County budget cuts

I see Cllr Ken Thornber has started softening ther public up to cuts in staff and services at the county council “to meet government targets.” What a pity he didn’t think of costs before he authorised £43 million spending on his prestige headquarters in Winchester. No wonder its called the castle.

 All around the county there are district and borough council buildings under utilised. In Andover for instance there is empty office space at Test Valley’s Beech Hurst offices, some already used by Hampshire County Council. Why not cut the costs of offices in Winchester by relocating services out to where the council taxpayers are, in Andover and elsewhere. Not only would this save county council taxpayers money it would also give a valuable boost to cash strapped boroughs as well.

Support for Community Car Schemes

Test Valley Borough Council will continue to support Community car schemes despite the transfer of the Government’s concessionary fare scheme to Hampshire County Council. At Test Valley’s recent Council meeting a motion on car schemes which I proposed and Conservative Mrs Jan Lovell seconded was agreed unanimously.

Up until now the community car schemes have been funded in parallel to the government’s concesionary fare scheme but they are in fact quite separate from the government scheme. It is essential and that the council continue to promote and fund these schemes. With the county’s continual cutting of funding for conventional buses and the health authority’s recent scrapping of the Andover to Winchester hospital bus these services have become even more important. There  are eleven schemes in the borough which receive grants from Test Valley, the current cost of the grants to these schemes is about £58,000 a year.

Farepass under threat?

In a motion submitted to nextmonth’s borough council meeting I am calling for the county council to continue to provide all the discretionary elements of the borough’s current concessionary fare scheme (Farepass). The motion has cross party support and is seconded by Andover Harroway councillor Jan Lovell.

Changes introduced by the outgoing Labour government mean that from April next year concessionary fares will be the responsibility of Hampshire County Council who may not fund all the services such as all day travel, companion passes and travel vouchers currently provided by Test Valley. The county council has recently carried out a public consultation asking borough councils and other interested parties to prioritise which additional discretionary services they would like continued. If services are rationalised across the county many of the existing Test Valley provisions may be cut.

Test Valley’s official response is to prioritise (1) use of Farepass on dial-a-ride schemes, (2) companion passes for those unable to travel independently and (3) travel vouchers for those unable to access buses. My motion argues the existing provisions are well researched and necessary to meet the needs of local residents and that the county council should continue to provide all of them. Access to buses is vital to many of elderly and disabled residents. The current scheme is the result of detailed work to get the best possible deal for residents. It is justified and appropriate to meet local needs and should not be sacrificed to meet short term cost savings in Winchester.

The motion also calls for Test Valley to continue to support and promote community car schemes to supplement public transport across the borough. Community groups have an important role in providing transport. This is quite separate from the government funded Farepass scheme and it’s essential that Test Valley continues to support these schemes.

The full text of the motion can be found at

Buses update #3

Hospital bus

On 29 June, the Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust confirmed that they will not be extending the contract for the Andover Hospital Shuttle Bus service beyond 31 August 2010. The Trust has said that this was a difficult decision, but that it has been reached owing to the increasing financial constraints the current economic situation will place on public sector bodies. The passenger numbers whilst consistent, they say, are relatively low – an average of 2.97 passengers per journey.

The Trust has stated that ‘the improved Outpatients Department at Andover Hospital provides a different opportunity for local services, yet to be fully exploited, but this may, itself, reduce the need for patients to travel to Winchester.’ Test Valley council officers who are working to ensure all users have as much notice as possible so they can make alternative arrangements.

While I appreciate the Trust’s need to get value for money it is unacceptable to pull this service without first making sure all the patients using it have access to alternative means of getting to Winchester. I also wonder why the trust hasn’t looked at its running costs before closing the service. If they only have 3 passengers per journey surely a minibus or taxi would be cheaper than a bus.

I will be following this up with council officers and other interested organisations.

Buses update #2

From next April the concessionary fare passes currently issued by Test Valley Borough Council will be administered by Hampshire County Council instead. The county council is currently carrying out consultations on the existing system and a series of meetings has been organised to seek public views.

