Sunday, January 27, 2008
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.
I was told that essentially it looks like it does because the site available was quite large leaving the architect the luxury of building something unique and interesting. Inside it is essentially what you would imagine such a facility to look like.
Marchwood incinerator is one of the sites where our non recyclable waste goes to be burnt. It is then converted into energy and supplied into the national grid, powering about 20,000 homes locally. At the end of the incineration process what's left over (called bottom ash) is separated out into metal, aluminium and glass. Most of the bottom ash is then used as aggregate in road building.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
A Fair Deal for the Taxpayer
Conservatives are proposing the lowest council tax increase in Southampton's history as a unitary council authority at 2.99%. This is being achieved against the backdrop of real terms cuts in funding for Southampton from the government and through much greater local efficiency.
A fair deal for pensioners
Proposals by the Conservatives include a renewed commitment to introduce a 10% discount for households of over 65. In the past ten years council tax has more than doubled under Labour and those on the basic state pension are increasingly finding their real incomes being eroded.
Backing the Police
Conservatives are pushing ahead with plans to scrap council tax for special constables in the city. Since 1997 the numbers of specials has halved. Locally the police have welcomed and backed the move as means for putting more community police on the streets and cutting crime in the city.
A fair deal for Bus Users
Budget proposals include the introduction of a local concessionary bus fares scheme for over 60s and disabled people to cover the reductions in eligibility and travel times in the government's national concessionary scheme. Click HERE for further details.
Listening to residents
Revised budget proposals follow three months of consultation and discussions with residents and community groups. In fact over 1000 people responded to the consultation and the vast majority of their concerns have been addressed in revised proposals.
More money to vital services
- An extra £745k pa for road repairs
- An extra £1.2m pa for adult care
- Extra money supporting children in care and to support foster carers
- Extra local money to support people with alcohol problems
- Additional funds to support more sport in schools
- More support to residents' associations
- A range of measures to improve the local environment, recycling and energy efficiency
- More money to reduce youth offending in the city
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
I was interested to read that a similar battle of ideas has just taken place in Lincoln where the Conservative run council, in the teeth of Labour opposition, has won approval for a similar scheme. Click HERE to read the story in the Lincolnshire Echo. In Lincoln Labour were pushing more more taxation and more means testing. I am feeling a strong sense of deja vu!
Monday, January 14, 2008
Weather permitting, the council's contractor is planning to install a replacement guardrail at the western gate on Wednesday of this week. Bollards will also be installed.
This action follows pressure by the new Conservative Council.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Now we have a Conservative run council action is finally being taken.
In the past proposals were brought forward for yet another set of traffic lights but I for one was very uncomfortable with this as I felt that it would mean more congestion and pollution on Hill Lane and more use of roads like Greville, Thornbury and Atherley as rat runs at rush hour.
Proposals have now been drawn up for a Toucan crossing.
In order to hear the views of local people a meeting is to be held in the St.John’s Centre in Raymond Road on Wednesday 23rd January 2008, between the hours of 2pm and 7:30pm.
Officers of the council will be there to answer your questions on the proposals.
The proposals being put forward are to provide a formal pedestrian and cycle crossing on Hill Lane just to the north of Raymond Road where the existing central island is located.
The reason for this proposal is to provide an improved crossing facility as well as linking the Cemetery Road cycle link to Raymond Road.
Additional features to be included are; the provision of a pedestrian refuge in Raymond Road and the widening of the footway in Hill Lane outside properties 184b, 186 and 188. The footway widening is to allow the ‘Give Way’ line in Raymond Road to be moved forward into Hill lane to improve the sight line for vehicles exiting Raymond Road.
I am hoping to be at the meeting in the evening after work so I can have chance to speak to people and gauge views on the proposals.
UPDATE 14/01/08: The meeting has now been changed to Wednesday 23rd January 2008.
The Thornbury Road / Darwin Road junction in particular has been a danger spot with the lack of vision afforded to drivers due to the parked cars at this junction.
I along with Councillors Michael Ball and Brian Parnell have supported Southampton City Councils’ implementation of parking restrictions.
We hope that this should limit the number of road traffic accidents in this area and improve pedestrian safety.
We have also asked that the parking enforcement officers be vigilant with extra enforcement activity in the early weeks of the introduction of this scheme to help reinforce this measure with drivers.
Conservatives have pledged extra funds to protect concessionary bus users in Southampton.
Under the Government’s national scheme concessionary bus users would find themselves barred from using their concessions before 9.30 in the morning. The Conservative Administration felt that this would unfairly penalise bus users who needed to get to hospital or other appointments before 9.30.
