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Governance Concerns

HIRA February 2022 Herald Article

The shock news that Havant and East Hampshire Councils will cease their 12 year partnership seems at odds with HBC’s Press Release that it is “very successful” but the decision to separate now is a “brilliant idea”. Residents expressed concerns about the partnership following a November 2020 Audit of EHDC’s Governance, yet staff and management continued to merge as recently as 3 months ago. This major separation surely needed scrutiny with Cabinet and Councillors procedures. My January inquiry of Cllr. Satchwell as to the reasons for the split has, at time of writing, received no answer. Of pressing concern is Havant’s loss of experienced personnel since 2009, presumably to save money by sharing resources. For example, Havant’s Local Plan officers are shared with East Hants., which has a strongly developed Planning Dept. Sinah residents report that it is East Hants. staff who enforce the Barratt’s Development conditions. Many readers may not realise that urban Havant has more pockets of poverty than East Hants., so could this be a factor in the split and will Havant be worse off?

England’s 2020 Devolution White paper claims to ensure decisions are made closer to local people and affected businesses. The Local Government Chronicle Sept. 2021 cites Hampshire and the Solent as a possible candidate for a “pilot deal”; “county deals [would] typically cover a county council together with any associated unitaries adjacent...”. Devolved bodies must be large enough to be sustainable and compete for ‘pots’ of money. Readers may recall the Local Enterprise Partnership and Solent City concepts, stretching from Southampton to Havant. Can such a body bring political planning decisions closer to local communities? How can smaller communities gain equitable access to the ‘pots of money’ when cities can claim a greater need? The Chronicle highlights a “reawakening of past tensions between those councils backing a Hampshire-wider structure and others wanting their devolution to focus on the Solent area,...”. Portsmouth and Southampton city councils have expressed “interest in being part of any pilots for a deal”. Is it possible that such ‘devolution’ may be a factor in our local councils’ split?

Cllr. Keith Mans, Leader of Hants. County Council, presents A Prospectus for Change: Best Deal for Pan-Hampshire (viewable online), urging public engagement by “partners and stakeholders” to respond to its proposals for a “Green Economic Recovery” in a County generating “£67.2bn Gross Domestic Product 3% of the UK economy” with 2 million inhabitants. Surely tax-payers and voters are key stakeholders.

The Environment Agency, which has consistently failed to make Southern Water abide by Government water quality regulations, gained ‘green’ status, “performing at or above target set”, for our rivers and coasts having “better water quality and are better places for wildlife.” and for reducing “the risk of flooding for more properties.” (EA Corporate Scorecard 17 Nov 2021). Unsurprisingly the EA scored ‘red’ for not reducing “the number of high risk illegal waste sites”. Government’s EA must take forceful, urgent action to divert rainwater from sewage systems and drinking water from our toilets.

HIRA exists thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of its membership, so we remember with fondness and sincere appreciation two particularly outstanding contributors to HIRA’s work. Colin Richards and Barbra Gardner, in their different capacities, unfailingly supported our Hayling community over many years, giving their time for their community’s benefit, asking nothing in return. Our condolences go to their families.

HIRA’s Public Meeting: HI Community Centre, Station Rd. February 10th 7:15 for 7:30. Speaker Cllr. Alex Rennie, Leader of the Council and Cllr. Clare Satchwell, followed by questions from the audience.

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