Friday, September 29, 2006

More trouble for the Single Service Partnership

Southapton City Council Civic Centre

I have blogged before over the mismanagement of the 'Single Service Partnership' project that is rapidly turning into a fiasco in Southampton.
Things are not improving. After mass protests by staff (who have been badly informed by management and grossly ill-advised by Unison in the most reactionary way locally
(have a look at for a sanitised version of Unison's activities) the full council debated the project, mostly in secret session, on Wed 20th September.
Under pressure from the Conservatives (who seem to be the only political group with a handle on whats going on), the Council effectively put the project on hold for a couple of months and forced the ruling Lib-Dems to consider a bid from BT to run the council services under review in more detail as well as the one from Capita.
The principle reason for this is that the savings that Capita is offering the council are just too low- but as usual residents are promised huge improvements in that great intangible 'customer service'.
This means that it will be March of next year (assuming there is no more slippage) before a preffered bidder puts their final plans on the table with a decision planned upon them in late 2007. Bearing in mind the number of jobs (circa 800) and the importance of the departments involved (I.T.,H.R., housing, council tax and revenue collection) to the running of the council, the ruling Lib-Dems really need to get this right. The principle of privatisation is right- they just need to do it properly.

Lord Hurd to speak in Southampton

Douglas Hurd pictured in the aftermath of the Handsworth Riots, 9th - 11th September 1985. riots- he had been Home Secretary for one week before the riots began.
Picture copyright Pogus Caesar

Although not on the same wing of the party as me, I've always admired Douglas Hurd.
I think he was a good Home Secretary and (surprisingly given my scepticism over the EU) an excellent Foreign Secretary- one can't imagine Labour having made the foreign policy mistakes since 1997 had Hurd been at the helm. I was thrilled then that he has agreed to stop off and speak for me on the way to an 'Audience with Douglas Hurd' at the Nuffield theatre that evening.

He shall be speaking for me at the newly refurbished Blue Keys Hotel (formally The Golden Lion) in Northlands Rd at 4.30pm on the 16th October. There will be a buffet, tea, coffee as well as a cash bar. Tickets are £8.00 per person. Please email me at if you would like a ticket or any further information.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Seymours roughs Tony up

Funny thing happened to me this-evening.
Do you know how once in a while you feel that there is a political sea change going on ? Well I felt it in 1996 when it became noticeable that for a myriad of reasons, the Conservatives were becoming less popular (in fact unpopular!). All of a sudden, it just wasn't 'hip' to be Tory anymore. Popular culture in all its forms began to imitate the chattering classes-it was 'time for a change' as I was told on countless doorsteps.
Well I think the same sort of thing is beginning to happen to Labour. After work, I strolled along to Seymours in Bedford Place for a drink. Being a late night bar with both students returning to the city after the summer vacation and the yachty types from the end of the boatshow in attendance, the bar was packed.
Guido would have noted the totty count- it was formidable but I had other things on my mind. To the strains of 'Johnny be good', a good proportion of the customers were singing 'Tony be gone'. I am sure you wouldn't have seen that 12 months ago or come to that, at any time since '97. One can over-egg these things but I can honestly say it is the first time I have seen Blair be the victim of spontaneous ridicule among a non-political group of people since he has been Leader of the Labour Party.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New Tory ? Moi ?

I must admit that I don't normally read The Observer ( oh really?, you do surprise me!- Ed) but a customer of mine left a copy in my pub this-afternoon and I saw this article,,1879472,00.html
that is also mentioned on
Food for thought!

