Thursday, 11 December 2014

Is it Keith "Million Houses" House?

Bulldozers are poised in our green fields... 
Gone are the days when Hedge End Lib Dems had any credibility when they promised to "stand up against developers" and "save our green fields". Now hard-working Hedge End Councillor and Lib Dem leader Keith House has a government job working out how councils can help developers build even more houses. He is rapidly becoming a full time lobbyist for the housing developers.

At the recent party conference he supported the destruction of the green belt in the pursuit of the Lib Dem target of building 300,000 houses a year.

He is working in cahoots with a Conservative housing development lawyer and lobbyist for a "million houses" to "examine how councils could access finance in innovative ways to get more homes built".

Here he is seeking plaudits from fellow Lib Dems after being given the Local Authority Housing Review job by coalition crony Eric Pickles: link to Lib Dem Voice blog.

He even got a name check in George Osborne's Autumn Statement for that!

Cllr House has a famous capacity for hard work. As well as his work finding ways for councils to pour more concrete on our green fields, he is on the board of the Homes and Community Agency which exists to build more houses, particularly on publicly owned land. He is also the Lib Dem lead for housing at the Local Government Association.

With so many other jobs where his success depends on building more and more houses, it must be hard to even consider turning down more development in Eastleigh and Hedge End.

Here he is supporting development in Sunderland....

 And here in Newcastle....

Photo Credit: (1)David Neal (2)@NatalieElphicke (3)@CllrKeithHouse

Sunday, 7 December 2014

More on that Resignation

Following the news last week that Cllr Jenny Hughes had resigned from Hedge End Town Council and Eastleigh Borough Council, the plot deepened over the weekend. Another email arrived from Jenny in which she says:

"Thank you for your email. I was just wondering if you could publish a correct date for me. I resigned from council on the 28th November at 7:30am so am surprised to read that it was received and announced on the 2nd December, I feel that the cover up about when I resigned should be questioned. It also raises the question of how much control does Keith House have over Hedge End TC?"

So according to a Lib Dem insider, there was a cover up, and Cllr House has some kind of control over Hedge End Town Council. We need to bear in mind that he is leader of the local Lib Dems, and leader of the Borough Council, and leader of the Lib Dem group on the County Council, but on the Town Council the only formally elected role he holds is chair of the strategy and personnel committees. And the strategy committee has not met since October 2012.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Lib Dem Svengali's New Secret

Cllr Jenny Hughes has resigned as a Hedge End Town and Borough Councillor. This is reported at length on Eastleigh News and The Hedge End Trumpet.

Some of the questions and speculation on those sites are answered by an unsolicited email Hedge End Blogger has received from Jenny. In it she unambiguously puts the responsibility for any delay in publicly announcing her resignation with Lib Dem leader Cllr Keith House who, she says, was trying to keep it quiet. You have to admire Cllr House's svengali-like control over his councillors.

It has clearly been of benefit to the Lib Dems to keep this secret and avoid a potentially embarrassing council by-election with opinion polls putting them in fourth of fifth place behind the Greens and UKIP. I'm sure Cllr House would not like a repeat of Rochester and Strood in his own back yard.

Picture Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Your Million Pound Town Council

Hedge End Town Council is responsible for spending considerable sums of public money. For the last few years its annual budget has been approaching a million pounds.

The Finance and Administration Committee will discuss the draft budget for 2015-16 on Tuesday 2 December.  The bottom line expenditure figure before us will be £967,887, which is apparently achievable with the same precept (the amount the council needs to fund via your council tax) as this year.

The meeting is open to the public, as are all Town Council committee meetings. This will be the first time the committee discusses the budget and no decision on it will be made at this meeting, but there are five items for resolution:

To approve the Council's expenditure for the last three months
To approve new tenants for the temporary building at the Drummond Centre
To approve the purchase of some grounds maintenance equipment
To allow access to overhead telecommunications line at Dowd's Farm Park
To agree continued part funding of PCSOs (see "Where have all the PCSOs gone?")

Hedge End Councillor Calls for English Devolution

Cllr Keith House was one of 122 council leaders calling this week for more powers to be transferred from Westminster to local authorities. Representatives of independent councillors and three of the five main English political parties wrote to The Observer. Their letter called for an end to Coalition Cuts in order to protect services such as libraries, leisure centres and road maintenance. They went on to insist a fair distribution of tax and spending could only come with the transfer of powers away from central government.

