Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The true cost of a Lib Dem council

Do Eastleigh Lib Dems really save you money?
The pro-austerity Lib Dems claim in Eastleigh that they save council tax payers money by restricting increases in council tax to rises at or below inflation. But does that really mean residents of Eastleigh Borough Council are better off?

One way Eastleigh Borough Council has saved money in recent years is by transferring services and maintenance of public amenities to compliant parish and town councils. The Borough can take those costs off their books, but what impact has it had on the parish and town council component of council tax?

In West End, the parish council charged a band D property £67.74 in 2007/2008. In 2017/2018 that has risen to £85.26 - an increase of 26%.

In the same period the Botley Parish Council precept rose from £88.19 to £106.42 - an increase of 21%.

Even Lib Dem dominated Hedge End Town Council increased its charge by 7% in the last ten years.

Secondly, there have been  massive increases in other charges and fees under the Lib Dems.

In 2007 you could park all day at Itchen Valley Country Park for  £1.50. In 2017 the Lib Dems charge you £4.00 - an increase of 167%. If you just want to park for an hour to walk your dog, the parking charge has gone up 120% from 50p to £1.10. Even a year's season ticket for parking has gone up 79% to £42.50.

Parking charges at Hedge End Railway Station were introduced in 2007 at £2.00. In ten years Lib Dems have increased all day parking at the station to £3.50 - up 75%.

The charge for collection of bulky waste items such as mattresses and furniture started at £26 in 2007. In 2017 you have to pay at least £54 - an increase of  108%.

In the same period the minimum charge for garden waste collection rose from £19 to £36 - up 90%.

Pest control charges have gone up by 23% for wasps, 90% for rats and 140% for mice.

A third consequence of Lib Dem policy is continued dependence on so-called section 106 agreements with developers to increase their funds. These agreements are described as follows:
"Planning obligations, also known as Section 106 agreements (based on that section of The 1990 Town & Country Planning Act) are private agreements made between local authorities and developers and can be attached to a planning permission to make acceptable development which would otherwise be unacceptable in planning terms."

By agreeing to allow developments that "would otherwise be unacceptable", the Lib Dems have raised funds in recent months for infrastructure and other projects in our local area:
£10,000 from various developers to pay for a footpath in Moorgreen Road, West End
£10,000 from various developers for a pedestrian / cycle way in Barbe Baker Avenue, West End
£10,000 from Barratts for improvements to tennis courts in West End
£55,000 from Bovis Homes to design a new roof for the Wildern swimming pool in Hedge End
£105,000 from Linden Homes for new children's playgrounds in West End.

This hardly seems a sustainable policy as the council tax freeze is partly paid for by endless housing development.

(Sources: www.planningportal.co.uk, www.eastleigh.gov.uk, Eastleigh Borough Council budget books for 2007/2008 and 2017/2018, Eastleigh Borough Council "corporate fees and charges" reports for 2007/2008 and 2017/2018,  minutes of HEWEB LAC meetings for March 2016, September 2016 and May 2017.)

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Time for Honesty and Openness

Local Lib Dems have cut the number of council meetings held in public and cut the number of democratic scrutiny panels. This means more decisions are made behind closed doors. The council must put more information in the public domain so that voters can scrutinise decisions with all the facts.

I have submitted a freedom of information request calling on the council to make public whether the debt they have incurred buying assets like the Ageas Bowl hotel is really offset by rental income. It asks for information about all council assets in Hedge End, West End and Botley.

At the moment the council have acknowledged, but not replied to my request. You can follow its progress online here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/assets_owned_by_eastleigh_boroug#incoming-992867

Did you know that in 2014 the Lib Dems diverted 360 thousand pounds of public money from the Moorgreen Meadows public nature reserve in Tollbar Way to the private boxing club at the Ageas Bowl?

Please use the comments facility of this blog or email me at hedgeendblogger@gmail.com if you have any questions about this post.

(This blog post is published and promoted on behalf of Keith Day, Eastleigh Labour Party, 69 Leigh Road, Eastleigh)

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Why vote Labour in Grange Park?

However you voted in the snap general election, your choice is different this time. The Lib Dems have an unassailable majority in the council chamber. There is no need to vote Lib Dem or Tory to keep the other side out in a by election. You can vote for the party you really support.

Seven years of Lib Dem and Tory rule have seen unprecedented cuts to our public services: NHS, police numbers, social care. Our public transport and roads are crumbling. We need to start rebuilding, and Labour has the answers and the leader.

With your support I can start the fight locally to oppose the ideological austerity which has failed to address the deficit and the debt.

The Conservatives are weak and wobbly with a lame duck leader. The Lib Dems are leaderless and rudderless. Polling shows that Labour has continued to win support since the general election result.