Dangerous and uncharted waters for Mr Blair

Heath attacking the Leadership at the 1983 Conservative Party Conference

Party conferences can be a risky time for Party leaders…and wannabe party leaders too. Heath’s coded attacks on Thatcher in 1983 stung and showed what can happen if you are attacked from the podium. (Heath’s power to wound was weakened as the sulk dragged on tho...)
Then there is the risk that your speech will flop (IDS’s performance as the ‘quiet man’ was much derided, while David Davies delivered a lacklustre performance last year that cost him the Conservative Party leadership).
Perhaps even worse is if you drop a gaff and are attacked by the wider party (anyone remember Anne Widdecombe’s hard-hitting line on cannabis being slapped down by fellow Shadow-Ministers like Portillo and Maude when Hague was leader?).
As I have already posted, it must be with much relief for him that Ming Campbell got through the ordeal unscathed last week- it now seems likely that heath permitting, his position is secure and he will lead the Lib-Dems into the next general election.
One man that won’t be leading his party into the next election is, of course, Tony Blair. As they meet in Manchester, his party face the most difficult conference for a generation. Under the full gaze of the media, any dissent from Ministers will be pounced upon, the mood of the parliamentary party will be minuely dissected all in the rarefied atmosphere of having 2000 activists or so present.
Blair’s main problem of course will be that the conference will not be discussing the one issue the political classes are interested in- the battle for the succession. Apparently in New Labour control freakery style the 'Conference Arrangements Committee' (CAC) has ruled out of order 17 motions from CLPs on the leadership election.
Keeping things on-track from a Blairite viewpoint is going to be a party and press-management job of Herculean proportions.
If he fails to do so, it is unlikely he will be in post by Christmas.
Before Peter Mandleson took over the running of the Labour Party conference in the early 1990’s, the whole proceedings would be a shambles. Ministers and delegates would attack each other bitterly and chaos would reign as the party showed no semblance of unity. Often Labour’s poll rating would actually fall after another disastrous conference week. I wonder if history may be about to repeat itself?
For Mr Blair personally, his party and indeed those who want to succeed him (and all their supporters) the stakes could not be higher.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Onward Christian soldier...

The Rev Ian Johnson is a very passionate man. He holds very strong political opinions and he is not afraid to express them. He is that rareist of political beasts, a very left-wing Christian Socialist.He has a platform to express his views in his parish church and amazingly, also in the local newspaper The Southern Daily Echo at least once a week.
Unlike any other correspondants, Rev Johnson writes from us under the title of 'From the Heart', the rest of us merely are worthy of writing ' in my view'.
There have been on-going letters and articles about all this in the Echo over recent weeks, here is my contribution.

Dear Letters Editor,
What an excellent article by Canon John O'Shea on the Pope's remarks on Islam. What a poor article by Ian Johnson with yet more of his musings on international Politics. One deserved to be styled 'From the Heart'. One did not. Perhaps a sub-Editor got the headings mixed up?
I have been following the recent correspondence about Mr Johnson’s profile in the Echo. As a regular reader, I must say that it appears, given his preferential treatment, that there is one rule for Ian Johnshon and another for every other contributor.
Matthew Dean.

Three cheers for 'The Bicycling Baronet' !

In 1982, along with Sir Jimmy Saville, the Young family featured on a British Rail poster promoting the transport of bicycles by rail.

I have a lot of time for Sir George Young. He was a good minister, is an assiduous MP (for North west Hants) and on the occasions I have met him, found him to be an all round nice guy. He would have made an excellent Speaker of the Commons had Labour not broken the convention to recruit from each main party alternately. However, his chance for that job may come yet (so to those potential Conservative candidates eying up his seat, I would merely say there is not yet a vacancy...)
I see that he had his blood pressure taken in Whitchurch recently in support of the nation's biggest blood pressure testing event. As part of the Blood Pressure Association's (BPA's) 'Know Your Numbers Week' Sir George visited a Lloyds Pharmacy to encourage his constituents to find out if they are at risk from high blood pressure. Sir George said: "Having a blood pressure check is quick and painless, and the only way to know if you have high blood pressure."
One of my friends, Gordon Coe, had his blood pressure read recently. When the GP shouted, "Quick get out, he's going to blow" and went on to tell him his blood pressure was "higher than the pressure on the tyres on your transit", Gordon knew he was in trouble!

Another lost £1million at Southampton City Council

View of the Bargate pedestrian scheme where costs rose from £345,000 to £596,000, an increase of £251k.
When I read Thursday’s Daily Echo, a feeling of déjà vu swept over me. Over recent years, there have been a few overspends (mainly in the social services area) of Southampton City Council. Perhaps more damningly, about ten months ago, the paper ran a lengthy report on how finance bosses needed to find an extra £1million to plug a hole in the city coffers caused by under-estimating the amount of homes in the city that should be paying council tax.
Now it has been revealed that they have overspent another £1million due to the costs of pedestrianising, road repairs and rebuilding projects running over budget.
An internal investigation carried out by the Chief Exec of the Council, Brad Roynon and finance chief Carolyn Williamson apparently makes what the paper describes as 'damning reading'. To quote, “The city council suffered from a ‘culture of manipulation’ of some of the finances which led to some breeches of financial regulations. In one instance, £25,000 was moved from one account to another and there was no record of it.
The leader of the Council Adrian Vinson said, “Councillors did not have correct information. In future we will have the correct information”. I am not sure that Residents will share his confidence.
The Conservatives have got this right when they are calling for disciplinary action to be taken against the Officers concerned and for the lessons to be learned to prevent the misuse of public money. Labour to their credit is broadly supportive of this approach.
I am planning to ask for a copy of the report as a member of the public and will publish my correspondence with the Council. It will be interesting if they support ‘open government’ over matters such as this.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The importance of image...

