Community News
The Newsletter of the Community Campaign (Hart)
Issue 3, March 2006

Hart District Elections, 4th May  2006

In the Fleet News, 17th January 2006, Conservative Council Leader, Cllr. Gorys, made a very telling statement with regard to concerns the Community Campaign had raised over parking provision at the Peter Driver Sports Centre. Part of the site is soon to be redeveloped. Cllr Gorys said that Community Campaign Councillors; “have no reason to be involved in the negotiations because they are junior backbenchers”.

No, Cllr. Gorys. The people who elected the first three CCH Councillors have every right to expect them to be involved in all issues which affect the people who they represent. The fact that he does not appear to understand this and the local Conservative party go out of their way to frustrate what we are trying to do just shows how out of touch they all are.  Those who have called upon the Community Campaign for active help or advice will vouch for how hard we work and that we achieve results. We may be backbenchers but we certainly get a lot done.

What Cllr. Gorys sometimes forgets, is that he can only count on the support of 18 out of the 35 Councillors, a majority of 1. So, with the continued support of the people of Church Crookham, Crondall, Crookham Village and Ewshot we will not be “junior backbenchers” for much longer. What we can promise is that we will not marginalize any elected member, as Cllr Gorys tries to do.  We acknowledge that Councillors from all sides will have to work together to save Hart from the mess that it is in.

The Community Campaign (Hart) are proud to announce that we will be contesting at least three ward seats in the Hart District Council Election on 4th May 2006.

Candidates, May 2006
Simon Ambler, Gill Butler & John Bennison, Proud to stand up for local issues in May 2006

We will obviously field Simon Ambler to defend the Church Crookham West seat that he won so convincingly in the by-election, under a year ago. We are optimistic that John Bennison will fulfil his ambition to be a very active Council representative for the people of Crondall, Crookham Village and Ewshot.

Gill Butler, part time teacher, married with two children, will stand for the Community Campaign in the contest for the Church Crookham East seat. The ward seat is vacant due to Peter Hutcheson’s retirement from District politics. Gill is actively involved with charity fund raising and the QEB campaign.

Anybody who keeps up with our progress will know that during the 2004 election, we were faced with the sad passing of our much respected election agent, John Colburn. It was always going to be difficult to find somebody who would replace John. However, for this year’s elections it is an honour to be able to announce that Ken Blockwell, resolute leader of the successful QEB campaign, has volunteered to be our new election agent.

If you are fed up with arrogant politicians and would like to see the Council work on an inclusive basis, please come out and vote for us in May.

What’s bin happening?

One issue which is causing widespread local debate is that of Hart’s recent decision to move to an alternate weekly bin collection. Despite comments made in recent ‘political material’ this is not a Community Campaign decision. The responsibility was solely that of the Conservative’s ruling inner core. However they did ask the full Council to comment on their decision, after the event mind you!

The Community Campaign extended an invite to anyone who wanted to debate the issues around this change to do so at our AGM in October. Over 70 people met in the Church Crookham Memorial Hall to discuss all the issues which underlie the switch to alternate collections. The meeting looked at the issues of bin capacity, smells, vermin, etc. We discussed the constant failures of the split bodied lorries, that cause us to have an unreliable service today. We considered the cost implications and we contemplated the need for a local incinerator if we could not increase the percentage of recycled waste.

Then as promised we took a vote on what stance the three CCH Councillors should take in the discussion at the following evening’s Council meeting. Remember, the decision was already made by the Council’s ruling group. As it was, having discussed all the issues there was a unanimous vote for the switch to alternate weekly collection, with the provision that the blue bin is doubled in capacity and that full information on recycling is provided. Although most at our meeting had started off very much against the Council’s proposed change, having looked at the facts there was an acceptance that this change was necessary.

No other party gives such credence to the views of local people. No other party has the guts to meet the public to discuss these issues in such depth. The Community Campaign does and will continue to do so. Our only reason to be here is to ensure that local views get fairly considered and that the community’s concerns are actively represented.

Will you need a bigger blue bin?

