Devolution, community resilience and transforming waste and highway services were key topics on the agenda at a recent meeting between Hampshire County Council and Hampshire’s parish and town councils.
Councillor Seán Woodward, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment, who chaired the event, explained why the meeting was so important to Hampshire communities: “Given the challenges local government is facing, I am very glad we had this opportunity to talk about how we can work together to tackle these. We were able to explore some of the innovative approaches we are taking to deliver savings while protecting core services, and also to look at the opportunities which may come through the devolution process.”
Around 70 representatives from parishes across the county joined talks with the County Council on how to strengthen community resilience, address the area’s funding challenges, and assess the potential benefits of a devolution deal for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Councillor Woodward stressed the importance of the County Council continuing to work closely with parish and town councils in order to make best use of available resources. He praised parish councils for their help in mobilising local action, particularly community action to reduce flood risk. However, he also warned delegates about the likelihood of further future budget pressures, describing ‘transformation’ as “the new norm for local government services”, going on to say: “there is now a constant need to strive for greater efficiencies and more innovative ways to deliver services through more effective partnerships, greater community involvement, and more self-reliance”.
Anne Winstanley, Chair of HALC, added: “This regular event was much appreciated by the parish and town councillors who represent residents at the most local level. They heard both the usual update on arrangements to deal with bad weather – winter ice and snow and also flood risk – and then information on new initiatives – Hampshire’s plans to continue to provide good quality waste and highways services in times of ever reducing Government funding.
“The event finished with information on the current bid to Government for Hampshire and Isle of Wight devolution, particularly the element of double devolution which could see some Parish and Town Councils taking on provision of some services from The County and their District Councils where appropriate. As always what is most important is regular communication and keeping all involved and up to date in ever changing circumstances.
Picking up on some of the issues covered in the recent BBC series, Hugh’s War on Waste, delegates heard about the challenge of managing rising levels of household waste – which currently costs Hampshire around £100 million a year. They also heard about how their feedback is helping to inform the County Council’s thinking on future highways services, particularly the environmental elements of the service, which are now subject to a public consultation open to until 11th December 2015.