ‘no’ to the proposal to close the hospitals, so we will be demanding that the CCG and the NHS Trust listens to the people. We demand instead that the £11 million earmarked for the building of a new hospital is invested in the two current sites.”

This protest was just the first part of a day of protest organised by the HOLD (Hands Off Lydney and Dilke hospitals) Campaign who held a second demonstration outside the Full Council meeting of Cinderford Town Council in the evening to express their concern at the council’s decision to back the NHS’ preferred option in the consultation.

Cinderford Council members grilled live by protestors as Chair threatens to close meeting in face of criticism | Zac Arnold

Gloucester Labour back HOLD as day of protest unfolds amid consultation outcome | Fran Boait

Fran Boait, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Gloucester said on Facebook:

“Today, HOLD – Hands Off Lydney and Dilke hospitals have been in Gloucester to protest against the Commissioning groups plans to close their hospitals. Their Protest continues this evening in Cinderford and Fran wanted to offer our support from Gloucester CLP and talk a little about why we need a Labour Government running our NHS #forthemany

‘I felt elated that I’d done something’: first-time activists on a year of protest | The Guardian

In December 2017, Zac was interviewed exclusively by the Guardian about his introduction to the Labour Party, community activism and politics. The full edited interview reads:

‘Zac Arnold is 17 and studying for his A-levels. He is also part of the committee to save the Dilke and Lydney hospitals in the Forest of Dean.

He came to the campaign through his new membership of the Labour party. “I signed up in May when the general election was announced. So did my dad. We made it a bit of a competition to see who could get signed up first and I think I beat him by a couple of minutes.” He is studying politics at A-level and says he has always been interested, but Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was a deciding factor for him. “I think he seems really honest, and that he actually cares.”

As part of Labour, he attended meetings about the hospital plans and was encouraged by others to become part of the committee, which is bi-partisan. “We’re all very different ages. I think because I’m the youngest I’ve been given a lot of the technology stuff to manage, then I handle some of the press, and I email our volunteers.”

Current NHS plans are to close the Dilke and nearby Lydney and merge the two in a new building. “I’m not against a new hospital but it’s just that we don’t have enough information abut the new plans. We’re all aware of what happened at Tewkesbury, where they got a new hospital and then the floor collapsed. We just want to make sure that we don’t lose out and it seems like the vast majority here are in favour of keeping the two hospitals we’ve got.”

Zac’s mum is a nurse so he says he naturally took an interest in the campaign (his dad stays at home to look after him and his younger sister).  But he’s engaged across a range of issues. The first time we get in contact he tells me he has to rush off because he’s going to a demonstration about Universal Credit. He writes to his local MP “at least once a month about whatever’s on my mind. School cuts, the NHS. I find it amazing that he always writes back to me, even if it does read a bit like a stock response.” His other interests – the Sea Cadets, creative writing – have taken a back seat recently as he tries to go to as many meetings as he can. “And I like to read about other campaigns online. Sometimes I’ll spend a couple of hours in the evening on a site like Change.org and I’ll sign up to 50 petitions. I’ll sign anything I agree with.” He thinks he is one of only four younger members who are active in his constituency (“a 400% increase on this time last year!”) but in many ways he is also the story of 2017. Back in 2005, BBC News did a serious analysis of whether young people were more likely to vote for the winner of Big Brother than they were in a general election and found in favour of the reality show. But as June proved, Zac’s generation are looking for a cause they can get behind. “Doing all these things makes me feel useful. It makes me feel hopeful. I had no hope any more after Brexit but now I feel like we’re making progress.”’

HOLD: Hands Off Lydney and Dilke Hospitals

“Campaigning to retain at least two community hospitals in the Forest of Dean, against the sell-off and closure of the Dilke and Lydney hospital sites and demanding investment, not a single, smaller, new hospital.”

The HOLD (Hands Off Lydney and Dilke hospitals) Campaign is a community campaign using direct action to retain the two Community Hospitals that currently operate in the Forest of Dean.

In December 2017, a public consultation into the future of community hospitals in the Forest of Dean drew to a close after a 12 week period of consultation with members of the public and key shareholders. This consultation proposed that the public accept the NHS’ “preferred option” of closing the Forest of Dean’s two community hospitals, the Dilke Memorial in Cinderford and Lydney and District in Lydney, and replace them with one single, smaller, new hospital.

HOLD was ignited during this period to fight these proposed closures of well-loved and needed public health services. The campaign is organised with a “core group” structure consisting of members from a wide range of backgrounds and political viewpoints and each fulfilling a key role in the running of the campaign which currently does not have funds due to the direct, face-to-face style campaigning that we take on.

Zac was a member of the Core Group of the HOLD Campaign from November 2017 throughout 2018 and took on a leading role in the development and management of the campaigns brand, crowdfunding efforts, social media and email content activity, protest organisation and press relations.

Get involved with HOLD

Like HOLD on Facebook and message them to get involved: HOLD – Hands Off Lydney and Dilke hospitals – | Facebook

Let’s Talk About…

In partnership with Lydney and Tidenham Labour Party, Zac established a community engagement campaign to create grassroots conversations on important local issues such as healthcare, youth services and Universal Credit. The campaign ran from September to December 2017 and tackled a new issue every two weeks involving tailored local literature in different areas, social media activity and street stalls.

This campaign has now concluded.