(Picture credit: Hedge End Town Council)


Thursday, 27 November 2014

Will Hedge End employer pay living wage?

At November's Town Council, representatives of TKMaxx and HomeSense presented their proposals for a shared shop at the old Wickes site at the Tollbar Way / Botley Road junction.

The plans were interesting visually and the artist's impressions were certainly more attractive than the empty building as it is at the moment. The company will need to submit a new planning application because the current permission limits the type of goods that can be sold there.

A lot was made at the presentation of the benefits to the local economy with the estimate of 46 full time equivalent jobs at the new shops. This gave me the chance to ask if the organisation was a living wage employer. (The living wage is calculated according to the cost of living, and is voluntary on the part of employers. In 2014 it is £7.85, higher than the statutory minimum wage of £6.50.)

The consultants present at the meeting did not know the answer, but offered to find out for me. Just one week later a reply has come via the Town Clerk. Here is the answer to the simple question "Are TKMaxx and Homesense living wage employers?":

Please find below a response from TJX Europe (owners of TKMaxx and HomeSense) on the query raised at the meeting by Cllr Day:
At TJX Europe we know what an important part our people play in our success. We’re always looking for ways to recognise their contributions and reward their achievements. We review salaries on an annual basis, ensuring we remain competitive in the industry. We also operate assorted performance bonus schemes, dependent on the achievement of company targets.

I guess that's a "no" then.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Congratulations Keith

Hedge End councillor Keith House has been (I think re-) elected to the Lib Dems National Federal Executive Committee.

Although for some reason the party did not want him on their International Relations Committee.

(Picture credit Hedge End Town Council)

Monday, 24 November 2014

Lib Dems' £6 million plans for Hedge End

At November's local area committee meeting, Hedge End, West End and Botley councillors agreed their priority areas for the three parishes. So what do they plan to spend your money on in Hedge End?

Top of the list are community facilities associated with new developments at Woodhouse Lane and Foord Road. These are likely to depend on financial contributions from the developers involved.

Third is an uncosted proposal to provide new facilities for a scout group when the recycling centre at Shamblehurst Lane is replaced by housing.  As I reported last November this was an embarrassing omission from the local plan.

Fourth is £700,000 to expand Hedge End library "in line with local housing and population growth".

Fifth is £685,000 for refurbishment and improements at the Wildern Leisure Centre and Berry Theatre.

At number six we have £35,000 for The Box youth services, including a new mini bus.

At number seven £250,000 for the Norman Rodaway pavilion and playing field, including nearly £100,000 for floodlights for Hedge End Rangers.

But item eight seems to require the football team to relocate to Woodhouse Lane in order to upgrade facilities to FA standards. I'm not sure why even the Lib Dems would spend a quarter of a million pounds at Norman Rodaway and then make Hedge End Rangers move to a new ground.

The Drummond Centre, Village Hall and Hedge End Youth  & Community Association (HEYCA) each have more than £100,000 earmarked for car parking, lighting and other improvements.

Item 12 is another uncosted one to improve access to facilities in line with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Item 13 is £85,000 for a future upgrade of the Locke Road play area.

"Enhancements" to the tune of £45,000 are proposed at the skateboard park at Woodhouse Lane.

Turnpike Way recreation ground and the surrounding green spaces have £190,000 allocated.

Greta Park has £250,000 for "improvements" including (much needed) drainage.

Woodhouse Lane recreation ground has £58,000 for lighting in the car park and other improvements.

Up to £40,000 will be spent on a green corridor in Grange Park.

£250,000 is allocated for community safety initiatives (street lights, safer paths, road crossing points, cctv etc.)

There is an uncosted item for ongoing "desirable" improvements at the Albert Road cemetery.

£880,000 for "major environmental improvements" for Hedge End centre.

Various sums are allocated for future play area renewals at Aspen Close, Westward Road, Beattie Rise, St John's Recreation Ground and Nelson Gardens.

£49,000 has been planned for public art, including new heritage signs similar to the one shown above.

