Fluoride plans scrapped

Regular readers will know that Alamein Lib Dems have campaigned for years against fluoridation of local water supplies. See here  and here for more details.

Public Health England have now abandoned plans to add fluoride to the drinking water in southern Hampshire. Commenting on the decision Len Gates, who lead the campaign against the proposals at Test Valley, writes in today’s Andover Advertiser –

“I am pleased to see that Public Health England has scrapped plans to add fluoride to the water supplies in south Hampshire. The plan was opposed by over 70% of local residents and all the local authorities in the area. Among the councils against the plans was Test Valley and I am proud to have taken a lead in that opposition.”

“The pros and cons of fluoridation were discussed in great detail by councillors. The debate was free of personal and political animosity and concentrated on representing the wishes and best interests of local residents. Our conclusion was that fluoridation is an unproven, costly and unsafe over-reaction to a localised medical problem. What was, and still is, required is a targeted campaign to improve dental health where needed. The fluoridation plan was effectively medication of the entire population against their wishes.”

“This decision by PHE is really important. It matters not just in Hampshire but everywhere because it signals to health officials across the country that fluoridation cannot be imposed on an unwilling population. Congratulations to everyone who campaigned against the proposals. You have shown that common sense and public opinion can, and should, take precedence over misguided bureaucracy.”




Andover Older People’s Forum

Andover Older People’s Forum is a non party political voluntary organisation which provides information for and lobbies on behalf of local older people. More details can be found  here.

Their next meeting is entitled “Harnessing the Grey Vote”  and will take place at the Lights on 24th October. One part of the program will be a question and answer session in which local residents (over the age of 50) can pose questions to panellists representing the five main political parties about issues important to pensioners. Alamein campaigner and vice chair of NW Hants Liberal Democrats, Len Gates, will be one of the speakers at this event.

Questions should be submitted beforehand. If you have a question please send it to Molly Antrobus, c/o Test Valley Community Services, The Bus Station, West Street, Andover SP10 1QP. Questions should be received by 4th October.

The full program for the event will be published here and  elsewhere closer to the date.

UKIP Double standards

Andover UKIP has been busy issuing a number of proposals to “save” council tax payers money. However, as with most of their policies, none are actually viable and all display their usual double standards. The proposals include abolishing Andover town council, and cutting Test Valley councillor and employee pay to fund free parking in Andover.

North West Hants Lib Dem vice chairman, Len Gates, has responded to these plans –

“I am amazed by the spin put on council finances by Cllrs Hooke and Rolt. They propose to abolish the town council. But all the costs would merely be transferred to an increased Andover levy. And we would have to pay for another ballot despite having voted twice for a town council. Of course, they won’t pay. They don’t live in Andover. Next they want to cut TestValley councillor and employees’ pay to fund free parking. Everyone, including councillors and council staff, is entitled to a fair rate for the job. These rates are set independently to reflect this, not at the whim of individual councillors. A rational review of staffing and councillor numbers could produce savings well in excess of their ill-thought proposals. Although they call for cuts everywhere else they are reluctant to look closer to home. Cllr Hooke commendably pays his allowance to Neighbourcare. But Cllr Rolt and most other UKIP councillors are paid over £16,000 each, in all they cost us £160,000 per year. Perhaps they should look at this before cutting costs elsewhere.”

The facts are

Andover Town councillors, like all town and parish councillors, do not get paid. The only costs incurred are staffing and administration. If the town council were abolished these would merely be transfered back to Test Valley Borough Council. Andover council tax payers would end up paying at least as much, if not more, in an Andover levy and they would loose any local representation and control over these costs.

Abolition of the town council cannot take place without another public consultation to establish that there is “justified, clear and sustained local support” for such a move. Yet another costly referendum to overturn the two votes already held which established that the people of Andover wanted the same rights a every other resident of Hampshire. Interestingly they have not called to abolish Yateley town council where Cllr Hooke lives, nor Goodworh Clatford parish council; where Cllr Rolt lives.

