Monday, 30 January 2012

RIP Cllr Pearl Hicks

The death has been announced of long serving town councillor Pearl Hicks.  Pearl had been admitted to hospital following a stroke and a fall resulting in a broken hip.  She died in the early hours of 23rd January.

The Hedge End Town Council web site today carried the following tribute:

"It is with great sadness that the Town Council announces the death of Cllr. Pearl Hicks after a short illness. Pearl had served the community as Councillor for many years and most recently for the St Helen's Ward. Renowned for her strength of character and determination, membership of the Community and Culture Committee, contributing to the Christmas Lights festivities and Chairman of the Council 2007/2008, she will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

As a mark of respect the Town Council offices will close on the morning of Wednesday 1st February 2012 during the funeral service to be conducted at the Wessex Crematorium at 09.30am. Donations in memory of Pearl are to be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Society."

In the time I knew Pearl she had been chair of the Town Council and chair of the Community Events and Grants Committee.  She was dedicated to Hedge End and was proud that her late husband Ray had also been chair of the Council.

Frustrated in recent months that failing health was affecting her mobility and ability to keep serving the community to the same standard, she still turned out for the Hedge End Christmas Lights event in December.

Pearl had also been chair of the local Lib Dems, but always put Hedge End before party.   She was one of the Lib Dem members who actively stayed in touch after I resigned from the party.  I will miss Pearl, and so will Hedge End Town Council.

Update Wednesday 1st February - Hedge End Town Clerk Kevin Glyn-Davies delivered an excellent eulogy at Pearl's funeral today.  I hope he has it typed up and published on the Town Council web site, as it gives a far more comprehensive summary of her service to our community.

(Photo credit: Hedge End Town Council)

Friday, 27 January 2012

Green Field or Car Park?

Threatened green space
The fate of one of Hedge End's fast disappearing green spaces will be decided on Monday when the Lib Dem Local Area Committee of Eastleigh Borough Council have to decide whether to push ahead with unpopular plans to extend the (rarely full) station car park.

A survey of nearby residents in June last year revealed overwhelming opposition to the plan.  The Lib Dems clearly did not like this result as they commissioned another consultation in September, this time asking people living even further away what they thought.  Even this exercise revealed a large majority against more concrete and tarmac.

In the face of local opposition and with the burden of a "Save Our Countryside" election promise last May, our councillors have a difficult decision.  The report to be presented recommends going ahead with the plan despite acknowledging that average occupancy of the existing parking spaces is only 70-75% and that even a £3 parking charge (which would be retained to pay for the extension) diverts commuter parking into nearby residential roads, for which there is evidence in my July blog post - here.

Other agenda items of interest to Hedge End are:

Allocation of funds totalling £11,000 to various youth and community organisations

Financial support for Community Speedwatch (Upper Northam Road, Turnpike Way, Botley Road and Kings Copse Ave are mentioned as early candidates)

Investment of £23,000 in library equipment to help Conservative Hampshire County Council cut back on paid staff in Hedge End library  (See earlier blog post - here).

The meeting starts at 7:00pm in the 2000 Centre and is open to the public.  The full agenda is on the Council web site - here.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Street Snooker - Town Council Consults

Street snooker outside the Crucible

Whatever happened to jumpers for goalposts?  Street Snooker could be coming to a recreation ground in Hedge End.   The Town Council is consulting on whether to install one or more of these new games, which have recently been featured on BBC TV.

From a personal point of view I have concerns about how much they would really be used and for how long after the initial novelty wears off, and about the visual impact of a bright green wall on people who use our recs for informal leisure and relaxation, and whose houses overlook the rec.  Greta Park, Turnpike Way and Dowd's Farm Park have been mentioned as possible locations.

Details of the consultation are on the Town Council web site - here -, and I do hope that as many people as possible make their views known to the Council and their Councillors so that we can make an informed decision on how to spend your money.

You can email me at if you do not want to leave a comment on this blog.

Picture credit - zawtowers

Monday, 23 January 2012

Library Costs Treble in Three Months

Something fishy in the figures has emerged following the County Council's consultation on reducing the opening hours of Hedge End library.

Both Hedge End Town Council and Eastleigh Borough Council opposed the Conservatives' plans to close the library on Wednesdays.  Discussions between the three bodies involved resulted in a plan to maintain the existing opening hours by recruiting volunteers and installing self-service scanning kiosks.  The Town Council would recruit the volunteers and the Borough (in the form of the HEWEB Local Area Committee) would assist with the provision of the hardware.

In November it was reported (to the Community and Culture Committee of the Town Council) that each kiosk would cost in the region of £7,000.   Next Monday, the LAC will be asked to approve a report which puts the costs at £22,800 per kiosk, a huge increase in just three months.

Link to Hedge End Blogger post on the consultation (2nd November)

Link to Eastleigh News article on the call for volunteers (22nd January)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Shamblehurst By-Election Date Set

The by-election caused by the resignation of Lib Dem Cllr David Humby after only eight months of his four year term will take place on 1st March.   The date was confirmed at the 12th January meeting of the Town Council Finance and Administration Committee.

The Town Council will foot the bill for the by-election, which is estimated to be in the region of three to four thousand pounds.  Polling will take place at St Luke's Church on St David's Day, but as was pointed out by Cllr Keith House at the meeting, postal votes are likely to be key to electoral success.

