Alamein Job Club

The Andover job club previously based at Andover Colllege closed on February 10th but the same services are still offered by the Alamein Community Association job club at King Arthurs Hall.

The Alamein Job Club is funded by the European Social Fund and resourced by the Community Association, Everybody On-Line and the Church Army family worker.

The club is open to anyone looking for advice or help on job seeking. It offers an opportunity for those looking for work to meet in a relaxed atmosphere with internet access and local newspapers to find job information and get advice on looking for jobs. Information and advice is available on job searching, interview skills, CV writing, completing application forms and much more. Training sessions on job searching are provided and travel costs to the job club will be reimbursed.

The Job Club meets every Tuesday from 1:00pm – 3:00pm in King Arthurs Hall. For more information call Petra Goodens-Husband on 01264 358443 or turn up on the day.

Volunteer youth workers needed

Would you like to work with young people?

Are you looking to gain experience in working with young people and receive training?

The Alamein Community Association in partnership with Fusion and the Turnaround Project are looking to start a new youth club. However we need volunteer youth workers; we can offer you a training package and a high level of support. If you are interested and want to find out more; please come along and see what a normal youth club night is like.

Come along to an open meeting at

King Arthurs Hall tonight from 7:00 – 9:00pm.

For more info contact Chris on 01264 335237 or email [email protected] .

Andover Lib Dems call for improved bus services

Andover Lib Dems are backing local calls for a review of bus services in the town. I am not happy with Stagecoach’s proposals to reschedule local services in January. The new routes and timetables represent a cut in services. Stagecoach has been forced into this position because of lack of funding from the Tory controlled county council.

St Mary’s councillor Rod Bailey and I have held discussions with county councillors on the matter and Rod has called for a report on the new services to be brought to the next Andover Forum. We believe the county and borough council should be looking for ways to increase not cut local services.

We are also fully behind the campaign to bring Sunday bus services to Andover. Our parliamentary candidate Tom McCann recently met local campaigner Barbara Carpenter and gave his full support to her petition for Sunday bus services. The petition is available in many shops around town or from [email protected].

With Barbara and her petition

Tom said “local shops are now open on Sundays and many other events take place in the town centre after the buses have stopped running. The local councils should be looking at ways to encourage people into the town centre. Not everyone has access to a car or wants to use one. A good public transport service is essential to the economy and future of Andover.”

Andover needs more buses #2

After the shortsightedness shown by the county council (see below) it was a pleasure to talk to Mrs Barbara Carpenter of Roman Way who, rather than complaining about the lack of buses, is doing something about it. She has recently started a petition calling for more buses in Andover, especially on Sundays. The petition has widespread support particularly among  older residents who rely on public transport and who are unable to get any where on Sundays unless walking or paying for expensive taxis.

This lack of buses was highlighted on Remembrance Sunday when many residents who would have liked to get to the Remembrance Service  in town were unable to do so. It is also a problem in the evenings where in many areas buses stop at 6:00pm or earlier.

I have discussed this with bus operators and the willingness to extend services is there if the local council supports them. I will be asking what we can do to support and improve services. Unfortunately some councillors see this as a waste of time and some have blamed the government for lack of subsidy, claiming all the money has been spent on free bus passes. None of this is true and even if it were this is no excuse for not trying to improve the existing services.

Free bus passes are no use when there aren’t any buses to use them on. Our shops are open on Sundays why not run bus services so residents can use these shops. Not everyone has access to a car, not everyone wants to use their car. We should be encouraging environmentally friendly alternatives, what better than a public bus service. Our Victorian ancestors were proud to promote public services we should do the same.

If you would like to help Barbara’s campaign please let me know and I will pass your details on.

Co-op reprieved

I am pleased to report that after my representations to the Co-operative they have reviewed their decision to close the shop on Atholl Court.

The original announcement made last Thursday prompted a strong response from local residents with protests outside the shop and a petition of over 700 signatures calling for the shop to remain open.


Collecting petition signatures

I immediately contacted the Co-op and relayed local concerns about their decision and asked for them and council officers to meet to seek a solution which would keep the shop open. Over the past four days I have spoken to the Co-op and Test Valley officers on a number of occasions and as a result of these discussions the Co-op have decided to keep the shop open for at least three months while we review the situation.