The cartoon that had Lib-Dem spin doctors 'wincing'.
Picture copyright The Guardian.

Ming the athete, Picture copyright PA

Ming out with 'Campbell's Crackers' apparently...

Image matters in politics. It shouldn’t do but it does. Remember Michael Foot in his donkey jacket? Harold Wilson with the ever present prop of his pipe and of course the caricature (originally by Steve Bell) of John Major as the man who wore his underpants outside his trousers?
Well I have watched some of the Lib-Dem conference this week and I imagine that Ming Campbell will allow himself a small smile of satisfaction; he got his tax reforms past the conference despite MPs like the self-styled Romsey Redhead Sandra Gidley opposing him, his set piece speech went well and in the event, Charles Kennedy behaved and didn’t upstage him, even if he reportedly wouldn’t shake his hand.,,1875767,00.html
Campbell’s age may well limit his appeal among younger voters and the families of middle England. In his speech, Sir Menzies accused David Cameron of being "a substance-free zone". "Their idea of political principle is to say, tell us what you don't like and we'll abandon it," he said. The problem is that Cameron’s policy committees will have reported by the next general election, effectively shooting Ming’s fox- but Ming will still be advancing in years.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Watch out- here comes Mote's battlebus!

Charlie's bus and Ashley Mote MEP

Pride of the UKIP fleet

Taxed and insured Mr Mote?

UKIP won't be happy.
I don't know what the poor residents have done to deserve it but Ashley Mote MEP is bringing his battle bus to Eastleigh on Friday 22nd of September (Leigh Road to be exact). Assuming he doesn't break down this is not quite the mammouth undertaking it might appear- Mr Mote lives near Alton in Hampshire, just up the road!
UKIP removed their whip from one time Liberal activist Ashley Mote on 15 July 2004 after learning that he faced trial over allegations of housing benefit fraud. Mote failed to tell his party managers of the impending court case, and it only came to their attention when an article appeared in the The Daily Telegraph.
Happily for UKIP it all came to light a few days after, rather than a few days before the European election results...
The Telegraph reported that he was facing nine charges of false accounting and one of making a false representation.
In a court hearing on 25 November 2004, Mote stated that the charges were politically motivated and asked for an adjournement on the grounds that as an MEP he had parliamentary immunity. In June 2005 the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal
Market of the European Parliament decided to request that his immunity be waived. You can read all about their decision and the charges Mr.Mote faces at
It seems that the trial in on-going and that a non-publicity order was made in the High Court by Mr Justice Aikens that specifically forbids the reporting of any issues of law or legal ruling on the case without the leave of the court. It should be noted that Mr Mote denies the allegations vigorously and always has done.
I was unable to find any pictures of Mr Mote's battlebus but have found a few pics of other UKIP buses. In the words of their national website, ''Donate £ 50.00 -Keeps the UKIP battlebus on the road for a day"! That would seem to me to be the cost of having most of them removed to the breakers yard...
As Mr Mote is entering what they like to think is Lib-Dem country, I have also included a Lib-Dem pic of their bus especially converted so that Mr Kennedy doesn't have any unfortunate accidents!

Leaks, injunctions, strikes- all in a day's work at Southampton City Council!

My picture shows Mike Tucker(left), pictured with strikers at a previous dispute at Southampton City Council.
Picture copyright BBC News online.
Leaks, injunctions, strikes- all in a days work at Southampton City Council!