In total the Lib Dems' wish list comes in at a staggering £6.2 million - and that is just the costed items. With their own party at Westminster collaborating with the Tories to throttle local government spending, it's not clear where the Lib Dems plan to get the money for all these projects.

Full details are in the report to the 10 November local area committee meeting (here).

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Rochester and Strood - a local comparison

The last time the Hedge Town Council Wildern ward was up for election, even the unsuccessful Lib Dem candidate got more votes than the Lib Dems did in the entire Rochester and Strood constituency at the recent parliamentary by election.

On Thursday the Lib Dem candidate had 349 votes. Here is a reminder of the Wildern result from 2011:

Hedge End (Wildern)

(Three seats)
Name of Candidate Party Votes
DAY, Keith Philip Independent 434 Elected
FRASER, George Balneaves Liberal Democrat 377
HOUSE, Keith Liberal Democrat 602 Elected
WATSON, June Veronica Liberal Democrat 512 Elected
  % Poll 40.48

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Another £360,000 for the Rose Bowl

Local Lib Dem councillors voted on Monday to transfer another huge chunk of public money to the Rose Bowl project. And on Wednesday Nick "no more broken promises" Clegg arrives at the Rose Bowl for a photo opportunity. Coincidence? Perhaps.

I know the cricket ground is currently called the Ageas Bowl, but sponsorship is temporary, tradition is permanent. So I will continue to call it the Rose Bowl to be consistent with this post from 2012.

It was 10:30pm before the last agenda item of the HEWEB Local Area Committee was considered. There was only one other member of the public left. We had shown more stamina than two Lib Dem councillors who had walked out before the end of the meeting. But I was determined the proposal to donate £360,000 to the Poseidon boxing club which is based at the Rose Bowl should not go through on the nod at the end of a busy evening.

I thought £360,000 was a lot of money in today's economic environment. The councillors agreed.

The £360,000 was originally earmarked for countryside and biodiversity purposes. I thought if it was not going to be used for the original project at Moorgreen nature reserve, then it should be assigned to other countryside projects. The councillors disagreed on the grounds that a boxing club is "recreational" so in line with the original developer's contribution agreement. This despite Cllr Tennant complaining earlier in the meeting that there was no money to address drainage problems at Itchen Valley Country Park.

However Cllr House did agree to one concession which was not in the agenda proposal. When Eastleigh Borough Council eventually sells the Rose Bowl, the £360,000 will be returned to the local area committee and won't disappear into the corporate coffers. Which is fine as long as there is somebody around at that time in the future who remembers the agreement made in 2014.

I also thought it was misleading to promote boxing as a healthy pursuit when there is a lot of controversy about the risks to participants. The agenda also claimed almost half Poseidon's membership were aged 14-25, but the club's own web site shows they want to attract children as young as seven.

From a personal point of view, I don't want to ban adults from boxing, but the arguments of those that do want a ban are strong enough to convince me it is wrong to use public money to encourage them. I am even more convinced that it is wrong to use £360,000 of public money to encourage boys and girls as young as seven to embark on a pastime which could lead to their death or a life changing brain injury.

However most of the Lib Dems disagreed. Four considered they knew better than the British Medical Association and British Safety Council and voted to hand the money over. Two voted against and there was one abstention.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Children with autism not welcome here say Lib Dems

NIMBY local Lib Dems turned down a planning application to convert a Hedge End house to support children with complex needs arising from autism, life trauma and mental health problems.

The planning professional's report stated there would be no more traffic than would be expected from a "normal busy domestic family" and the house had "sizeable frontage which can easily accommodate any parking requirements without the need to park on the street". Yet Hedge End, West End and Botley councillors refused permission, saying the young people's support workers driving to the house would cause traffic and parking problems.

Warned that most of the proposed changes to the building did not need planning consent and that the proposed change of use was not a material consideration, Lib Dems nevertheless made clear what they thought at Monday's HEWEB local area committee.

One councillor said it was not appropriate in a quiet residential street. (What sort of street do they want children to live in?)

Another said the applicant should not be converting a normal house, but should move into a purpose-built building. (Why shouldn't children live in a normal house?)

The same councillor criticised the applicant for drawing attention to the children's needs by seeking consent in a public arena. (But five Lib Dem councillors insisted the application was debated in public.)

