Report for Marchwood Parish Council 18th January 2016
Hampshire County Council is downsizing the workforce and cutting highway budgets. I regret to report that this involves the loss of my key contact, the local highway engineer, Rob Millar who will be leaving at the end of March and won’t be replaced. I have protested, to no avail. This follows the recent retirement of Nick Hunt at NFDC, another key contact.
Rob and other HCC highway staff have been extremely busy in recent weeks, dealing with various drainage issues that have arisen from the heavy pluvial flooding. It would be fair to say they have been stretched to the limit. I have been out with the team at various locations. In Marchwood, I’m aware of problems in Trotts Lane, the new cycle path, Twiggs Lane. I’m sure there are a lot of other areas with standing water and even sewage. I found it impossible to contact Southern Water during the worst days of flooding.
I will be attending a meeting with Richard Bastow, the Highways Manager, here in Marchwood on Wednesday to discuss a number of outstanding items but it’s unlikely we will get anything near the same standard of service in future when it comes to highway maintenance, cutting back vegetation, pursuing new projects etc.
Household Waste Facility
It would seem that HCC have quietly decided not to progress the decision to spend about £600,000 on upgrading the Household Waste Recyling Facility at Marchwood. I am not sure about the legality of making a decision and then (at officer level) deciding not to progress it. I have therefore asked for an investigation which is now taking place. I willl update you in due course.
Even worse news, HCC are about to consult on closures of HWRC’s. They are looking to save money. Marchwood HWRC is under threat of complete closure, partial closure (some days) or restricted hours. It does not help that our HWRC is located a few miles from the Southampton facility.
I am strongly against closure and have already instigated a petition against it, which has already attracted over 1,500 signatures. I think it will lead to increased fly tipping, both in the District and the National Park. This will increase costs to the District Council. The cuts may save money for Hampshire County Council, but increase costs for New Forest District Council. I hope Marchwood Parish Council will express a similar view when the consultation goes “live”.
I’m very sorry that the Regulatory Committee at HCC voted strongly in favour of the officers’ recommendation to approve the application to allow a 5 year permission for facilities at Marchwood wharf. It will mean more lorry movements in and out of the village, along Bury Road.
I thought MPC and the village was very well represented by the members, resident and the clerk. Hampshire County Council, as the highway authority, benefits from having this facility, so you could ask whether it is fair that the authority with such a strong vested interest should determine such an applicaton. Realistically, nobody is going to fund a Judicial Review, so I think we are stuck with the decision. I genuinely gave this my best shot, even reminding fellow members that they risked HCC incurring EU Air quality fines if they approved it.
I have lots of positive feedback from users of the new route. Some minor tweaks have been made to it, responding to some comments. Sadly, a section of it was subject to flooding. Barker Mill Estates are looking to see if this can be addressed. I understand they have displayed warning notices to the effect that the route won’t be gritted and people use it at their own risk.
I am trying to ascertain when the work will take place to improve the crossing at Trotts Lane. No news on this yet, but an item to raise with Richard Bastow, when we meet, along with the cycle path to Hythe.
Again, as a result of cost cutting measures, I understand that the County Council are considering closing more than half of the Children’s Centres in Hampshire. There will be a public consultation about this. I have no further information at this time. There are other cuts being made to various other services including things like breast feeding support services. It’s frankly very difficult to get a proper handle on all the cuts to budgets and services as they are happening so frequently, often unannounced.
There will be a further round of cuts to bus subsidies this year. Have already been tipped off that Totton wll be affected. I am not sure yet about Marchwood. Again, there is a requirement for a consultation to take place, including with MPC.
Other cuts that I know about include dimming street lights at night, grass cutting frequency, spraying of weedkiller, libraries (including the book fund), County Councillor grants.
HCC will be setting its’ Annual budget in a few weeks time. This will give a clearer indication as to the extent of cuts to services. The one small glimmer of hope is that the Chancellor has provide that HCC can increase council tax by 2% for adult social care, over and above any other 2% maximum increase. Even if HCC decides to apply this increase, it will still mean very large cuts impacting on the poorest, most vulnerable, people in the community.
An apology, this is the gloomiest report that I have ever had to put together.
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