All is not well at the Civic Centre as the now infamous ‘Strategic Services Partnership’ (SSP) has run into the buffers.
This is an ambitious project to outsource the IT, human resource, council tax collection, housing and customer services functions of Southampton City Council to the private sector.
The scope of the project is considerable; it is intended that all written, email and telephone contact between residents and the council will be dealt with by the new business partner in the first instance as well as the partner being the provider for all the major internal IT requirements within the city council. It is proposed that significant numbers of Council employees are to be transferred across to managed by the new partner.
When one considers that this will include managing jobs such as the billing of council tax, schools admissions, external websites and collection of rent for council owned property, it can be seen that the ‘Strategic Service Partnership’ will be at the heart of local government in Southampton. The costs of the project are eye-wateringly large for a relatively small unitary authority such as Southampton; current projections range from circa #150 to #200 million. However when Officers originally proposed the project to Councillors from the three political parties they were confident that there would be major cost savings (up to #25million) and also a dramatic improvement in customer services for those that make demands on the council.
All is not well however.
Cost savings seem to be evaporating- last week the latest revised figure put to Councillors had slipped from #25million to less than #4million. Those that are more critical of the project are nervous that improvements to customer service may be intangible or even non-existent.
The way the Council officers have conducted negotiations has also come under attack from Councillors of all political hues, the proposed service partners, employees and the Unions (who are fiercely against the whole project).
More knowledgeable observers ague that in fact there should have been separate bids- in particular one for providing the IT function and another to deal with customer services. Some Officers feel that of the preferred bidders, some had demonstratable, proven expertise in IT, others in customer service but rarely do organizations have it in both. Was the Council correct to have narrowed down the preferred bidders to just 3 providers so early in the project? The three final bidders are Capita, BT and Serco.
Things are also getting extremely nasty with the Unions. After extensive research, I conclude that Southampton City Council is unique. It seems to be the only Local Authority that pays for a Unison Branch Secretary salary (Mr. Mike Tucker, a member of Unison United Left by the way!) and provides him with an office from taxpayer’s money. This anomaly was started by Labour when it was the ruling party in Southampton in the 1980s and is has been a condition of their support or abstention of Council budget meetings when the city entered minority control in the late 1990s that the Unison post was retained.
Cynics may note that Unison co-incidentally financially supports Labour in Southampton, helping to pay for Labour Council candidate’s election expenses, supporting the work of the local Labour MP and helping to pay for the local Labour Party office.
(N.B. for some very brief details do visit but note both Labour and Unison locally are very sensitive about this! )

As part of the project to introduce the SSP, Unison has been fully informed. As well as being invited to meetings, they have had one-to-one Officer briefings and been provided with the same papers as Councillors. As well as being marked confidential, they are also printed on pink paper to emphasize their confidentiality. The preferred bidders are all very sensitive about the detail of their bids. All three are reported to have spent over #100k to date working up proposals and are very anxious about them getting into the public domain. As well as the obvious point about the amount of shareholders money that they have invested on the project, they are worried that if they fell into another bidders hands, it could give them a significant competitive advantage not just in Southampton but also in future projects in other authorities. All the bidders are concerned that without proper explanation, their proposals may cause labour relations difficulties.
It was with dismay then that Council officers found that Unison has been leaking the details of the SSP bid. As well as speaking freely with members, Tucker has written a newsletter to members where he revealed who the preferred suppliers were and details of the project.
The Council responded by obtaining a High Court injunction gagging Tucker giving his members details of the planned privitisation. Further, Unison have commissioned a report into the project which if made available would reveal almost all the commercially sensitive information Tucker has been privy to. It would certainly seem to be in breech of an existing agreement between the two main parties, if it were published.
Last week about 200 members of Unison attended a meeting at Above Bar to hear about the project. A motion was put forward by Tucker outlining a plan of action including strikes by Unison in response to the SSP proposals was carried unanimously.
Councilors are concerned that they were not consulted over the legal action and its cost.
Opposition councilors and a few of the ruling Lib-Dem group (so far off the record) are angry that they are not being consulted over such a delicate and important issue.
Predictably Unison is incandescent at the gagging order.
The issues raised by the SSP will be discussed at what promises to be a stormy meeting of the full council on Wed 20th October. Unison plans to lobby Councillors and has already printed placards and banners urging them to drop the plans.
That is extremely unlikely.
It seems the controversy over the SSP project has some way to run yet.

Burger-gate strikes again!

John Denham MP
(vested interests in background...)

Readers of the The Echo on Friday or viewers of GMTV’s Sunday Programme may have noted John Denham's comment that Labour had ‘Backed away from challenging big vested interests’. He added ‘look how long it’s been taking us to deal with the powerful forces that are promoting obesity’.
I wonder if fellow Southampton Labour MP Alan Whitehead agreed when he was enjoying corporate hospitality from sponsor McDonald’s during the recent world cup?

I'm in the top 100 blogs!

