Mims’ confusion over M27 motorway funding?
Mims said last night (22 May 2017) at the Kings Community Church Hustings that £2.5m was going to be spent upgrading junction 7 of the M27, yet in her recently circulated leaflet with a photo of her standing next to a junction 7 signpost, she said that she had secured funding for junction 9. She went on to say in her literature that the work would be done in the next 12 months, but also states that it will not be started until 2018. If that is the case, the work will be completed in five months; possible, but a very tight deadline and to which motorway junction is she referring to? Highways England say they are to improve junction 8. Whatever it turns out to be, junction 9 is in the Fareham constituency!
What does Highways England say?
The Government body responsible for Motorways is Highways England, so to clear up confusion take a look at their website. They state that they are planning a major scheme at junction 8, yes, that’s right, junction 8 http://roads.highways.gov.uk/projects/m27-southampton-junctions/ They refer to the scheme as “Improvements to the M27 and A3024 at Windhover roundabout and two local railway bridges”. They are advertising the start date of the work as 2020, but that a consultation will take place from the spring of 2017.
However, on an archived Highways England website mention IS made of a junction 9 improvement, only it states that the project is “On hold”. Click to see article… If Mims has the ear of fellow Conservative, the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, you would think that she would be better informed! She would also have the ear of Hampshire County Council, as they too are a Conservative administration. What is going on here?
Furthermore, Mims spoke about smart motorways at the Hustings and mentioned in her leaflet that the smart motorway and noise reduction project will start during the last half of 2018, yet nothing of this is mentioned on the Highways England website.
For more information on Smart Motorways, especially for what is planned for vehicles that have broken down, have a look at Highways England’s webpage http://www.highways.gov.uk/smart-motorways-programme/
Eastleigh Borough Council’s Local Plan
Mims’ heavy criticism of Eastleigh Borough Council’s local plan seemed to imply a distinct lack of understanding of the local plan process. She said that Eastleigh BC is giving planning permission for too many houses to be built and was taking too long over the process, which has given the opportunity for developers to submit “Hostile” planning applications. What she did not say was why Eastleigh’s previously submitted local plan was not adopted by the Secretary of State for Housing. When Maria Hutchings was the Conservative PPC for Eastleigh, she lobbied the leader of Hampshire County Council to have County owned land in Woodhouse Lane withdrawn from the planning process. At a stroke, this removed around 1,000 houses from the plan to construct 9,700 dwellings between 2011 and 2029. At the same time, Government requested that all local authorities increase their planned housing numbers over the planned period. Realizing that the cost of resubmitting the local plan would be as costly and time consuming as submitting a new local plan, it was decided by the Council to submit a completely new plan for the period up to 2036. The actual housing numbers come from a body sitting above Solent local authorities called Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH). Using a formula provided by Government, they estimated that 107,000 houses should be constructed between Portsmouth and Southampton during the next 20 years. Eastleigh’s share of that came out as 17,000. Although I cannot find reference to that information given to me in a PUSH Overview & Scrutiny meeting, I have found very similar figures from their minutes.
The table above can be found on page 106 of a GL Hearn consultation document (Objectively-Assessed Housing Need Update )
This shows that Eastleigh planners have not plucked housing need figures out of thin air and that very detailed work has been undertaken on the matter. However, what does not appear to have been taken into account is the need for large-scale infrastructure funding. Without Government funding, the best that can be hoped for is developers’ contributions from housebuilding, a sort of house building tax if you like. It makes sense that infrastructure costs could easily be higher than the cost of building the houses, so this source of funding alone would not be sufficient.
Infrastructure needs that must be funded by Government include, Heath, Education and Transport, or put simply GPs, Teachers and roads, railways and buses. Mims talked about finding the £120m to £200m needed for the Chickenhall Lane link road, but without further transport infrastructure funding that would only move the congestion to the M27 or Alan Drayton Way.
Adult Social Care
Mims took the opportunity to take a pop at Liberal Democrat County Councillors who all voted against the social services council tax precept proposal to raise £16.6m by raising council tax by 3% (In addition to the 1.99% standard precept). As one of those County Councillors, I can give the reason we did so. It was because council tax is a regressive way of raising funds, especially since social care needs should come out of general taxation. As one of the wealthier counties in the UK, Hampshire is a net contributor of council tax to other authorities. Even so, this method of raising social services funding would raise less in poorer areas, the very areas more likely to need it. In addition, compared to the money that Government has cut from the County’s social service budget, £16.6m is just a drop in the ocean.