With winter on the way, Lib Dems have been pressing Hampshire County Council to make sure there is enough grit bins around our towns and villages.
In recent years Andover has been left without enough road rock salt leading to chaos on our roads and cancelled bus services because Hampshire County Council failed to get their act together and provide enough grit bins. In other areas, Councils provide free grit supplies for residents to use on their local paths, roads and pavements, making sure that everyone is well prepared for the cold weather.
With £300 million of taxpayers’ money in the bank, local residents are hoping that the Conservative-run County learn from other areas and at least provide grit for the bins they’ve already installed.
If you know of any public place that needs a grit bin please let your Lib Dem team know!
Test Valley’s Tories have broken their election promise to freeze parking charges. The picture below is taken from an election address delivered across Alamein ward only a year ago by Cllrs North, Brook and Whiteley.
Barely a year later they have quietly dropped this promise and allowed the leadership of the council to raise parking charges to help balance the books. Meanwhile they hold over £76 million in reserves and spend a staggering £1.3 million on councillors and their meetings.
The only murmur of dissent came from Cllr North who was quickly told to shut up. The other two have failed to comment on this disgraceful deceipt. I have tried to follow the decision process and found the original recommendation by the council’s cabinet was not taken to full council as originally planned. Nor was it discussed by the council’s scrutiny committee (where Cllr North as vice chairman cancelled the meeting when it could have been raised). It was postponed a number of times until finally sneaked through without the usual fanfare of press releases we have come to expect from the council leader and his cronies.
Notices have appeared in all the council car parks less than a month before the increases are due to come in to force and details are hidden away on the council’s website where it takes time and effort to find them. Full details of the charges are available here New Parking charges
Hampshire County Council have now made a decision on the future of concssionary fares in the county. I can report they have conceded on some but not all of of the extra elements currently offered by Test Valley Borough Council. This as a result of the vast number of responses from residents of Test Valley and across the county calling for them to maintain the exisiting provisions. Funding is there to pay for these services and cuts to these services would be an attempt to divert that funding to other areas. Full details of the new provisions are available on the county’s website at http://www3.hants.gov.uk/passengertransport/concessionary-travel/concessionarytravel-faqs.htm
In brief the new county run system provides
- Free bus travel for those over 60 from 9:30 to 23:00 Monday to Friday and all day at weekends
- All day (including before 9:30) for those holding a disabled persons pass with the option of a companion pass for anyone needing one.
- Disabled pass holders will be able to use their pass on approved car share and taxi share services and travel half price on dial a ride services.
- Disabled residents can also opt for travel tokens instead of a bus pass.
- Passes can also be used on Cango and some other services.
The county will not however be providing all day (before 9:30am) travel for the over 60s or rail cards as an alternative to a bus pass.
Existing passes remain valid and replacements will be issued by Test Valley until April 2011. From April Hampshire County Council will adminster the system and will be writing to those eligible to advise them of how to apply for the new passes.
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
The long running saga of local bus routes has finally moved forward. Test Valley’s scrutiny panel has reported back on its consultations on changes to exisitng bus routes. This investigation was prompted by a motion I and Cllr Mike McGarry submitted to council in January. The panel’s findings, endorsed by the full scrutiny committee, were as follows
- Hampshire County Council funding for local buses did increase, but not by enough to maintain the existing services. Consultation did take place on this but in this particular case it had shortcomings.
- Changes to services were made, some acceptable to residents and some not. Hampshire County Council and
Test Valley Borough Council officers to be requested to monitor these changes and modify or augment services where possible. This could include an extension of the taxi share service.
- There may be some scope for introducing evening and Sunday services on some routes and officers were requested to investigate further.
- Council Officers to be requested to provide a written report back to the Committee in January 2011 on the long term effect of the current changes and other matters raised by the Panel.
In short the changes to services were badly handled and some residents have lost out. However there is a commitment to looking at reviewing the changes to resolve this. Also promising is the news that there may be scope to introduce evening or Sunday services on some routes. I look forward to this being pursued.
Campaigners have expressed disappointment that Test Valley Borough Council will not be debating changes to local bus routes at its January meeting. A motion submitted by me and Mike McGarry calling for a review of the changes and the subsidy given by Hampshire County Council will be deferred to the council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee for consideration.
It is a pity we will not be able to discuss the proposals now. I would now expect the committee to look at this and report back to full council as soon as possible. The county council must accept Andover is a growing town and needs an adequate public bus network. Not everyone has access to cars; many residents rely on the buses. We should be encouraging everyone to reduce CO2 emissions by using cars less and buses more and yet the county is sanctioning by its actions a reduction in bus services.
Councillors will still discuss the matter at the Andover Forum on 25th January when Cllr Rod Bailey has called for a report on the proposals to be presented.
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].
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.”
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.
I was disappointed to see that in the revised bus timetables for Andover Stagecoach is proposing to pull out of two routes and restructure several others. This has apparently all been welcomed by the county council which is ultimately responsible for public transport services in Hampshire. Particularly disappointing is the fact that these changes have been agreed without comment from our local county councillors. No wonder some people see the county council as increasingly irrelevant to the needs of Andover and a retirement home for aging Tory politicians.
At a time when the world is facing major environmental catastrophe we should be looking to reduce our CO2 emmisions not increase them. The biggest single source of CO2 is private cars and I would expect the county council to be promoting increased use of public transport such as buses to reduce pollution and congestion. Not so in Hampshire where saving money takes priority over saving the planet.
I have asked for more details of these proposals and will be looking to see what effect they have on the large number of local residents who don’t have access to private cars and are totally dependent on bus transport to get around town. Andover’s bus services need expanding not contracting. I would expect the county and borough councils to be looking at ways to do this and will be pushing them to do so.
A new shuttle bus service will be commencing in June for patients needing to get to Winchester Hospital from the Andover area. A pre-bookable shuttle bus (fully accessible and with capacity for 2 wheel chairs) will run four return journeys direct to the hospital. The bus will start from Andover hospital, stopping to collect patients from Andover Bus Station and Stockbridge (at Trafalgar Close, if pre-booked). The journeys will be free for this service. The scheme is being promoted by the Winchester & Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust and is supported by Test Valley Borough Council and Hampshire County Council. Leaflets publicising the new service can be collected from GP’s surgeries, the library, the Council offices, the hospital and downloaded from the Council’s web pages.
I am pleased to see this service finally coming in to operation after many months, if not years of campaigning by Andover councillors in pareticular St Mary’s councillor Rod Bailey. Well done Rod for working as always for the residents of Andover.