I see that I am in the top hundred Conservative blogs!
The full list can be downloaded free of charge from Iain Dale's blog at

Friday, September 15, 2006

New Conservative Party logo

I was tipped off this morning that the Conservative Party logo is ready to be unveiled and after a little bit
of hunting here are two late drafts.
Apparently the re-branding exercise cost £40,000!
The traditionalists will hate it of course and attack the Party leadership for the cost but actually I think its quite good. It is actually the third logo that the Party has used under Cameron's tenure (the first being the 'Change to Win ,Win for Britain' device and the second being the 'Vote Blue, Go Green' logo that was paraded in last May's local elections) and the latest incarnation of the torch is about three years old having had a make over making it more muscular under Howard (see previous post).
Unfortunately I am busy busy busy designing a 'sorry you were out' card for use by one of my mates who is canvassing Saturday, not to mention trying to gear my pub up for the weekend so haven't got time to tell you any more of what I think of it but let me know your views and I will add a post Saturday!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A coffin containing one of the serviceman is slow-marched from a C17 plane as a military band plays.
Picture copyright The Daily Telegraph.

It was very sad to read yesterday of the repatriation of the 14 servicemen during a dignified ceremony at the surveillance plane's home base RAF Kinloss after their RAF Nimrod crashed in Afghanistan. All the personnel on board at the time of the crash were killed.
The men who died were true heroes- their country owes them a huge debt. The crash brings the total number of British military personnel killed in Afghanistan since November 2001 to 36.
However, the crash does raise questions over the state of our armed forces equipment. The Nimrod itself was ancient (over 30 years old) but the design is much older than that; the airframe is actually based on the DeHavilland Comet, the first commercial jet airliner. Is it really appropriate that our forces are operating aircraft at the limits of their capability, based on obsolete early-1950s technology? The scandal is that we are not giving our servicemen the tools to do the job.
For example, British troops in Iraq are being sent out on patrol in vulnerable 1970 and 80’s vintage Land Rovers that were lightly armoured "snatch" vehicles - named after their role in grabbing Ulster rioters - which have proved ineffective against roadside bombs.
Blast-suppressant foam has yet to be fitted to all Hercules transport aircraft after a crash last year which killed 10 Servicemen. The plane was hit by ground fire which caused a fuel tank to explode. Relatives have questioned whether the safety foam might have saved them.
In March 2003 a member of the Royal Tank regiment was shot and killed by friendly fire. The resulting inquiry concluded that Sgt Roberts would have survived if he had not been forced to hand back enhanced combat body armour (ECBA) two days before the invasion because there was not enough to go round.
In May due to a shortfall in the number of troop transport helicopters, Defence Chiefs proposed to bring former Royal Navy anti-submarine 1970s Sea Kings out of storage for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The maximum speed at its maximum height of the Sea King, the so called ‘hot and high performance’ is a mere 50 knots- woeful by modern standards.
Just four examples of expecting our troops to fight in very hostile conditions without giving them the tools to do the job. We are putting our brave servicemen’s lives at risk as a result.
Politicians would do well to remember the warning of the new Chief of the General Staff of our armed services last week. “Our troops are stretched to the limit”, said General Sir Richard Dannatt; “we need a national debate on the value of our Armed Forces, and what resources they should have.”

Monday, September 11, 2006

1000 hits and counting!

Time to break open the champagne!
I see from my counter that I've had over 1000 seperate hits!
-Thank-you all for visiting. I must say that I have enjoyed writing my on-line diary and a few people have said they enjoy it too.
Despite my initial worries in my first post about if I would be able to have the time, the inclination or even the readership to justify writing a blog, I am certainly going to carry on blogging for the forseeable future.
My only disapointment is how few people post comments compared to the readership. All views, (especially in opposition) are welcome, provided they are non-abusive of course!

Lord Tim Renton, Lady Thatcher's last Chief Whip.

Over the years I've been lucky enough to help organise some great dinners and receptions.
- In no particular order, the distinguished historian Andrew Roberts, the Governor of the Falkland Islands at the time of invasion Sir Rex Hunt, the publisher and political commentator Iain Dale, the cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken and the former London Conservative Mayoral candidate Steve Norris have all been recent guests.
- I would like to express my grateful thanks to them all of them once again for coming to Southampton, it really was very good of them all to give their time freely and speak so informatively and entertainingly.
The next dinner I am organising is to be held at the Rose Bowl in Hampshire in the evening on Wednesday 25th October with guest speaker Lord Tim Renton, author, former Chief Whip and Minister for the Arts.
Should be a great night!
If anyone wants a ticket or any more details, please email me at
I wonder if Lord Renton will bring the dog?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bill Reynard RIP - a larger than life character.