Borough councillors’ allowances are set at regular intervals by an independent assessor. They reflect the time spent on the role and are intended to compensate councillors for loss of earnings elsewhere. The current allowance is £6300 pa. Only a proportion of the time spent on council duties is included when calculations are made. Staff pay is also subject to independent assessment.

There are currently 48 councillors on TestValley representing Andover, Romsey and the surrounding rural areas. Some rural councillors represent just 1600 voters while those in urban areas represent almost half as many again. In Andover there are three councillors for each ward. The number of councillors could be easily reduced.

Cllr Hooke forever reminds us he gives his councillor allowance to Neighbourcare. All ten UKIP councillors claim the full £12,000 from HCC. On election they immediately demanded special allowances for their group. As a result no less than seven claim a special responsibility allowance and another a leader’s allowance. The leader also claims an MEP salary plus expenses.


New bus station opens

for web

Cllr Barbara Carpenter and Stagecoach manager Pete Robinson


ANDOVER’S new £3m bus station was officially opened on Wednesday morning –  and the company running services there said it gives them the capacity to run more buses. Stagecoach operations manager for Andover, Pete Robinson, said: “With a growing population the prospects for the Andover area are good. If the population uses the buses we will put more on for them. The new bus station has an extra two bays and provides us with more capacity to do this.”

But services need to be commercially viable. The town’s ‘star’ services , service 76 and the Active8 service, which has a bus running every 15 minutes to Tidworth, already are. But demands for a better direct service to Winchester will only happen if they are subsidised by a local authority.

Mr Robinson, added: “It could be worthwhile and we may look at it. When we ran the service to the hospital before it was not well used but as the population grows it might change.”

The new bus station has won the support of town centre manager Chris Gregory.

He said: “It think it is a great facility and the business community is very positive about it. Hopefully it will bring more people into Andover and it complements the work of the town centre partnership.”

Bus campaigner and town councillor Barbara Carpenter says she uses the new station on a daily basis. She said: “I think it is a brilliant facility and it will make a significant difference to people’s quality of life, especially in the winter.

“I’m particularly impressed with the mobility facility and its link into the car park.”

Barbara says she hopes the bus company will look at ways of linking the bus station with Asda as many people find it a strain to carry heavy shopping significant distances.

Original story from Andover Advertiser

How UKIP managed to loose 45% of their MEPs


UKIP’s farcical national conference and the subsequent forced resignation of Godfrey Bloom this week have brought cheer to the party’s opponents, across the political spectrum. Mr Bloom – the most ‘colourful’ character in a technicolour party – managed an unprecedented series of gaffes in the space of a single, tumultuous day. He began with the now infamous ‘sluts’ comment and ended by hitting a journalist on live TV when asked about the party’s ‘all white’ conference brochure. A tearful Nigel Farage later took to the stage to declare that his erstwhile flatmate had single-handedly “ruined our conference”. Rarely has so much bad publicity been awarded to so many by so few.

But Mr Bloom’s departure from UKIP’s delegation in Brussels and Strasbourg (he remains a party member, apparently) is far from an isolated incident. In fact, he is now the sixth UKIP MEP (out of 13) to either leave or be kicked out since the European elections in 2009. He follows Nikki Sinclaire (expelled), David Campbell-Bannerman (defected to the Tories), Mike Nattrass (de-selected and then resigned), Trevor Coleman (quit UKIP’s European grouping) and Marta Andreasen (defected to the Tories).

This means the party has lost almost half of their original MEPs since 2009. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, losing one MEP may seem a misfortune, but to lose six seems like carelessness.  It is small consolation that UKIP have in the meantime gained one Tory defector (the climate- and LGBT-sceptic Roger Helmer MEP). Only the BNP have done worse, having lost 50% of their MEPs (one out of two) since 2009.

The irony of all this is that most voters (and even other MEPs) don’t have a clue who UKIP’s MEPs are. They are rarely seen in the influential parliamentary committee meetings where EU legislation is shaped, to the extent (as Fiona Hall MEP memorably noted in Glasgow) that UKIP’s leader is known in the corridors of Brussels and Strasbourg as ‘Mr Mirage’. Indeed the independent VoteWatch Europe website found that UKIP have the worst attendance, voting and work performance of any political party from any EU country.