Another councillor referred to the inconvenience that would be caused to neighbours, and referred to  a previous application that had been refused for a pigeon loft as a precedent. (Rather an insensitive comparison.)

The same councillor considered the possibility that the applicant would appeal the decision and summed up with the Clint Eastwood quote: "Go ahead punk, make my day". The councillor was clearly playing to the gallery but it seems Lib Dems are brave against small social care organisations but cave in to the blandishments of big property developers.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Where Have All the PCSOs Gone?

A rare sight in Hedge End
Hedge End Town Council is getting worried. For many years the council has made a contribution towards the funding of PCSOs. That is £14,000 of Hedge End taxpayers' money in the current financial year.

In return the police should deploy two PCSOs in Hedge End and agree areas for them to patrol with the council. But that has not been happening.

When did you last see a PCSO in Hedge End?

Things came to a head in July when no PCSOs were available to attend an incident of anti-social behaviour at Hedge End's much loved children's paddling pool. Recently co-opted Lib Dem councillor Nathan Khan was disappointed to learn that two PCSOs had been allowed to take leave on the same day. As a result of Nathan's persistence, the current inspector at Hedge End police station came along to the September council meeting.

As is recorded in the minutes, members were not convinced that the public is getting value for money at the moment. Coalition cuts to police funding from central government have led to the front desk at Hedge End police station being closed to the public. Now it looks like our PCSOs are being used to plug gaps in police resource elsewhere. They are certainly not visible in the Hedge End community at the moment.

The debate continued at the October meeting of the Finance and Administration committee. The question was raised whether the Town Council should continue to fund PCSOs if they were not being deployed in Hedge End. The answer to that is clearly "no". The Town Council can only spend Hedge End taxpayers' money to the benefit of Hedge End.

Although it is not in the minutes, we were told at the meeting that West End and Botley parish councils have exactly the same concerns (and they make financial contributions to PCSOs too). If that is true where on earth are the police sending all our PCSOs?

Do you think Hedge End should be subsidising gaps in the police budget elsewhere in Hampshire? Let me know either by commenting here or by email to

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Lib Dems "Disdain" for Local People

A furious Hedge End resident has accused the Lib Dems on the HEWEB Local Area Committee of treating local residents with "disdain". Speaking for large numbers of people who had rearranged work, leisure and voluntary commitments to attend Monday's meeting, the local voter called into question the Council's commitment to local democracy.

The "special" committee meeting had been called to decide a controversial planning application for nearly a hundred houses between St Johns Road and Dodwell Lane. But that item was deferred without debate, discussion, public participation or even questions from members. People who made their way to the 2000 Centre to have their say, or just to listen to the debate, had wasted their time.

A couple of senior councillors were clearly annoyed that they were not allowed to speak or ask questions about the decision to defer. And residents in the public gallery voted with their feet and left the meeting.

Eastleigh Lib Dems were criticised in October when people missed the chance to speak on the Local Plan because the meeting started earlier than the published time.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

How Do Lib Dems Cut Services Without Cutting Services?

From Borough News - Autumn 2013
By making them somebody else's problem is the way they do it in Eastleigh. For some years Eastleigh Lib Dems have been transferring responsibilities away from the Borough to Town and Parish Councils. This allows them to keep Borough council tax increases below the rate of inflation. But residents still end up paying through their Town or Parish precept.

Only months after taking credit in "Borough News" for a "fantastic new open space" at Berrywood Meadow, Lib Dem Eastleigh Borough wants to transfer responsibility for the area to the Town Council.

As reported in the minutes of this month's Finance and Administration Committee, The Town Clerk has had meetings with Borough officers about the transfer of Berrywood Meadow and other areas of public open space. These include:
  • Open Space at Coulsdon Road, 
  • Green areas at Cranbourne Park, 
  • Footpath and green corridors around Downscroft Gardens,
  • Locke Road Open Space, 
  • Open Space to rear of Missenden Acres, and
  • Various footpaths in Grange Park.
If the Town Council can maintain these green spaces more efficiently and at lower cost to the Hedge End council tax payer than Eastleigh can, then I do not have a problem with the transfer. But we have to be clear there will be additional costs for the Town Council to bear in grounds staff time and equipment. It will be that much harder to avoid increases in the Town Council budget while the Lib Dems at Eastleigh will continue to crow about how they are keeping the council tax down without cutting services.

