Monday, February 27, 2006
In favour of a Community Hub: Yes = 24 (89%), No = 3 (11%)
In favour of housing: Yes = 1 (4%) , No = 22 (96%)
In favour of a mixture of housing: Yes = 9 (36%) , No = 16 (64%)
Sample Size = 29 (those voting on entry)
There were estimated to be 75 people at the meeting.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
The work will involve resurfacing of a section of Shirley Road's footway and carriageway between the junctions of Alexander Road/Sir Georges Road and Landguard Road/Andover Road.
In addition, two pedestrian refuges will be installed to act both as a speed reduction feature and also a pedestrian crossing point. I can email a copy of the scheme plans if anyone wants to see them.
I have spent the last two days up in Daventry at a meeting of the Conservative Councillors' Association.
It was a very eventful couple of days with lots of policy areas discussed. We heard from Chris Grayling MP, who is Shadow Secretary of State for Transport. We also had the opportunity to discuss many of the challenges facing local government today.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Despite being a cold, wet night, there was a really good turn out.
Cevn Vibert from the Freemantle and Shirley Residents' Association ran the meeting and spoke passionately about building a community hub on the site.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Cllr Brian Parnell and Cllr Terry Matthews (Shirley Ward) came along too and we talked about the changes that are being proposed for secondary education in Southampton.
We discussed the issue of single sex education and also continuing to provide the choice of a single sex school within the city.
We discussed what is now being called the forth option. This is the building of a new all-through school on the site of the Civil Service Sports Ground. I recently wrote to residents around the ground with details of the proposal and the letter has been sent on to parents of children at Regents Park. It appears that there is a fair amount of support for the idea amongst parents and the teacher staff.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Saturday, February 18, 2006
St Marys is very popular and if not users themselves, most people can probably name a friend or family members who uses the centre.
The news will delight users of the centre and Labour are hoping it will give them a much needed boost to their campaign for the May local elections.
However when the euphoria begins to fade, it is worth spending a few moments considering the finances of the situation.
The budget deal has kept the centre open, but for how long? The building is very old (125 years) and in need of some pretty urgent repairs.
In fact £145,000 is needed immediately to remedy health and safety risks to the public using the facilities and to avoid the centre being in serious breach of safety laws.
This money is needed for roof repairs, floor repairs, rewiring, and for repairs to heating, water and ventilation services. The cost jumps to £172,000 when other safety issues are addressed that pose only a medium risk to the public and staff. Over the next 2 years an additional £105,000 is needed to avoid other further health and safety breaches. The total long-term cost of capital liabilities is just under £2.5m.
The budget deal that saved St Marys provides no additional funding for repairing the centre. In total there is £95,000 in the capital programme for repairs to the building.
The up shot of all of this is that the centre will be saved until after the local Council elections in May. Then it may well be someone elses problem.
Looking at it this way it does sound like a rather cynical political ploy. Also when you think that until recently Labour ran the City for 20 years, its really kind of their fault that the building is in the state it currently is in.
What is really needed is a prudent, long-term strategy for providing sports facilities in St Marys. The deal outlined on the front page of the Daily Echo certainly doesnt offer this.
Two years ago Conservative Councillors and indeed Labour Councillors went on a march to save St Marys. After the march the Conservatives put forward proposals to build a brand spanking new, purpose built sports facility in St Marys, funded by the disposal of the St Marys site and another council owned site across the road. The intention was to bring in other partners, like Solent University to help fund the initiative. Labour and the Lib Dems voted the proposal down and now they are left with an even more run down, even more unsafe building with no money to keep it open much beyond the next election.
Friday, February 17, 2006
We discussed a report due to go the Council's Cabinet on 6th March, on the redevelopment of the EastPoint Centre. The project involves considerable sums of public money. We listened to representatives from the Regeneration Board (Thornhill Plus You) and the EastPoint centre as well as listening the Cabinet members for Housing and Resources. It was a well informed and productive meeting. We will keep an eye project going forward.
One thing the article ommitted to mention was the significant cuts to social services, the impact of which I have mentioned in previous posts.