You will have to notify the Council if you want to take up the offer of a free upgrade to a bigger blue bin;

Hart District Council,
Recycling Bin Offer,
Hampshire, GU51 4BR.

or order online from Hart District Council's website.

Crondall Report

By John Bennison

There has been much concern raised over the decision of the Secretary of State, John (two Jags) Prescott, to overturn his original decision and allow building on the Hitches Lane site. This spreading of residential development beyond the existing Fleet settlement boundary on to green fields could be the thin end of a destructive wedge. Development on Hitches Lane was ultimately brought about by Hart putting it into the local plan as a reserve site. Why did they do this?

If we are not to be faced with more Hitches Lanes in future years we should be ensuring that our Crondall District Councillors are concentrating on protecting our community’s future. Crondall Councillors should not be being distracted by other issues, which I certainly do not wish to rake over here.

Currently the ward of Crondall is not directly represented at Hart in planning matters and this is a serious concern. Cllr. Ken Crookes has been standing in to represent us on planning during this difficult time, but he was elected to represent Odiham and rightly that is where his focus should be. Hart Council is currently formulating the Local Development Framework (LDF) which will shape development in Hart for the next 20 years. The Parish Councils of Crondall and Crookham Village are certainly working hard on their Parish Plans – but can we be sure that these will be fully translated into Hart’s own LDF documents?

Have the Conservatives asked you to stand for Crondall in the May election yet? They’ve asked most people so the answer could well be yes. This suggests that they may not have the keen ready-to-serve candidate that Crondall so desperately needs. Councillors are elected by local people to get things done for local people. So, in May do please consider setting aside national political affiliations and vote for someone ready to roll up their sleeves and actually do something for the Community.

John Bennison
John Bennison was the CCH candidate for Crondall ward in 2004 and he will stand again in May 2006.

John (51) lives in Ewshot with his wife Jane and their two teenage children.
He is involved with the Crondall Parish Council and is a member of the Crondall Society.
He is a keen Triathlon & Marathon runner.

Unparished? Who represents you?

The majority of the residents of Hart are represented at a local level by a Parish/Town Council. Members of Parish Councils are voted for by the electorate that they represent. This may be the population of a small village or a large town, such as Yateley. Parish Councils levy a precept upon the people who live in the area they represent. This money is spent by the Parish Council on such things as maintaining children’s playgrounds & community centres, providing allotments, and addressing other local needs.

Parish Councils also take responsibility for being a primary consultee on planning applications and giving a local perspective on any high level planning policy being set by the District Council. Parish Councils are very influential and are typically very adept at providing first line representation for their community within the wider local government machine.

The people of Fleet & Church Crookham live in ‘the unparished area’, a term that is often used in ways which suggest that they are second class citizens. For instance, Parishes have been given help & support to draw up Parish Plans to protect their communities within the Local Development Framework (LDF) which Hart is currently drawing up. Fleet & Church Crookham’s equivalent exercise “the Health Check” was denied funding while its validity had been questioned. Without input into the LDF, Fleet & Church Crookham would have had a very weak hand in saying what should and what should not be developed in the area. Funds were finally made available after the intervention from a number of parties brought the matter to the attention of Cllr. Sharyn Wheale who was then able to free up the previously promised money.

You might think that at least by being unparished you save money by not paying a precept. Sadly this is not the case. In the council year 2005/06 residents of Crookham Village paid a precept of £17.59, Crondall £37.87 – those in the unparished area paid £45.99 into ‘Special Expenses’ (all quoted are band ‘D’ rates). The money paid to Parish Councils gets spent by the elected members of the Parish. The money is allocated to projects at meetings which local residents can attend. The money paid by the residents of Fleet & Church Crookham goes into ‘Special Expenses’ a fund that lurks within Hart’s murky accounts.

Just one person, currently Cllr Sharyn Wheale, has effective control on how this money (nearly £650,000 a year) gets spent. Now you may well be very happy for Sharyn to have direct control over your money. However, would it not be better to have open debates about how this money gets used? You might have a preference for sports facilities, upgrading the parks, or for supporting the canal or Fleet Pond. Maybe you would rather keep your precept tax bill lower. If you had the chance to vote for the dozen or so members of a Parish Council then you would have such a say. As it happens today Sharyn alone prepares her budget for the unparished area and her political colleagues on the Cabinet, who are mostly from outside of Fleet & Church Crookham, rubber stamp it. This only goes to show how far removed from the whole process Fleet & Church Crookham residents are.