That is why I insisted at the meeting that we are given full and credible cost estimates before any agreement is made to transfer responsibility.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Hedge End Beat Report January 2014

Tories Wake Up to UKIP Threat

With five days to go to the Wildern by election, the Tories woke up this week and finally got a leaflet out. This means all five candidates, including Independent Ray Turner, have at least pushed something through our doors. Which is more than can be said of the (Lib Dem controlled) council. Voters will not be receiving polling cards in this penny pinching austerity by election.

Unfortunately (for the Tories) UKIP have followed up with a second leaflet today. 

Voting takes place on Thursday 13th February, between 7am and 10pm, at The Box in Wildern Lane.

Details of all the candidates are in the notice of poll on the Town Council web site.

See also:
Voters Wooed in Wildern
Have Tories Handed Wildern to UKIP? 
Leading Lib Dem Leaves as Poll Looms

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Leading Lib Dem Leaves as Poll Looms

Vice-chair of Hedge End Town Council and Borough member for St Johns ward, Cllr Peter Hughes is no longer carrying the yellow rosette of the Lib Dems. He is now shown as an Independent on both the borough and town council web sites.

Joined by Cllr Caitlin Bloom who splits her time between Grange Park and Leicester, Peter's desertion from the Lib Dems means there are now three Independents on the Town Council in the lead up to the Wildern by election on 13th February. Independence is growing faster than any of the political parties in Hedge End.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Have Tories Handed Wildern to UKIP?

There was no sign of life at Tory Party HQ in Hedge End when I walked past their "southern parishes" clubhouse today.

There is a town council by election on 13th February. The independent candidate, Ray Turner, UKIP, Labour and Lib Dems have all been delivering leaflets. But nothing from the Tories.

With 41% of Conservative members favouring some kind of electoral pact with UKIP, have our local Tories decided to stab their coalition partners in the back and let UKIP have a free run against the Lib Dems?

The Tories do have a record of not turning up in Eastleigh when the going gets tough...

Photo credit:

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Voters Wooed in Wildern

Candidates are shaping up and the first leaflets have been exchanged for the Wildern ward by election on 13th February.

Ray Turner (the independent candidate), Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP have all been active this weekend. Nothing from the Tories yet, but I see on Twitter that a fallen tree was blocking the drive to their plush HQ in Upper Northam Close. Perhaps they were all stuck in the billiard room. Or are they planning to give their coalition cronies another easy ride?

Some people have told me, "It's only a Town Council by election." But the Town Council has a budget of over £900,000 and a council tax precept of over £600,000. Voters in Wildern ward are being given the chance to have a say on who decides how to spend that money. I hope there is a reasonable turnout and whoever is elected has a real mandate from the people.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

MP Takes Town Council Badger Concerns to Secretary of State

Hedge End's MP Mike Thornton has offered to make the Town Council's views about the Coalition's disastrous badger cull policy known to the Secretary of State.

In November the Council supported an excellently researched resolution proposed by badger friendly Cllr Rupert Kyrle, pointing out the scientific shortcomings of the Coalition cull policy. Triple-hatted Cllr Kyrle had already steered his resolution through debates at Hampshire County and Eastleigh Borough Councils. As a result all three levels of local government for Hedge End have agreed that culling would not be permitted on their land if the Government decides in the future to extend the cull to Hampshire.

Hedge End Town Council took things one step further though, and supported my amendment to make its decision known to our MP and request that he oppose any extension of the cull in parliament.

At December's council meeting, the Town Clerk read Mike Thornton's reply. Although careful not to commit himself to voting one way or another, Mike pointed out that he had signed Early Day Motion 299. This motion attempts to ensure that MPs will have a vote on any extension of the cull.

He also offered to make Hedge End Town Council's views known to the Secretary of State at the appropriate time. The badgers killed in the 2013 pilot culls were not tested for bovine TB, so there has been no improvement to our knowledge of how prevalent the cow disease is in the wild badger population. What is more, as the culls failed, there are fears they may have increased the risk to cattle herds in the pilot areas.

Let's hope "Mike4Eastleigh" is also "Mike4Badgers" in 2014. By the way Mike, there is a new Early Day Motion on the subject for you to sign.

Picture credit: BadgerHero