St Marys Sports centre has been "saved". An additional £65,000 has been found to keep the centre going. However no additional money has been found to tackle the £1.8m backlog in repairs needed. The extra money will keep the centre going until after the elections in May and then we will shall be back at square one. We should remember that Labour allowed St Marys to deteriorate to the state it is in, and the Lib Dems have dithered for the last few years about addressing the problem. Very soon someone is going to have to look at the situation again and make a proper decision.
Labour described the Conservative budget as being "mickey mouse". We take that with a pinch of salt because it is what they say every year. They would suggest anything but an inflation busting increase in Council Tax is unrealistic. The reality is that only one party on the Council is prepared to excerise any degree of financial prudence and that is the Conservatives.
The Echo likes to dramatise things and talked about the loss of 40 jobs. Well that isn't really true. The City Council employs 10,000 people and takes on dozens of new people a month. It is a very good employer and it is very easy for those in posts that are being 'deleted' in the budget to be given other excellent jobs working for the Council. Therefore we are not talking large scale compulsory redundancies.
The Conservatives have suggested many times that the best way to control costs and keep tax under control is to be more careful when taking on new staff. The Echo suggested that we would have a recruitment freeze. Again that's not quite true. We would have a much stricter policy in certain key areas in the back office. Rather than automatically refilling all vacant posts we would question whether new staff do in fact need to be taken on. This is how businesses run things.
The Echo didn't mention any of the excellent ideas that the Conservatives proposed. The other parties also chose to ignore them. We put forward lots of ideas on how to reduce crime and improve the environment. We are not too dispondent. Our suggestions were ignored last year too. However shortly after the budget meeting an emergency motion was rushed through Council to introduce one of our flagship recycling policies. We will be very happy if some of our policies are quietly adopted by the Administration in the coming months.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Council tax will go up 3.89%, well above inflation and double Conservative proposals to raise tax by only 1.97%.
£120,000 will be slashed from the budget that provides residential and day care services to the elderly, affecting over 500 people.
The affect of above inflationary tax increases will hit those on fixed incomes, like pensioners the most. Cuts to care services are quite wrong and this an area where we should be spending more money, not less.
It was a very interesting conversation and I was left will the opinion that local councillors and the City Council can do far more in this area. From the sounds of things the Council is lagging far behind other local authorities.
One thing I would be keen to see, is putting council meetings, like last night's budget debate, on the internet.
About 5 years ago a motion was put to council to film council meetings. This didn't take off as it needed media interest and would cost money. However technology has moved on and broadcasting meetings on the internet would cost very little. It would enable people to see exactly what their local representatives say and where the parties stand on the issues.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Southampton’s Conservative Councillors have unveiled proposals to cut crime in the city and get more police on the beat. We have called for the City Council to scrap Council Tax for residents who become Special Constables. It is hoped that this will encourage more people to sign up to become Specials.
Fighting crime is a top priority for us and getting more police on the beat will help make our streets safer. A Conservative Council would abolish Council Tax for all Special Constables living in the City and their households.
- Councils have the legal power to introduce discounts for certain types of individuals within a local authority. Such discounts can be as high as 100%.
- The Conservative Group on Southampton City Council are proposing a 100% discount for any households within the City where a Special - Constable lives.
- Another Council which has introduced a discount for Specials is Kingston Upon Hull.
The Conservative Group believes that the Council should live within its means and that tax increases should not go up above the rate of inflation. The Council should focus on what it is there to do and do this well. It should prioritise its expenditure on things that matter most.
In drawing up our budget our priorities are: social services, education, reducing crime, waste collection and recycling.
Southampton Conservatives propose a Council Tax increase of only 1.97%. This compares with an inflation rate of 2.4% (RPI Nov 04 - Nov 05).
I have set out below some of the differences between the Conservative Budget and the Lib Dem Administration's budget.
Areas where we work spend more (than the current Administration):
- Increased Resources for Foster Carers
- Free Monthly Glass Collection
- New Residents Parking Schemes
- Pilots to improve Recycling Collection Rates in Flats
- Commercial Waste Recycling scheme
- Retain the weekly collection of green wheelie bins
- Protect Social Services care packages
- No increase to charges for non residential care packages
- Better lighting in City Centre parks
- Pay for the a car park for Bitterne Park Triangle
- Abolish Council Tax for special constables
Areas where we would spend less (than the current Administration):
- Stop funding of Unions with tax payers' money
- Withdraw funding for Southampton Unemployment Centre
- Delete International Initiatives Budget
- Reduce the amount spent on glossy booklets
- Introduce a Moratorium on staff in back office functions (i.e. when staff leave we won't automatically fill the posts)
- Generate more money in sponsorship (such as sponsorship on roundabouts, avertising in City View on the Council's website)
If you want further information on our proposals please get in touch and I will be happy to address and questions or concerns that you might have.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Labour are proposing a tax increase of 4.97%. The Council would be capped if it produced a budget over 5% and so this is about as high a tax increase as you can get.
