Hampshire County Council Annual Report 2016/2017
by Bruce Tennent
In my report last year, I spoke of the Boorley Green housing meeting I attended that meant that I could not be here in person to give my report. That application was for outline planning of 1,400 homes. On Monday, the Local Area Committee granted the detailed permission for the rest of the development. At 15 homes constructed every month, it will be a number of years before the project is complete.
Despite the austerity measures, affecting Government’s funding of local authorities, the County Councillors devolved budget remains. It was proposed to cut it back to £5,000, but after councillor protestations, it was kept at £8,000, but with no carry over.
County Councillors devolved budget
I consider myself first and foremost a community politician and so it is with great pleasure that under section 137 of the local government act 1972, I am able to distribute my County Councillor’s devolved budget of up to £8,000 a year to local good causes.
The following are the organizations I have contributed to in the last year;-
- Asian Welfare and Cultural Association – Eastleigh Mela £1,000
- Asian Welfare and Cultural Association – Furniture for Community Use £500
- West End Pre-school – Developing the outdoor space £1,700
- 1st Hedge End Girls Brigade – Swanage Camp 2017 £200
- Eastleigh Swim Club – Equipment for new Fleming Park pool £500
- St James Church – Ovens and hobs for kitchen refurbishment £850
- Itchen North District Scout Council – Adult volunteer recruitment drive £750
- King’s Community Church – Replacement minibus £5,000
- St James West End Luncheon club – Weekly “One Community” transport for members to enjoy a hot lunch and conversation with others £500
- St James School Association – Provision of LED Eco- Lighting in communal areas of the school to demonstrate that the school is environmentally friendly and teaches children about their role in the sustainable future £500
- 10th Itchen North (West End) Scout Group – The Alan and Muriel Daw Gloaming. Construction of an external multi-purpose amphitheatre to provide usable space for outdoor learning, and shoring up a crumbling/eroding clay bank upon which their Scout hut is constructed £1,000
- Mencap Flagship Arts and Allotments project £500
You will notice that I said earlier that I received £8,000 to distribute to local community causes, but that the good causes I have just read out comes to £13,000. This is because after hearing last year about the problems Kings Community Church were having transporting people free of charge to community events, I promised them £5,000. However, it took them a little while to find the difference to purchase there replacement vehicle so being able to carry my funding over was really helpful.
The First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system requires that a similar number of voters live in each electoral district, which necessitates boundary changes every 12 years or so. It is for that reason that the County Division of West End and Grange Park, Hedge End I was elected to will disappear in May when the new County term begins with countywide elections. The newly created County Division I will be contesting is West End and Horton Heath. For that reason, I have spent a considerable amount of time in Horton Heath during the last year, getting to know the issues important to residents. Besides Allington Lane Railway Bridge, which is as important to Horton Heath residents as it is to West End residents, I am working with the County Council on the possibility of installing a new pedestrian crossing on Botley Road, Horton Heath, making it safer to cross the road to the only local food shop at the Texaco garage. I am also assisting with a very large campaign to save the Lapstone Pub, using a largely unknown initiative called an “Asset of Community Value”.
Government’s austerity measures
Hampshire County Council will increase its council tax in April by 4.99%, 3% of which is a Social Services levy raising £16.6m. However, when you think that the County Council spend around £1.9bn each year and that over the four-year County electoral term have been deprived of £480m by Government, it is not surprising that local authority services are so dramatically affected.
Recently, a group of Chalk Hill residents came to the Parish Council to protest the volume of traffic using their road. I have received similar protests from residents living along Botley Road and Telegraph Road. When I spoke to Hampshire Highways about this, they told me that the County no longer fund discretionary traffic measures, meaning that unless they are legally obliged, nothing will be done. They did say though, that the parish council is at liberty to fund these measures. I thought this a little strange since roads are a County Council responsibility, but on reflection can see that parish councils do not have their council tax capped. For example, one Surrey parish council has increased their council tax by 150%. County Councils deserting their responsibilities, by pushing costs on to residents are simply playing games with our money.
The yearlong project from to install a pipeline capable of carrying 15m litres a day in Mansbridge Road is now all but complete. As a result of this work by Southern Water, I was able to persuade Hampshire Highways to install temporary traffic lights at the Allington Lane railway bridge, since I judged that many motorists would take the Allington Lane Route to Eastleigh. It proved much more successful than I assumed as many have asked that this be made a permanent fixture.
Public Health devolvement to local government is moving at a pace, with national funding via the “Better Care Fund” increasing year on year.
Last year I reported that Moorgreen Hospital is part of project Vanguard where through a series of pilot programmes a new model of primary health care is being developed by the Clinical Commissioning Groups, which will include a replacement for the now closed Bitterne walk-in centre. However, this year all that we have seen is that 121 homes are being built on part of the site. If proof were needed that the NHS move at a snail’s pace. I am sure that lack of Government funding is the cause.
Last year, I reported that Wildern School was full and that two new schools are to be built in Burnetts Lane by 2019 catering for around 2400 pupils. What I did not know at the time was that the £30m or so needed to fund the construction would mostly be expected to come from developers contributions. It was deemed by the County that not enough houses would have been constructed in Horton Heath to pay for the school to be opened by 2019. They therefore switched sites to Woodhouse Lane, Botley. However, it is strange how things turn out as this coincided with Theresa May’s new government who decided to slow down the Academy programme in preference of Free Schools. Nationally, £26bn has been set aside to build 500 new schools by 2021. The new school to be built in Woodhouse Lane will now be funded by Government and not developers contributions. This has led to further uncertainty that the original school location may still be preferred.
Eastleigh Borough Council Annual Report 2016/2017
Devolved powers, metro-mayor
Last year, I reported that to save money, the Treasury is committed to devolve powers down to local authorities and that Government was also committed to take the control of Education away from County Councils and that it was suspected that all schools would have to be Academies by 2022. I said that I was concerned that this is the start of a process of privatizing state education, since it is in effect a contracting out initiative. Well, while it is clear Government have a strong desire not to spend money, they must have been distracted by other events, since all talk of Hampshire devolution has completely faded away. Even the Academies programme is in disarray as the new Conservative Government favour “Free Schools”, probably since this can be a mechanism to reintroduce Grammar Schools.
Changes at Eastleigh Borough Council
For a relatively small council, Eastleigh punches way above its weight and yet again has exercised a policy of no council tax increase for the 7th straight year and effectively for 14 years with inflation taken into account.
The council always have been forward thinking developing internal fund generating initiatives to reduce reliance on whatever Government was in power at the time. The bulk of this money comes from an extensive property portfolio. By 2020, Government will have completely removed traditional funding of local authorities, instead giving them a share of local business rates. Another example of the well run Eastleigh Council is the fact that while other councils are reducing services, we are constructing a £27m Leisure Centre to replace the now aging Fleming Park facility.
I have endeavoured to keep this report as short as possible, but if you would like to know more, please come and speak to me or have a look at my website at www.brucetennent.org