It has been a busy and eventful week in Southampton Politics. My casework post bag gone up considerably since the start of the year and there is lots going on in the city.
On Wednesday the BBC ran a story on how across the country council tax is set to rocket again this year as local councils continue to face cut backs in funding from the government. I did an interview on the Ten O'clock News and was able to highlight how Southampton, being in the South of England, is suffering in particular from government underfunding.
One area where Southampton is under severe financial pressure is over the issue of the national concessionary bus fares scheme due to come in on 1st April. This was announced by Gordon Brown as a pre election sweetener just before the 2005 General Election. The government promised the fund the free travel scheme but has since gone back on its pledge and is trying to shift the costs to the local council tax payer. In Southampton the shortfall in funding could be up to £1m or more (about 1.5% on council tax!)
Hill Lane Toucan Crossing
I went along to the public meeting regarding the possible Toucan crossing at Raymond Road / Hill Lane. From the conversations that I had people seemed to be broadly in favour. One issue that lots of people raised was the need to improve cycle paths around the city. If the Hill Lane crossing is popular and goes ahead then there is the opportunity to link up a cycle path through the common to the Avenue, and then up to Wilton Road and King Edwards School.
St Mark's School
I went along to the St Mark's school governors meeting on Tuesday evening to talk with them about the the council's plans to purchase the Civil Service Sports Ground in Stafford Road and also about the primary school review which is about to start in the city.
Promoting the City's Art
On Thursday I went to a reception at the civic centre art gallery, organised by Business Southampton. The new Conservative administration is looking to expand the council's art lease scheme, where works of art are loaned out to offices, private collectors and other galleries. The art gallery has far more paintings than it can hope to display and so this is an opportunity to display the art and also generate some income which can be used to meet the costs of the gallery and promote art and local artists in the city.