The Conservatives have suggested 1.97%.
I will publish full details of the two budgets when I get a chance.
Two things however which immediately jumped out at me as astonishing in the Labour budget are:
1) They are proposing cutting the care packages budget for elderly people in the City whilst at the same time continuing to fund a trade union post with social services money. This shows the sorts of priorities they have when they choose to fund their union friends over vulnerable elderly people. I think it's quite shocking.
2) They are cutting the amount of money being put into repairing the roads by £180,000, when only recently they supported the borrowing of an additional £18m to address the backlogs of road repairs the City has. That strikes me as total madness.
More to follow on this...
It was an extremely interesting evening and I would strongly recommend people go along to one of the other debates that are happening over the next few weeks.
My general impression was that there was, to quote one resident, too much style over substance.
There was a very long presentation by the Council but it didn't really add much more to the rather thin document that was circulated to residents on 25th January.
The lack of detailed information I think really makes it very hard to form a strong view on the proposals.
The timetable for the whole thing is also very tight. The consultation ends on 17th March and the whole thing is going to be decided in September (apparently).
What is essentially being proposed is that a number of schools are merged, due to falling pupil numbers. The Council has come up with a range of options but favours a strategic approach to reorganising schools across the City as a whole.
All this is against the backdrop of the education white paper currently being worked up by Government. What will be in it is not clear but it may well suggest going in a quite different direction to the one proposed by the Council. What is clear is that the Government's education proposals will be extremely political. Indeed it may mean the end of Blair as Prime Minister...
The latest talk is that that Government are backing away from radical reform. The original White Paper proposed that all new schools should be independent trust schools or city academies. To quote today's Telegraph, "The effect would have been a flowering of private initiative, as Churches, businesses, and parent groups competed for the funding to set up schools. But yesterday it was announced that councils would, as of old, be allowed to establish more "community schools", otherwise known as bog standard comps, ensuring the crowding out of independent operators."
There is a meeting of the Conservative Way Forward Group in London on 16th March on the subject of education which I am hoping to be able to go to.
Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools and hate figure for the lefties will be there and I will be extremely interested to hear his take on things.
What is clear is that massive change is on the cards and in Southampton we may see quite a shake up. We need to make sure we get it right.
These include piloting a range of initiatives to improve recycling rates in flats (which are currently only recycle around 8%), a free doorstep collection scheme for glass and trialling a commercial waste recycling service on Saturdays.
It isn't enough to simply reach Government targets. We need to be far more ambitious and cities like San Francisco show us the way.
The planned scheme will use combined heat and power with the advantages that this provides cheap heating for residents and reduces CO2 omissions.
However it can't be right to achieve environmental benefits here if at the same time we are destroying rainforests and threatening endangers species in other parts of the world.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
From April 1, the government is making concessionary fares free of charge and has asked local councils to work with bus companies to make this happen.
In Southampton, the concessionary bus pass is being replaced with the city's council's Smartcities card.
The Council are trying to make it as easy as possible for people to apply for the card. Applications can be returned to Gateway, Local Housing Offices and Libraries as long as they are accompanied by proof of age, residence and an up to date passport photograph.
However the Council's main thrust has been to run local road shows where SmartCities staff will help to fill in forms, verify documents and, using a digital camera, take the applicants' photos.
Details of the largest road shows are given in the latest edition of CityView and posters will start appearing around the city promoting the scheme. The full list of these public road shows is available on CityWeb at
Smaller road shows are also taking place, for example in day centres and sheltered housing.
The telephone number for the SmartCities team is 8083 4222.
They are now planning to put in a pedestrian refuge outside the Co-Op as part of the above work scheduled to start at the end of February or early March.
A recent survey conducted by Conservative Councillors found that 95% of people preferred a Council Tax increase of under 2%.