Test Valley Borough Council’s Cabinet members have voiced the deep concerns they share with all the other borough and district councils over Hampshire County Council’s decision to rush into a premature “consultation” on the future of local government in Hampshire, with a document which offers a narrow self-serving range of options.
HCC are ignoring the options which would allow services to be delivered locally by a council which is not enormous and remote from its residents. The focus should be on ensuring that the best possible services for residents are delivered in the best possible way.
HCC’s options appear to be based solely on how to cut costs. However, TVBC’s concern is that their residents might end up paying more for less because they already have one of the lowest council taxes in Hampshire.
Local councils such as TVBC have already been stepping in to pick up the pieces following HCC’s service cuts, so there is a real concern that one enormous council across the whole area will lead to the loss of more of the services that residents value.
TVBC believes that the current county / borough system generally works well, although there are areas where they would wish to see real improvements
It is certainly possible that the best value for Test Valley residents in the future would come from dismantling the bureaucracy of HCC, with TVBC and other district and borough councils using Trusts to deliver the services that the county council currently provide.
That is why TVBC and the other “Heart of Hampshire” councils believe the HCC consultation would have benefited from a second opinion based on the work being conducted by leading consultants, Price Waterhouse Cooper. That work is looking at a broader range of options – including unitary and combined authorities and other forms of cooperation such as sharing services and setting up trusts.
Leader of the Council, Councillor Ian Carr, with the complete support of TVBC cabinet members, said: “At a time when the Government is advising councils to work together, I am particularly disappointed that HCC have refused to undertake a joint consultation with all the other district and borough councils in Hampshire. I do not believe that it will be in the interests of Test Valley residents to spend their time completing this one sided consultation – or, if they do, I would suggest that they tick the box for creating NO new unitary authorities on the grounds that they simply don’t have the evidence to make an informed decision at this point in time. It is vital that we do not rush into a quick ill-informed assessment of something that will last for years and have a significant impact on the quality of our residents’ lives.”