Friday, August 24, 2007

The First 100 Days of Conservative Administration

Today is day 100 for the new Conservative administration on Southampton City Council. The Conservatives took minority control of the council following the May local elections which saw the Conservatives top the poll across the city and form Southampton's first Conservative Council in 23 years.

Since May the new administration has been working tirelessly to improve the city and modernise the city council.

An enormous amount of hard work has been done in the past 100 days and the new administration has not shied away from taking bold decisions.

We have brought the secondary education review to a successful close. £5m has been awarded to secondary schools across the city and an education charity, Oasis, has been appointed to run two new city academies, a move which will attract £50m of investment.

Four years of discussion over the future of council support services such as IT, property and customer services has been ended and the Council has signed a £290m agreement with Capita to deliver these services over the next ten years. The partnership will transform and modernise these services, attracting over £25m of private investment, saving the tax payer millions of pounds, whilst securing jobs and creating the prospect of new employment in the city.

The uncertainly over the future of Eastpoint has been brought to an end and a decision taken to help facilitate Itchen College's move to the site.

We have got to grips with the appalling state of the roads. The Lib / Lab legacy is a backlog of more than £500m in roads and pavements repairs! It is not going to be possible to find the money for this overnight but a strategy is being put in place to bring much greater investment into the roads.

The new administration is sticking to its election commitments. A pensioner council tax discount will be introduced next year. Tackling crime and disorder is a top priority for the administration and Council tax will be scrapped for Southampton people who sign up to become special constables in the city, to help make our streets safer. Free bus nation wide bus travel for seniors will be rolled out in April.

A citywide energy strategy is being put in place to make Southampton a greener city and to tackle carbon emissions over the next 20 years.

Policies are being finalised to protect family housing in the city.

Daft policies such as the laser lights have been scrapped and we put forward our own suggestion for a wow factor in the form of a bronze spitfire on the roundabout by the DeVere; a proposal which attracted overwhelming public support. We are also progressing our plans to build a city heritage centre in the west wing of the civic centre, to celebrate the titanic and the city's trams. We will insure the city's £150m art collection which was scandalously put at risk by previous administrations. We will also ensure that this wonderful treasure is not left gathering dust in the civic centre basement. We are committed to delivering an ice rink as soon as we can strike the right deal with a provider and agree the site.

Major city developments are being pushed ahead. Carnival is on site and a planning application will soon go in for the redevelopment of Northern Above Bar.

We will be bring forward our draft budget proposals in October this year so that there can be a full public discussion before the city sets its final budget in February. We know that unpopular decisions may have to be made but by bringing up issues early we will enable true consultation and then hopefully make the best decisions for the city.

All this is being achieved against a backdrop of chronic under funding of Southampton by the Government. We are lobbying hard for Southampton to receive its fair share but of late much of the money has been given to local authorities in the north of England.

Only 100 days have so far passed but decisions are being taken, and the ground work is being laid for a bright future for Southampton.

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