The challenge is in getting the message out to voters: that backing UKIP means throwing away Britain’s influence. Luckily, Mr Bloom’s escapades have just helped to make our job as campaigners a little easier.

This article by Giles Goodall, Lib Dem European Parliamentary Candidate for South East England was originally published by Liberal Democrat Voice


Councillors vote to ban badger cull in Hampshire

Photo 1 badger web

“There will be no culling of badgers on Hampshire county land.”

That was the message sent loud and clear from the County Council after a Liberal Democrat motion to ban badger culling on county owned land was unanimously supported at a Full Council meeting in Winchester today.

With pilot badger culls aimed at destroying around 5000 badgers already underway in Somerset and Gloucestershire in a bid to curb the spread of Bovine TB in cattle, councillors on all sides supported Liberal Democrat Councillor Rupert Kyrle’s motion to ban badger culling on county owned or leased land. Councillor Kyrle successfully argued that culling was not a proven solution to the problem, and called on more scientific evidence from government on the issue.

In the motion, it states that the science behind a cull “is not proven nor conclusive that a cull of badgers is the answer to eradicating Bovine TB from the countryside”. It also insists that “more research should be undertaken by Government and the scientific community to find more effective and cheaper vaccinations for badgers and cattle to help eradicate this terrible and costly disease from the countryside.”

Rupert Kyrle web

Commenting on the ban, Councillor Rupert Kyrle said, “This is a great day for badgers in Hampshire! It was great to see Councillors of all political colours coming together to send a strong message to government over their misguided support of badger culling. We all want to see a real solution to prevent the spread of Bovine TB across our countryside, but it is not right that badgers should be singled out in this way. To make matters worse, taxpayers are being made to pay for the slaughtering of native species when the evidence in favour of the cull is shaky and inconclusive. We must protect our countryside, and that includes the species that make it their home.”

photo of  badger courtesy of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust  (Credit: Dr David Williams for Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife

Public meeting in the Guildhall

Readers of the Andover Advertiser may have been surprised to read that there is to be a “public debate” between candidates for the county council elections next Tuesday. So too was I as I had not received any notification or invitation to any meeting although I since have (email from Broadway garage Friday 26 April).

Subsequently I have discovered the meeting has been organised at short notice by, and for, the UKIP candidate in Andover South and his supporters. Very few of the 16 candidates seeking election in Andover will be attending and there is also some doubt about who will chair the meeting and what format the meeting will take.

While I normally would welcome the opportunity to debate policy, these elections should be about local people and who is the best candidate to serve their area, in my case Andover North. I already have a full program of meetings with Andover North residents over the next week and it would not be appropriate to cancel them to accommodate the organisers of this event. I regret, therefore, that I will not be attending.

If any residents in Andover North wish to speak to me or ask questions I will, of course, try and deal with them by phone, email or personal visit.

Cricketers Way lorries

Further to my previous posts about lorries reversing into Cricketers Way (see post here) I can report further action had been taken by environmental health officers.

I and other concerned residents have contacted Test Valley Borough Council detailing the persistent failure to observe the agreed safety procedures. Moat recently I contacted the chief executive of TVBC as follows –

“This has been an ongoing problem for some two to three years. Despite the best efforts of TVBC’s Environmental health department lorry drivers are regularly and with impunity disregarding the agreed safety procedures. I have spent a great deal of time recently working with the HSE on safe manoeuvring of lorries on an agricultural/industrial site. The practices residents are reporting taking place outside this Tesco store would never be allowed on my site. This problem really does need urgent attention.”

I am pleased to report that Test Valley officers have had another meeting with Tesco to tighten controls on their own (Tesco) lorries visiting the store to prevent their drivers manoeuvring unsupervised. They will also be monitoring third party drivers delivering to the store.

If you see further breaches of safety procedures or drivers reversing unsupervised let me or the council know immediately.