I went to Bill Reynard’s funeral today.
The service itself was very dignified; his granddaughter read a very moving poem that she had written herself.
Reynard himself was a pretty amazing man; he ran as least three Clubs in Southampton and held the first gambling license in the city. In the early 1960s he had a few brushes with the law, not least over alleged firearms offences and he was an associate of both the Richardsons and the Krays.
He was probably best remembered as a publican. Mine host at The Platform Tavern and The Englishman, the latter still has some shot in the wall on the right hand side of the pub as you walk through the front door from some long-forgotten incident. Bill was a larger than life character; in his time a huge drinker, he used to light his cigars with five pound notes and eat broken glass when angry and under the influence or getting ready for trouble...
My favourite story is the one about Ted Thompson, Director of brewers Marston, and Thompson and Eversheds brewers going to pay Bill an early morning call one day, his office being in nearby Winchester. Thompson arrived to find Reynard entertaining a young bar-maid on the floor, behind his bar with his trousers round his ankles. ‘Can’t you see I’m busy?’ snapped Bill, ‘Eff off!’.
He retired from the trade in about 1992 and like many in his family, was passionate about politics. However unlike his daughter Cllr Jacqueline Rayment and his brother who was a Labour Councillor for 18 years and who himself was nearly selected to run for parliament (he lost in the final selection meeting to Bryan Gould by one vote) as well as being the driving force behind the construction of the Itchen bridge, Bill was a staunch Tory.
One the resignation of Lady Susan Hill when she wished to spend more time abroad, I suggested that Bill be made honorary life president of Southampton Test Conservative Association in recognition of all the hard work he had put in over the years campaigning and supporting social events. He was adopted unanimously.
Rest in peace Bill. You will be missed.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Going green in Freemantle!

Well some good news. The two glass re-cycling bins that I recently allowed the council to put in The Park Hotel car park were emptied for the first time on Friday. I was pleased to see that they were both nearly full and that it has been mostly members of the public that have been using them. My slight concerns about mess or noise have proved to have been unfounded.
The one question I keep getting asked is how much do I get paid for allowing the bins on my land?
The answer (sadly) is nothing!

And its goodbye from him !

I thought the above was a classic!
Beau Bo D'Or is a real talent, now with a shop!

'I am on your side'...but it may not be enough

"I'm on your side. This is a great turn-out. I know how much these allotments mean to you and Eastleigh as a whole. It is an absolute disgrace that the Liberal Democrat council is prepared to ride roughshod over your views. I'm here to help I wanted to show my support for the people who have put so much work, effort and care into these allotments over the years."
So said Michael Howard MP on a visit to Eastleigh in Febuary 2004.

Why is it that government is so remote from the people? A good example, local to me, can be found in the town of Eastleigh in Hampshire. In one of the biggest shows of protest ever seen locally, allotment holders in the town have been conducting a campaign to stop more than 500 homes being planted on their plots. In high-profile demonstrations, over 16,000 objections to development schemes from more than 5,000 people have been lodged against local plan policies affecting the sites yet still the Lib-Dems press on.
The local MP for the area, Chris Huhne, who happens to be Enviroment spokesman for his party does not want to get involved.
Last Thursday, Marian Hatt, 69, who has worked plots at the South Street allotment site in Eastleigh for more than 25 years, announced she is going take the issue to the High Court in a last ditch attempt to stop her plot being concreated over. Although she is being backed by the Eastleigh and Bishopstoke Allotments Association, her chances of success are at best slim. John Prescott had already rubber stamped the scheme.
Did the threat of court action lead to Eastleigh Borough Council reconsidering its decision? Of course not! As usual they responded with the news by issueing a statement that could at best be described as being one-sided. Noting that,"Fewer than 50 people now hold allotment tenancies on the site and many of these are not actively cultivated.” Keith House, the Council leader, did not feel the need to point out that the reason the allotments are in decline is that the council has banned anyone new from having an allotment on the site for the past three and a half years! Further, he doesn’t mention that the current waiting list for people now wanting an allotment now exceeds over 150 people in Eastleigh.
He goes on to say that there has been a long consultation period. There certainly has been with developers, builders and other Lib-Dem stakeholders. In contrast, the allotment holders throughout this sorry saga have been treated appallingly.
With the closure of the Manor Bakery site and Eastleigh Railway works releasing huge tracts of land for possible residential use, wouldn’t this be a good time for the Council to re-consider and save the allotments?