The people of Church Crookham have been forced to live without a Parish Council for far too long. It is time to fight to get one and the Community Campaign is doing just that.

During the run up to the May ‘06 election we will use the time to do something useful for our community. We will be knocking on unparished doors in Church Crookham & Courtmoor and asking residents to sign our petition. If we can get 10% of the registered voters to sign then we can demand that Hart take our request for a Parish Council to the Government.

Please support us in our fight to extend local democracy – please sign our petition.

If you would like to help by collecting signatures from around your neighbourhood please contact,
Tel: (01252)628751

QEB update

Now that the refusal of the application has been taken to appeal, Hart and the community are all in this together. The responsibility for defending the decision to reject the application lies with us all. The appeal date has been further delayed and is now scheduled to take place over an 8 week period sometime around April 2007. The public inquiry is most likely to be conducted in a marquee on the QEB site! Public concern is a legitimate consideration and a demonstration of this through steady public turn out across the duration of the hearing will be invaluable. So if you can plan to come for just one, two or more days or can drop in for spare moments to witness the inquiry, then please do.

As 2006 progresses we will send out further updates about the appeal to those signed up on our QEB interest e-mail list.

Hart – Stony Broke?

There is no doubt that the ruling Conservative group on Hart District Council will be telling us at every opportunity that they have held the District Council Tax rise to almost inflation this year. Great, your tax paid just to Hart has only gone up by about £3.50* for the year. But what has this really cost you?

Hart recently bought 2 new bin lorries. They decided to buy them out of Hart’s life savings, our financial reserves – (by ours this means yours and mine). To make things right the plan was that Hart would pay itself back each year and replenish the pot. To balance the budget, the Torys have decided to renege on these payments. In effect they have defaulted on the loan. This is a “double whammy”; The loan is costing you in terms of lost interest – money that could have been used to provide services or to offset future tax rises. Perhaps worse – they’ve decided not to replenish our life savings. This is like borrowing from our children’s piggy bank, then breaking the promise to repay it. We are going to wake up with one huge financial mess because of this reckless attitude.

This budget has left the Council’s reserves at the bare minimum. To quote a report by Cllr. Nippy Singh (who is in charge of finance) when anticipating his own budget - “No capacity exists in reserves to address any future budget gaps or to fund any unplanned one off expenditure”.

Even the much heralded initiative to find some money to partly compensate for the dramatic cut in grants to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Hart Voluntary Action (HVA) have involved yet another dip into reserves. The CCH are proud to say that we said enough is enough and supported an amendment to actually FULLY fund CAB & HVA – without dipping into what precious little is left of Hart’s savings. This would have cost you the tax payer an extra 2p a week. Worth it to start getting some fiscal responsibility into Hart, we think you would agree. Sadly the amendment was lost by 1 vote.

Other future cuts that are being actively considered include outsourcing Hart’s leisure services to a private operator, who can be expected to seek to profit from our use of these public facilities. It is even being suggested that, to save a little money, Hart reduces the election cycle so that people will only have chance to vote for Councillors once every four years. This takes away the opportunity to regularly express through the ballot box our thoughts on how Hart Council is being run. Democracy is too precious to be compromised.

Three of the Conservative group are also County Councillors who voted for a 4.7% rise in our County Council Tax bill – that is an increase of over £40* – will they be boasting about that? Will they boast that they have depleted the reserves by 60%, down £1.4 million, in the last two years? They will however rant on about how the CCH tried to increase the Council tax by 2p a week to support CAB & HVA.

We can not promise to be able to fix this financial mess in the next year, although we would if we could. Would you get that degree of honesty from anyone else? We can promise not to make it worse and we will certainly do everything we can to address the problem. We will not be shy about publicly explaining the stark choices that have to be made. If you live in a ward that offers you the chance to vote for the Community Campaign in May – Can you afford not to?
* Council Tax payments based upon a band D property.