They have agreed to meet Test Valley next week to discuss the lease. Hopefully these discussions come up with a revised package acceptable to the Co-op. If this fails I will be working with council officers to find an alternative operator to keep the shop running.

Happy birthday Askalot

Yesterday I went to the 2nd birthday celebrations for the Askalot community shop in Atholl Court. As usual the shop was filled with local residents.  This facility has been a resounding success due to the hard work put in by organisers and also the commitment of local people to the shop. Congratulations to Marianne, Petra, Christine, Chris and everyone else who made the day a success.

What a pity this celebration was marred by the bad news about the Co-op next door. See above.

Rendezvous costs top £200,000

The Rendezvous

Figures obtained by Andover’s Lib Dem councillors indicate the decision to close the lower Guildhall and open a new community facility in Union Street has cost Test Valley over £200,000 and could cost even more.

I asked for a breakdown of costs at a recent council Scrutiny committee meeting. I also requested details of usage of both the Rendezvous and Guildhall and comparison of these figures with those previously seen before the closure of the lower Guildhall.

Running costs for the Rendezvous and Guildhall over the past year totalled £85,000 and a further £4,000 has been spent on maintenance of the Guildhall. Income from the two venues over the same period was less than £14,000. The council previously received just under £14,000 a year in rent from the two shops converted into the Rendezvous.

The total cost over the last year to council taxpayers is £89,000. A similar loss is expected next year. To this must be added the capital costs of £114,000 to set up the Rendezvous.

This does indicate the council were premature in closing the lower Guildhall before they had a lease signed by the new tenant. The only good news is that usage of the Rendezvous is increasing but, not by the previous users of the Guildhall. This has led to a substantial loss of income which we are unlikely to replace. We were told the lower Guildhall had to be let out as a restaurant because it was costing too much money to retain it as a community facility. And now we find even more money is being spent on the Rendezvous. In the current financial climate we must consider whether this is acceptable and review the situation again next year.

Extra councillors surgeries

Residents are probably already aware that councillors’ surgeries takes place every Saturday morning from 10:00 to 12:00 in either the Guildhall or the Rendezvous. In addition to this I am organising surgeries every Thursday in September from 12:00 to 1:00 in the Askalot shop on King Arthur’s Way. The first will be this coming Thursday 3 September. I am also happy to hold surgeries at any other suitable venue in the ward.

Rendezvous questions that need answering

The Rendezvous

It is now over a year since public access to and use of the lower Guildhall was ended and the alternative community facility was opened at the Rendezvous. Since then the lower Guildhall has lain empty and the Rendezvous underused and derided by many of the community groups relocated in there.

Previous attempts by me and Cllr Mike McGarry to find out how often the Rendezvous is used and how much this has all cost have been met with the answer that no figures will be available till the end of the financial year.

Test Valley must now have full figures for 2008/2009 so I have tabled the following questions through the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Can officers update me on the following?

• Current usage of the Rendezvous:

How many hours per week is it used compared to usage of the lower Guildhall?
How many hours per week is the upper Guildhall used?
How many previous users of the lower Guildhall now use the Rendezvous?
What proportion of the total usage of both is private hire as opposed to council use?

• Income from the Rendezvous and Guildhall:

What was the revenue from the Rendezvous and Guildhall over the past year? How does this compare to previous income from the Guildhall?
What was the rental income from the two shops which became the Rendezvous?
What was the business rate for the shops and what rates are now paid?

• Set up and running costs:

What were the set up costs for the Rendezvous?
What were the running costs for the Rendezvous and Guildhall over the past year?
How does this compare to previous costs for the Guildhall?
What maintenance if any has been carried out on the Guildhall over the past year and at what cost?

• For the future:

What is the projected income from the upper Guildhall and Rendezvous for the current year?
What are the expected running (admin) and maintenance costs for the two buildings over the next year?

I look forward to full and detailed answers at the next meeting in Romsey on 8th September.

Little London phone box


A number of residents have spoken to me about the phone box in Little London. This has been unusable since being hit by a car. Even in these days of mobile phones BT phone boxes are still important especially in remoter areas like Little London where mobile coverage can be intermittent. In this case the phone box is also an important local land mark. These red phone boxes are part of our heritage and should be retained in situ and working wherever possible.

I have contacted BT, who are aware of the damage, and advised them of the need to repair this box as soon as possible. I await news of when the repairs will take place.