In Eastleigh, the Lib Dems stood still. Only Labour improved its vote share in line with the Tories.

Percentage vote share in Eastleigh 2015-2017 (source: BBC news website)

I will be posting soon about why we need proper honesty and transparency from our council, but in the meantime if you live in Grange Park and have any questions, do use the comments facility of this blog or email me at hedgeendblogger@gmail.com.

(This blog post is published and promoted on behalf of Keith Day, Eastleigh Labour Party, 69 Leigh Road, Eastleigh)

What's you favourite biscuit?

I have been asked on Twitter to name my favourite biscuit. Here is the answer:

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Who will defend Hedge End's green spaces?

Defending Green Spaces
"Local Lib Dems have broken their promises to defend our green spaces. The council's first defence against unwanted development is a Local Plan, and the Lib Dems have failed to come up with an agreed local plan.

It is likely the Lib Dems will combine with the Tories on the County Council to sell the fields opposite Hilliers in Woodhouse Lane for housing. If this goes ahead it is vital there is a watertight development brief which protects the important nature sites- Bottom Copse to the south and woodland and hedgerows to the west and north.

When Woodhouse Lane is widened for the long-promised Botley by-pass there must be adequate protection for Bottom Copse, a designated site of importance for nature conservation (SINC)."

The Lib Dem plan is now six years out of date
It is fair to say I have blogged quite a lot about defending green spaces as the local Lib Dems have struggled and failed to come up with an agreed local plan. Experience shows that once a green field is designated for development in the local plan, there is very little residents can do to object to planning applications on the site

Here is a previous blog post about the threat to Bottom Copse:


And an earlier post about the Conservative flip-flop to please the Lib Dems:


In the coming days I will explain a little more about why it is OK to vote Labour in Hedge End and why we need proper honesty and transparency from our council, but in the meantime if you live in Grange Park and have any questions, do use the comments facility of this blog or email me at hedgeendblogger@gmail.com.

(This blog post is published and promoted on behalf of Keith Day, Eastleigh Labour Party, 69 Leigh Road, Eastleigh)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Why am I standing in the by election?

As it says in the election leaflet currently being delivered in Grange Park:

"Keith Day has experience as a local councillor - four years on Eastleigh Borough Council and eight on Hedge End Town Council. He knows the ropes, which means he can represent you from day one. He has served his full term each time he was elected.

Keith is not afraid to speak out on behalf of local people. He was a witness for the Town Council when developers went to the High Court to try and force through an unpopular plan for huge blocks of flats in Hedge End. He challenged the Lib Dem decision to allow the controversial tree top adventure playground in Itchen Valley Country Park. Keith will be an independently minded representative for Grange Park in a Lib Dem dominated council chamber.

When he was a councillor, Keith kept his voters informed about what was going on. He has an online blog at hedgeendblogger.blogspot.co.uk - you can look it up if you have any questions for Keith.

Wildlife and the natural environment are important to Keith. He is a member of Hampshire Wildlife Trust and Hampshire Ornithological Trust".
Tomorrow I will explain a little more about why I think the Lib Dems have failed to keep their promises about defending our green spaces, but in the meantime if you live in Grange Park and have any questions, do use the comments facility of this blog or email me at hedgeendblogger@gmail.com.

(This blog post is published and promoted on behalf of Keith Day, Eastleigh Labour Party, 69 Leigh Road, Eastleigh)

It's election time again

At least for readers in the Grange Park area of Hedge End, as yet another Lib Dem councillor has failed to stay the course and resigned before they completed their term of office. A few months earlier and the by election could have happened at the same time as the County Council elections in May. A few months later and the Council could have legitimately limped on with just 37 Lib Dems until the planned elections in May 2018.  But no, just three weeks after the general election voters in Grange Park will have to tramp to the polling stations again to elect a councillor who will have to defend their seat in just ten months time.

That may explain why the tributes to outgoing Councillor Bloom at last week's local area committee meeting were somewhere on the spectrum from muted to non-existent. The committee chair gave a cursory run through of Cllr Bloom's achievements in making Grange Park a safe seat for the Lib Dems, while putting Eastleigh "on the map" with respect to recycling. When the chair invited other members to contribute he was met by an embarrassing silence. At least it was embarrassing for those of us in the public seats. The leader of the council seemed more interested in his mobile phone than in listening to any tribute to his erstwhile cabinet colleague.

However from a purely selfish point of view, I like elections. I am the complete opposite of that wonderful lady in Bristol who was interviewed at the start of the snap general election campaign. You won't get any"not another one" message from me. We need more and more frequent participation in the democratic process. We need to be able to tell our politicians when they are getting things right and when they are getting things wrong - and not just on Twitter and Facebook.

