On Wednesday evening Andover based Conservative councillors forced through the immediate disposal of the Test Valley Borough Council Offices site in Duttons Road, Romsey.  A proposal to delay the disposal proposed by Conservative Councillor Collier of Romsey Abbey ward was defeated after a long and sometimes acrimonious debate.    Councillor Hurst, the Test Valley Liberal Democrat Group Leader, commented that there were just too many uncertainties about the future of Romsey to be certain that Duttons Road would not eventually be required for a community use, such as car parking, or as office space.

“Unfortunately the Tory cabinet was blinded by the prospect of a large capital receipt and were prepared to sacrifice the future of Romsey so they could get their hands on it as soon as possible”, he said.    He continued; “There is no need to rush into this disposal, the council has just unnecessarily raised the council tax charge by 4.1% and the financial reserves are very healthy.   Nor would a delay mean that the receipt would be foregone for ever because when the future direction of Romsey is clearer, and it is known that the Duttons Road site is not required for anything else, then it can and should be sold.   The current commercial offers for the site are to meet a need which is simply not going to go away and may even get greater over the next few months.   In the meantime the site can be used to ease the car parking problems in Romsey”.

Support for the delay in disposal was not party political.  It was supported by a large majority of Southern Test Valley Councillors of both political hues.  Councillor Hurst said “We are now seeing that the closure of Duttons Road Council Offices and the withdrawal to Andover was more than just a rationalisation of office space.  The Test Valley administration is turning its back on Romsey and ignoring the views of Romsey residents and their Councillors.  It looks like they see Romsey simply as a source of cash and a dumping ground for housing”.

Once again Test Valley’s Tory leadership is forcing through the sale of the family silver (our assets) to balance the books and pay for their top heavy, expensive administration at Beech Hurst.

Campaigning in Pilgrims and River Ways

Yesterday I went out talking to residents and campaigning in Pilgrims Way and River Way. It was good to hear positive views from them about how they are working together to improve their local environment. It’s also encouraging to see the hard work put in by their borough councillors Nigel Long and Katherine Bird is having a real impact on these estates.

What was disappointing was to hear that residents are not always getting the support and help needed from their councils and housing associations to sort real and immediate problems. More work is needed to deal with the state of the roads and paths, with overgrown trees and poor lighting. If elected county councillor I will work with Nigel and Katherine to get problems on these estates and across Andover dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Tories split on council tax

I see Alamein’s Tory councillors have dsitributed another of their In Touch leaflets.

In this they proudly announce that Hampshire County Council has frozen council tax. But, in smaller print, they admit the Tory controlled borough council has raised its council tax by a massive 4.1% and seek to distance themselves from it by saying none of them supported it. From what I remember of the council meeting they didn’t vote against the increase either, just made disapproving noises and then left the meeting before it ended. However you interpret their views its obvious the local conservative group are hopelessly split on how much council tax you should pay and what they should spend it on. Time for some changes at county and borough level??

I also notice they are pictured posing beside repaired potholes on Caerleon Drive. What a pity they didn’t take the time to visit Ryon Close or Viking Way while in the area. The potholes there are disgraceful and have been so for months.

Road safety at Knights Enham school

Photo 5 Knights Enham School

Residents in Tintagel Close have contacted me about the crossing on KIng Arthur’s Way from Tintagel Close to the local school (picture above).

Although there is traffic calming (single lane traffic, and 20mph limit sign along the road) this crossing is not as safe as it could be. I agree and so do the local police and school staff. I have contacted Hampshire Highways asking for improvements here in particular can they install -safety barriers along the pavements as they have further along, barriers to prevent children running or cycling straight out from the footpath into traffic and better slow down and speed restriction signs.

As usual I have yet to receive a response but will keep chasing them until I get an answer on this problem.

Thank you Viking Way

Out and about again this week speaking to residents in Viking Way. Thank you for your positive response and my apologies to anyone I missed. I’ll try and call back later but if you need to speak to me in the meantime please phone or email.

As in other areas residents are disgusted with the condition of  local roads and speeding traffic in the area. The state of Viking Way is appalling and untouched despite several people reporting it. The potholes are dangerous and should be filled immediately. No doubt the county council are waitiing in the hope that the developers at Augusta Park will do the job for them!!