Turnout for parish / town council by-elections is usually very low.   Electors who apply to vote postally show that they are more likely to vote than not.  It will therefore be in the interest of candidates to make sure they get their messages out before the postal voting slips are delivered.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

By-Election Looms

Following the resignation before Christmas of Lib Dem Town Councillor David Humby, the Conservatives have stated that they have collected the necessary signatures from local residents to call for a by-election in Shamblehurst Ward.

It looks as if the Tories are better organised in Hedge End than they were in May last year when they failed to put up a single candidate in the Town Council elections.

The Lib Dems could only put up a full slate of candidates in May by pulling in members from West End and Botley.  Will they find a Hedge End candidate this time round? 

Labour are another party which failed to put up candidates for the Town Council in May, and they seemed to have problems finding local candidates for the Borough elections as well.  Has Ed Milliband's leadership inspired any Hedge End Labour supporters to stand for the Town Council?

UKIP did put up a candidate in May, so it is likely they will want to contest this by-election.

And then there is the possibility that a non-partisan resident might stand as an independent to represent Hedge End rather than a party's interests.

A Promise Kept

Good news for young people came Monday evening as the new Hedge End, West End and Botley Youth Partnership became a reality.

Nearly fifty local people filled the small hall at the Hedge End 2000 Centre as the meeting, chaired by Town Councillor, Borough Councillor and County Councillor Rupert Kyrle, approved a constitution establishing a committee of trustees to keep youth services - including The Box in Wildern Lane - running across the three parishes in the face of swingeing cuts imposed by the Conservative County Council.

As Rupert said in his opening remarks, a promise had been made to the HEWEB Youth Council that The Box would be kept open, and Monday's meeting was a major milestone towards the keeping of that promise.   It is still not clear if the County will impose any conditions on the transfer of the building itself and other assets to the partnership, but people were optimistic that agreement would be forthcoming.

 The first committee will consist of some local councillors (including Hedge End Town Councillors Dan Clarke and Jenny Hughes in addition to Rupert) and representatives from the Scouts, the Teenage Drop In Centre, YMCA, Wildern School, local churches, other youth organisations and even one non-aligned member of the public.  Meetings will be held in public at a time which allows young people from the Youth Council and other organisations to attend and give representations.

An emotional presentation by colleagues and young people also marked the departure of three local youth workers from Hampshire County Council.   One of them described the rewards of working with young people:  "They challenge, they question and they don't accept". 

Not a bad motto for all of us in week which saw County Leader Ken Thornber manufacturing a cabinet post for a party crony.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

House Hits Out at Hampshire Hogs

"Now is not the time to increase the size of the Cabinet,"  according to Hedge End Councillor Keith House - who is also leader of the Lib Dem opposition at Hampshire County Council and County member for Hamble-le-Rice.  Cllr House was responding to County Supremo Ken Thornber's decision to appoint Basingstoke Councillor Stephen Reid as his new "executive member for strategic development".

It is certainly a fair comment that at a time of austerity, public service cuts and redundancies, it is politically inept even to give the appearance of manufacturing a job for a party crony, particularly when it has been done - according to the Echo report here - without any public debate or consultation.

Unfortunately attention has been partly deflected away from the substance of the report into a party political handbag fight over whether the Conservatives have been unduly secretive or whether the Lib Dems have breached a confidence.  The gory details of who sent which email to whom are documented by Eastleigh News here.

Cllr House goes on to claim that with a reduced budget and fewer staff it should be possible to run Hampshire with a smaller cabinet.   Again, that is a fair comment, but it does raise the question what is the best size for a cabinet. 

Let's take Eastleigh Borough Council as a good example.

Cllr House is the executive leader of Eastleigh in much the same way that Cllr Thornber is the leader at Hampshire.  When introducing efficiency savings in 2011, Eastleigh chose to keep its cabinet the same size and instead to reduce the number of local area committee meetings to be held in public and to sack two of its scrutiny panels. 

Eastleigh in consequence has eight cabinet members for a council of 44 members.  Even with Cllr Reid's elevation to executive status Hampshire will only have ten cabinet members for a council of 78.  If Eastleigh were to reduce its cabinet to match Hampshire in proportion to the council size, Cllr House would have to sack two of his Lib Dem cabinet colleagues.

Hampshire estimates it spends about £1,913 million on services(1), so just under £200 million per cabinet member.  In comparison, Eastleigh's budget of £61 million works out at less than £8 million per cabinet member.

Eastleigh employs about 500 people, which gives a cabinet member to employee ratio of one to 60.  Hampshire, with an employee count of about 40,000, has one cabinet member for every 4,000 employees.

It was perhaps unwise of Cllr House to draw attention to reduced budget and employee headcount in calling for a smaller cabinet when Eastleigh's own budget and staff are so much smaller than Hampshire's and his own cabinet is almost the same size as Cllr Thornber's.  Direct comparisons are difficult to make, but when there are orders of magnitude in the difference between the two councils, it is justifiable to ask whether one or two of Eastleigh's portfolios could be combined in the interest of further efficiencies.

Cllr House is quite right to point out inappropriate spending by Hampshire and to question unnecessary secrecy in the County's decision making processes, but he needs to make sure his own back yard at Eastleigh is beyond reproach as well.

(1) All figures are taken from the councils' own web sites
(Picture credit Joy Schoenberger)