This may mean changes to the current generous system offered by Test Valley as other parts of Hampshire do not offer all the extras such as all day travel, companion passes and travel vouchers curently offered by TVBC. I and your other TVBC councilors will be lobbying strongly to ensure all the benefits Test Valley residents currently have are retained however we cannot guarantee this at present.

If you would like to take part in the consultation please contact me or follow the link on the Hamshire County Council website at

Turnaround this Summer

The Turnaround project has announced its summer program. This includes arts, crafts, cookery, sports and films for young people together with museum trips and other outings.

Most of the activities are FREE but please book early to avoid missing out. For further details call Fusion on 07977 826700, Vikki on 07521 666716, Petra on 01264 358443 or visit the Askalot shop.

New play area for Augusta Park


Yesterday I attended the formal opening of the new playground at Hedgerow Walk, Augusta Park. A good turnout saw the mayor formally open the playground and start a cycle ride along the new cycle path to Andover town centre.

The playground was “great” according to users and better than some other playgrounds in town. This is one of a number to be installed by developers across Augusta Park. Also to open soon is the new community centre – more details on that next month.

I look forward to all the facilities being opened, well used and hopefully well maintained, unlike some of the existing playgrounds around town.

Askalot to stay for three more years

Askalot shop

Test Valley’s Northern Planning Committee has given permission for the Askalot shop to remain open for a further three years. The shop opened in 2007 with temporary permission to operate out of the old video hire shop in Atholl Court. At the time it was argued this would be a short term let until King Arthur’s Hall could be refurbished to accomodate Askalot.

A new application was submiited for extended opening hours and a permanent change of use last month. The permanent change of use was opposed by the Alamein Community Association on the grounds it would undermine lettings at King Arthur’s Hall and lead to the loss of a future commercial permise in the area. I supported this objection and the full text of my statement to the planning committee can be read here. Askalot shop

After a twenty minute debate the committee approved my recommendation that the shop be given another temporary permission with the aim of eventually moving all of the services supplied at Askalot into King Arthur’s Hall.

King Arthur’s Way shop is saved

The Co-op has announced the sale of its store in Kingsway Gardens, King Arthur’s Way to McColls.

The store has been sold as a going concern and the 13 staff will transfer to McColls. The store will cease trading as a Co-op on 24 May. A Co-operative Group spokeswoman said: “We are pleased to have concluded a deal which secures employment for the staff and our thanks to them for their commitment and hard work.”

The spokeswoman emphasised that The Co-operative Group is committed to community retailing in the region and in the past year had invested more than £17 million in acquiring new businesses and refitting and converting local stores to its new trading format to offer modern shopping facilities and comprehensive ranges. The Co-operative will continue to provide a service in Andover from its stores in London Road and Weyhill Road.

I remember the local protests at the time the possible closure of the shop was announced and am proud to have taken a leading role in fighting the closure. I spoke directly to managers at the Co-op and urged them to look again at their decision.  As a result of those protests the Co-op thought again and promised to try and keep the shop open.

This deal is the result of months of negotiation between the Co-op, McColls and Test Valley Borough Council. I am pleased to see the Co-operative kept their word and responded to local concerns about their planned closure. They have kept the shop open throughout the winter and the new deal secures employment and a shop for the future.

This shows how, by negotiation and compromise, we can all work together in the best interests of the community. I look forward to the new owners taking over and continuing to provide an essential local service.

Credit Union comes to Andover

On 7 June Andover Credit Union opens in the Askalot shop on King Arthurs Way and the Bridge centre in Bridge Street.

Credit Unions provide affordable loans and savings for all, choice for the ethically minded investor and help those having difficulty in accessing mainstream banking. 

A credit union is a not-for-profit organisation. It has no external shareholders to keep happy and no funds are gambled on the financial markets. Any profits made are used to secure improve services, and are ultimately given back to members through a competitive dividend payable on savings accounts. People who join a credit union are called its ‘members’, and the credit union is run purely for their benefit.

For further details see the attached flyer.

Andover Credit Union