So I was honoured and humbled to be selected as the Labour Party candidate in the by election on June 29. Because the Labour Party is the party that is getting things right at the moment.  The snap general election has left UKIP and the Lib Dems leaderless and irrelevant. The Lib Dems might come back if they manage to find a decent leader amongst their dozen MPs and hundreds of lost deposits. However for now they are rudderless and we don't know if they will continue their doomed obsession with economic liberalism, austerity and cuts to public service, or if they will in desperation try to reconnect with any social liberals left in their ranks. The Conservatives might as well be leaderless. The snap election and the campaign before it showed Theresa May to be out of touch, unable or unwilling to think on her feet, fragile and gaffe-prone.

Jeremy Corbyn is the leader who has come out of the campaign as the strong, stable candidate with policies that give people hope rather than the despair of another five years of austerity. In Southport the Lib Dems lost the seat at the general election and Labour pushed them into third place. The outgoing MP has attributed their defeat to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and the Labour Party manifesto. Even Lib Dems think Labour has the right leader and the right policies.

The Grange Park by election is a local election, and voters will quite rightly look at the local candidates and decide on local issues. But the media and pundits will pounce on any polls during this period of political chaos to try and work out the implications for the national picture. Labour supporters in Grange Park have a unique chance to show they, too, are excited and empowered by the Corbyn surge. Labour supporters can vote for a party which will end austerity cuts to our local services and stop the privatisation and break up of the NHS.

Tomorrow I will explain a little more about why I am standing, but in the meantime if you live in Grange Park and have any questions, do use the comments facility of this blog or email me at hedgeendblogger@gmail.com.

(This blog post is published and promoted on behalf of Keith Day, Eastleigh Labour Party, 69 Leigh Road, Eastleigh)

Friday, 5 May 2017

Council threat to landmark tree

A mature oak tree at the entrance to Greta Park is under threat. A report commissioned by the Town Council identified problems with an unspecified fungal disease, and the Recreation and Amenities Committee are seriously considering felling the tree rather than attempting to save it.

The minutes of the April meeting state:
"The report describes extensive decay from three fungal fruiting bodies, lack of bark growth and a rib of reactive growth which is present from ground level to the main union. This is indicative of the tree responding to a possible structural weakness within the stem. The survey of the tree also has evidence indicating that a cavity or area of tissues with little or no structural integrity (sic). There is one stem that has died and has been cut back and this may be linked to the rib and cavity previously mentioned."

The options offered are to reduce the size of the crown, to investigate the disease more closely, or to fell the tree completely. The minutes go on to give the impression that the Council has already decided that felling it completely is the preferable option: "Even if the tree is retained it is likely to need a lot of work to enable this and even then this may not be a long term solution due to the significance of the decay fungi and the characteristic of the wood."

As the Council does not seem to know exactly what the disease is, how fast it is likely to develop or how long it will be (if ever) before the tree becomes a genuine threat to people's safety, surely further investigations and at least a second opinion are in order? The report talks of "possible structural weakness" and a "cavity" with no indication how large the cavity is. This is weak evidence on which to deprive future generations of a much-loved mature tree.

The ruling Lib Dems have ordered the town clerk to obtain quotations for felling the tree along with the other options, and these will be presented to the next committee meeting in the 2000 Centre on Wednesday 10 May at 7pm. The Council welcomes public participation at its meetings.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Frog spawn in Hedge End

We spotted frogspawn in two of Hedge End's ponds today.

According to the Freshwater Habitats Trust, frogs and other amphibians are among the wildlife at risk from a perfect storm of climate change, our continuing reliance on burning fossil fuels, poor planning and land management, and now - even - leaving the EU.

Looking at the state of some of Hedge End's ponds, it is not clear that our Lib Dem and Tory councils put much priority on maintaining our freshwater habitats. Let us hope that the much delayed local plan the Lib Dems promise for later this year will have some protection for those green spaces that remain, and is not just a blueprint for more housing and out of town shopping malls.

Meanwhile, if you see frogspawn in your garden or in one of Hedge End's parks or other open spaces, you can record it in the Freshwater Habitats Trust national survey.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Fit for the job!

When Hedge End councillor and leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, Keith House, posted this bit of harmless self publicity on his twitter feed I was reminded of The Brittas Empire comedy series starring the excellent Chris Barrie.


Although you can't always trust the images our local Lib Dems use in their literature. Another senior Hedge End councillor seemed to be having a go at her leader on Facebook....

It would seem the Lib Dems are quite happy to encourage us to get on our bikes as long as they can drive their cars to photo-shoots!