The debate over the future of Andover’s Guildhall took a fresh turn this weekend when Andover Lib Dem councillors announced they would pay for using the Guildhall for councillors’ surgeries. Councillors’ surgeries, once held monthly, are now held fortnightly in the Upper Guildhall. The additional meetings were introduced at the request of Sir George Young MP who attends all the surgeries.
The Lib Dems have long argued that the surgeries promoted and organised by Sir George’s office and North West Hants Tories are political and as such councillors should pay for the use of the room. Local Tories have refused to pay and even threatened to open a school as an alternative if forced to do so.
Recognising the need for residents to have somewhere to meet their councillors and MP, Lib Dem councillors have agreed to attend the surgeries but will make a donation to charity in lieu of payment for the room. I have written to the organisers of the surgeries advising of this. I am also requesting co-operation from the organisers to ensure a local councillor is available to meet residents whenever possible.
MPs and councillors, both borough and county, receive a communications allowance to cover costs of meeting constituents. It is unreasonable for us to also expect free use of council buildings. The surgeries are organised by North West Hants Tories primarily for the benefit of the local MP and county councillors. We can all afford to pay and should do so. Test Valley council taxpayers should not be expected to foot the bill.