Residents also expressed concerns about the increase, and speed of traffic, in the area, especially outside the school entrance. I have raised this before with Hampshire Highways and will continue to push for proper crossings both on Viking Way and on Roman Way. Local residents and their children deserve decent roads and safe crossings especially on roads destined to be some of the main access routes to the new housing at Augusta Park. This is the least the council and the developers can do for all those already inconvenienced  by the new housing developements in the area.


Police to respond to residents concerns on Smannell Road

On Monday we had another succesful meeting of the Roman Way Forum attended by residents from Roman Way and Cricketers Way.

Unfortunately our local PCSO was unable to attend because she was dealing with a police incident elsewhere, but all the comments about policing were passed on to her by town councillor Barbara Carpenter.

As a result of Barbara’s discussions with the police I can report that (1) police will carry out speed checks on traffic using Smannell Road to ensure the 30mph limit is enforced and (2) patrols will be increased in Cricketers Way to deal with youth nuisance and vandalism.

If you have any other similar issues in the area let me or Barbara know and we will pass the details on to the police asking for action.

Thank you St Mary’s residents

Out yesterday canvassing, delivering campaign newspapers, and talking to residents in Recreation Road, Acre Path, Batchelors Barn Road, Colenzo Drive and Seville Crescent. Thank you for the positive response I received from everyone and apologies to those I missed. I’ll try and get back to see you later.

All the comments I received will be passed on to councillors and council officers for them to follow up.


Museum shut down?

Andover museum MarchConservative-run Hampshire County Council have admitted they plan to sell off our museums, art centres and cultural services.

Hampshire County Council plan to handover control of these vital services to a ‘Trust’, the Hampshire Solent Cultural Trust. Local people will no longer have a say on how our museums and art centres are run. Many fear that this move will put them at risk of more funding cuts, and even closure.

As a community we’ve fought hard to stop Conservative cuts to our local services. This news is yet another bitter blow to Andover. The Conservative County Council have ignored what local people have said and carried on regardless, cutting services while throwing taxpayers’ money down the drain funding their own vanity projects. The museum sell-off proposal follows news that the county council is set to shed another 60 jobs from libraries, museums and community services on top of the plan to axe another 165 posts in adult social care.

Everyone knows times are hard and councils need to tighten their belts, but while making these cuts Hampshire Conservatives have stashed a staggering £300 million in the county bank! That money is just sitting in their reserves while they cut services that hit the most vulnerable people in our society.

I want to see less waste and more resources going to the frontline services we all rely on.

Labour can’t win here

Local residents have been asking the question – who will really stand up for Andover?

With Labour coming a distant THIRD in our area at the last election, and FOURTH at the recent Eastleigh by-election, and with JUST ONE Labour County Councillor across all of Hampshire, many local people have ruled Labour out of the race for this May’s crucial County election.

The choice for residents is expected to be between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.

 Andover Voice spoke to Sarah, a local mum, about her views on the up-coming choice for local people. Sarah told the Voice, “Many of my friends and neighbours simply don’t trust the Conservatives – they’ve let our area down so badly and I’m worried about their cuts to local services like Sure Start centres will affect my children’s’ future.”

“I’m backing the Lib Dem this time: Len Gates and the local Lib Dems work hard all-year-round and have been fighting alongside local people for an end to the Conservative County’s school places shortage crisis, while trying to stop the cuts to our local services”, Sarah added. “Andover residents want a strong team to stand up for our area and put Andover first.”

Thank you Sarah for your words of support.

Disgraceful tax increase

I am appalled by Tory controlled Test Valley Borough Council’s decision to increase our council tax by over 4% (see previous post). This comes at a time when the majority of Andover’s residents are lucky if they get any pay increase at all.

Listening to the debate at the council meeting what came across was that the increase could be imposed without fear of sanctions so they’d do it. The decision means the council loses £60,000 of government grants to keep council tax down. At the same time councillors voted to put a further £1.6 million tax payers’ money into reserves to fund future vanity projects.

TVBC already holds over £76 million in the bank and has for years used the interest from that money to fund services. Those days are gone and the Tory leadership can no longer balance the books without imposing increases on Andover’s residents. Two years ago they promised to freeze parking charges only to put them up a year later. What lies in store next year?

Almost every other council in Hampshire has frozen charges. If the county council can freeze charges then so should TestValley. The arrogant assertion by one councillor that this is “a small increase, soon forgotten” is disgraceful.

The increase was supported by just 21 of the borough’s 48 councillors. The bill must be paid by every one of the borough’s taxpayers. Councillors should look after the interests of those taxpayers. They have failed miserably.