Report For Totton & Eling Town Council – Annual Meeting 30 March 2016
It has been a good year for cycling.
HCC have completed an upgrade to cycle routes along the A35, from Rushington roundabout to Redbridge flyover. The stretch from Ashurst to Lyndhurst has also been resurfaced. Additionally, I was very pleased to open the new link from Eling to Marchwood – a cycle and walking route that is proving very popular (apart from one short section which is prone to flooding problems but being attended to).
There have been a few highway improvements, including a new crossing in Commercial Road, near Mcdonald’s, the pedestrian crossing at the junction of Maynard Road & Ringwood Road, new pavement surface outside the new housing estate by the former dairy, Salisbury Road. There are some drainage works underway in Eling Lane and shortly to be in The High Street.
There is a low cost, traffic calming scheme to be implemented along Eling village, a welcome development, with more cyclists now using the route.
It’s sad to announce the early retirement of our long serving highways engineer, Rob Millar. I know you will join me in thanking him for all he has done over many years and wish him well.
Generally, with severe cuts to highway budgets, I anticipate problems ahead with the condition of roads and pavements deteriorating. All we can do is report things that need attention and hope that the most dangerous pot holes will be fixed promptly.
A lot of my time at Winchester is spent trying to mitigate the worst impacts of austerity measures. Hampshire County Council is seeking to achieve savings of some £98 million. This is why you are hearing about proposed cuts or increased charges to all sorts of services, ranging from the Household Waste Recycling Centres, school buses, Children’s Centres, library services, grants, highway budgets, adult social services, breast feeding support services, autism support… it’s a very long list.
Hampshire County Council is by far the biggest wedge of the council tax cake. This year it decided to raise the tax the most it legally could without triggering the need for a referendum (we don’t want two this year!). It was also allowed to increase by an extra 2% on the condition this is allocated for Adult Social care. So the overall figure was 3.9%.
I have been doing my bit to make devolution a reality within the County of Hampshire by trying to convince my fellow County Councillors to change the system of governance from a Cabinet system (which means ten members get to decide everything), to a Committee system, whereby all 78 elected County Councillors have a vote. This has not yet been achieved, but a bit like “Obama Care” in the USA, I am keeping at it. It’s going to be the subject of a debate and vote at a future County Council meeting.
There is, in the meantime, a very real prospect of Hampshire splitting its’ governance arrangements. The Tory government are driving the idea of elected Mayor’s having responsibility and new powers for large regions. There is a big power struggle going on, involving Council leaders, but not the majority of elected Councillors, or the public. It might well end up with a new “Solent Combined Authority”, overseen by a Mayor and guees what ? … a Cabinet of Council leaders, with decision making powers over housing, planning and transport infrastructure.
At present, Hampshire County Council does not want to join in and neither does the New Forest District Council.
A risk here is that we may miss out on having influence on things like where housing is built or investment in major infrastructre projects, together with continued reliance on reduced government grant to run services and no ability to keep locally raised business rates.
One thing that all political groups seem to agree on is that Hampshire County Council does a good job when it comes to education, supporting over 500 schools in the County, 84% of which are classed as outstanding or good, by Ofsted.
There is extreme distaste, therefore, in response to the government announcement that all schools will be forced into adopting Academy status, whether they want to or not. It’s really hard to see how this will improve standards, discarding vastly experienced educational experts and replacing this with the totally inadequate, under-resourced and remote Department of Education who will have to sort out the problems of all schools in the UK that fail. It’s also not the best way of motivating volunteer governors (including myself).
I have also been working closely with the former and new management of Totton College and have a seat on the newly formed Education Forum. These are still very difficult times for the college which as had to reduce its’ offer and downsize operations, including the sad loss of many staff members.
As regards the Fire service, we finished a very important job this year, called the “Risk Review” which is about matching resources to the risks that the communities in Hampshire face now and into the future. We think we have managed to reduce budgets by a few £ million whilst matching or even enhancing our capabilities. No fire stations are to close, no fire fighters are to be made redundant. There will be almost no noticeable change as regards Totton is concerned.
On the National Park, we are still celebrating the succeess of securing a five year secure funding deal from government, along with a multi million pounds heritage lottery bid to roll out a series of projects under the broad umbrella of “Our Place, Our future”, which will involve a whole host of exciting things from recruiting volunteers to help improve and maintain habitats, work on a landscape scale, improving green infrastructure, working on biodiversity, not just within the park boundaries but in what is called the “Green halo” around it. This includes Totton.
That’s it. Happy to take any questions.
I have only covered a very small part of what I have been doing.
More information on my webpage :www.dharrison.org.uk or Facebook “Councillor David Harrison”.