We are determined that local bus users don’t lose out because the Government are short changing the city.
Funds will be set aside to pay for an additional concessionary bus travel within Southampton's boundaries. This will include:
- Travel for Southampton pensioners between 9am and midnight within Southampton’s boundaries.
- Travel for all disabled people within the city boundaries including those who miss out under the government’s criteria for the national scheme. This includes all people on Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Companion passes to allow family members and carers to travel for free when accompanying disabled bus users.
The decision follows extensive consultation over recent months on the Conservative’s draft budget proposals for next year.
We have shown over many years that we are leading the way on public transport. We are the only Party who are willing and able to deliver a fair deal for Concessionary bus users. The Conservatives called for free travel for pensioners as far back as 2002.
Later this month the Council's Conservative Cabinet are meeting to approve the next steps for the eventual development of 4 new secondary schools in Southampton:
- The Lord's Hill Oasis Academy which is to be built on the 5 acre field site on the northern boundary of the city.
- The Mayfield Oasis Academy which will be developed on the Grove Park School site.
- The relocation of Regents Park Community College to the St Mark’s CE Junior/ former Civil Service Sports Ground site in Freemantle.
- The relocation of the Sholing Technology College to the Itchen College building.
Together with Cllr Brian Parnell and Cllr Michael Ball we have represented residents' wishes to protect the Civil Service Sports Ground from housing development and protect one of the last green playing fields in the city centre, and we have sought to secure central government funding (Building Schools for the Future Programme) to build a new school on the St Mark's site to serve the needs of the local community.
In January we will be formally authorising the Council's Director of Resources to take steps to acquire the former Civil Service Sports Association playing fields at the rear of the St Mark’s site from its current owner, Bovis Homes so that it can be developed as a playing field for St Mark’s CE Junior School and Regents Park Community College, and made available for community use.
The Council will work with the governing body of Regents Park Community College, the governing body of St Mark’s CE Junior School and the Board of Education of the Winchester Diocese of the Church of England with the aim of creating a learning campus on the St Mark’s CE Junior School site including both primary and secondary education.
As the newly selected Parliamentary Candidate for Southampton Test, top of my agenda will be pressing government to provide funds for these and other schools in the city.
I was delighted to be selected as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Southampton Test last month. Since then my work load has shot up with lots of local meetings in the city. I am thoroughly enjoying it.
Freemantle Infant School
I have signed up as a School Governor for Freemantle Infant School. I have had one Governor's meeting so far and another is set for later this month. I was really impressed by the head teacher / Centre Director, Kevin Barnett and by all the school governors. They are all doing a fantastic job, both for the school and the local community as well. I am really pleased to be working with such a great bunch of people.
St John's Infant School
I spent an enjoyable lunch time at St John's School in the old town. I had a lovely Christmas dinner with the children and had the chance to talk about the forthcoming review of primary education in the city with teachers.
Protecting Family Housing
I have been working hard with local residents in objecting to inappropriate developments across Freemantle Ward. Over the Christmas period I met up with residents in Paynes Road who are objecting to the destruction of 2 family homes next to the Spitfire Antiques shop.
The new Conservative Council is bringing forward more local planning guidance to protect family housing in the city later this month. The Conservative Cabinet are due to approve a new Supplementary Planning Document which will strengthen our local planning powers.
Kentish Road / York Road Cut Way
My colleague, Cllr Michael Ball and I have been talking with residents and council officers about the problem of teenager gangs congregating and intimidating residents in the area and are seeking the views of people about how best to sort the problem.
One suggestion made is that a gating order be sought, that would restrict access to the pedestrian cut-through between Kentish and York Road. This proposal has been raised with Rights of Way (Planning), Community Safety and the Youth Service. The general consensus at present is that it is extremely difficult to gate the pathway. This is because at present there have not been enough reported incidents to support it being gated.
The pathway provides a short cut to the health centre and other facilities for many people who live in the area, so perhaps you may not favour it being cut-off. Elderly people in particular use the cut way and any alternative route would be longer.
However, Community Safety, the Police and Youth Service are aware of the ongoing problems with gangs in the area and are conducting intensive operations and continuous work in the area and have recently had some success with ‘catching’ some of the offenders and serving various orders on them.
We have put the issue on the agenda for the next Freemantle Inter-agency meeting. Community Safety and the Youth Services have been invited to attend to give their views. The Council lighting department has also been requested to look at the lack of lighting in the area to see if they can improve facilities.