Liberal Democrats in the parish of Smannell have launched their own web blog to record and debate matters of local interest. Smannell is a Parish in Hampshire, North of Andover and encompasses the communities of Little London, Smannell, Woodhouse and Finkley. This site updates residents of the work of the Liberal Democrat Focus Team which includes Councillors Robin Hughes, Len Gates and Nigel Gooding. Residents, businesses are welcome to pose questions, and raise issues online which councillors can act or comment upon. The address of the blog is http://smannelllibdems.blogspot.com.
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.
Test Valley Borough Council have agreed to just two funfairs at Smannell Road open space this year. This follows some residents concerns about anti-social behaviour at last year’s fairs
Funfairs will be held from Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th April and from Thursday 11th to Saturday 13th September. At my request the organisers have agreed to extra conditions this year. This will include provision of public toilets and closer co-operation with police and neighbourhood wardens to prevent disorder.
Smannell Road is the best location for a funfair but the rights of local residents must also be protected. I am pleased the organisers have agreed to the extra conditions and am sure that the events will go off smoothly. I will be monitoring the situation and liaising with the police to ensure no problems occur.
Test Valley Tories have refused to back the campaign for and Andover Town Council. Andover Lib Dems sought council approval for a petition on favour of the council arguing the decision should be made by the people of Andover not the borough council. (See news of 17 December for the full motion). “The petition and campaign should be non-political and if demand were proven the borough should fully support the campaign” we argued.
Lead by council leader Ian Carr successive Tories rubbished the campaign and denigrated its organisers. They claimed to have no opinion either way themselves but refused to accept that Andoverians could and should make the decision.
We offered the Tories the opportunity to take the debate out of the political arena and recognise the democratic rights of the people to make the decision. Sadly they were too arrogant to accept the offer.