Thursday, August 27, 2009

The future's bright...

A lamp post in conservation area of Bugle Street...
which will be refurbished rather than replaced.

Let there be light!

Once in a while a Cabinet member gets to make a really significant decision that can bind the Authority for many years, can change lives and yes, even carries an element of risk if it goes wrong.
I made such a decision last week when I awarded Southampton's streetlighting PFI contract.
Work to replace and maintain 250,000 streetlights across Hampshire, West Sussex and Southampton in a £225 million 25 year private finance initiative (PFI) is set to be carried out by Tay Valley Lighting (TVL).
Hampshire County Council, West Sussex County Council and Southampton City Council joined forces in one of the biggest streetlighting PFI projects in the country. The contract is expected to be concluded later this year.
Southampton’s 25 per cent stake in the project will see the replacement or updating of thousands of street lights, illuminated signs and bollards with the latest energy efficient equipment during the first five years of the project. The focus for the following 20 years will be on maintaining and operating the new lights to a high standard, with Southampton's monitoring team keeping a check on project delivery and operations.
The massive PFI project will potentially provide a boost for jobs once it has started and has many other benefits including:
•investment in the most up to date, energy efficient equipment which conforms to the latest standards
•more efficient use of energy – with a potential reduction in current levels
•improved visibility and reduced light pollution at night
•safer streets and reduced crime
•fewer burning hours
•dimming lights by 25% to reduce carbon emissions with the ability to dim further
•security, efficiency and savings based on the length and scale of the contracts
All lighting stock over 15 years old will be replaced on a like for like basis with white fluorescent light in residential areas, giving greater clarity and representation of colour and features. This will enable key pressures on streetlighting such as better energy use, reducing the environmental impact, improving public safety and cutting carbon emissions, to be met.
A publicly available briefing paper can be read HERE.

The scorched earth policy continued...

Turned out nice again...
Minnosotta Bridge 2007- the result of poor infrastructure investment...

In his recent article ‘In My View’ (Echo 25 August) Alan Whitehead MP writes ‘Some significant and positive developments have just been announced regarding affordable homes in Southampton’ before listing some national (not local) policies that this Labour government has announced.
What Professor Whitehead does not mention is that housing growth money in Southampton, along with the wider South Hampshire area is to have its capital money to fund essential infrastructure like roads and vital flood defences to combat climate change by cut by a shocking 48%.
In correspondence, Labour ministers indicate that this cut is required to fund the so called Housing Pledge announced by Gordon Brown that is intended to supposedly deliver 20,000 houses over the next two years and that for Labour, this is a higher priority than infrastructure funding in the current economic circumstances.
Sadly, history tells us that to view housing in isolation from infrastructure, roads, jobs, public services and all the rest is the negation of proper town planning and can lead to social problems of the very worst sort.
Further more, Mr Whitehead omits to mention that these cuts are deeper than anywhere else in the UK. They are however just another example of why, despite having 2 Labour MPs, this Labour government offers an appalling deal to Southampton residents at the expense of the Scotland, the North East and North West of England as they attempt to prop up their crumbling political support.

NB Not for readers of a nervous dispisition granted, but the Institution of Civil Engineers would seem to agree!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Free buses in sunny (?) Southampton this weekend! Woa!

Portland Terrace chaos!

Here is a copy of the press release I issued as part of my attempts to beat congestion this weekend;
Free bus travel as nine cruise liners sail into Southampton

Southampton will host the arrival of nine of the world’s most impressive cruise liners over the August bank holiday weekend.

And to make it easier to get around the city, the council is working with the city’s bus companies to lay on free bus travel for the weekend.

During Saturday and Sunday there will be nearly one million tons of ship in Southampton’s docks with about 47,500 passengers coming and going. Five cruise liners are docking on Saturday, with a further four on Sunday.

The extra visitors in the city should provide a boost for businesses and tourist attractions across the city, potentially generating millions for the local economy.

However, with more than 12,000 extra vehicles expected on the roads the council is doing all it can to help people to get around the city by funding free bus travel. The council is teaming up with Blue Star and First bus companies, to provide free bus travel until 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The journeys will be free as long as they start and finish within the city’s boundaries.

Councillor Matt Dean, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said: “I am delighted to announce that free bus travel will be provided for everyone this weekend. It is Southampton City Council’s responsibility to make sure we keep the city moving, and if we can do that by getting people to use public transport than terrific.”

“This will be a wonderful opportunity to get on the bus to access all our great city has to offer during a weekend when we are expecting the roads to be particularly busy.”

“I would encourage as many people as possible to come and see the ships coming in, which will be a fantastic sight.

“There will also be lots to do and see in the city during the weekend so make sure you don’t miss out.”
The Echo's take on things can be read HERE.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Recycling 'on the go'

At the recycling unit with fellow Councillors Roy Smith & Jeremy Moulton plus Mrs Bottle...

Last week, I was delighted to host the launch of a trial of a new automated recycling unit outside the Tesco Metro store in Ocean village part of a trial of just 10 stores.The units will be able to recycle PET plastic drinks bottles, aluminium and steel cans which are the most common waste on the high street.
At £25,000, the cost of the automated units is not cheap (for Tescos who are funding the capital cost of the equipment in full ) but the kit is impressive; it is able identify different materials and then segregate and compact them ready for recycling. Having the privilege of opening up the machine and seeing the end result of the shedding process was particularly impressive- the shredded material was tiny.
By having the recycling units situated at street level outside convenience stores, the hope is that we can reach more people by making facilities more accessible to pedestrians when they're 'on-the-go', leading to increased levels of recycling and cleaner streets.

Selling the art for Southampton's new Heritage Centre and Sea City Museum

Above- the West Wing.

"After the Race", its time for a sale...

The squeeze on local government is on- we all know that and shockingly simply because Southampton is a small unitary authority on the South Coast, it gets an appalling deal from the Labour government in terms of its revenue support grant. The result of government grant settlements that are below inflation year after year are inevitably efficiency savings, service cuts or higher taxes. Not surprisingly, politicians shy away from these unpalatable truths, especially at election time.

Inevitably (and in some ways) quite unfairly, it is the arts and heritage that bear the brunt of such cost pressures- perhaps as they are often neither considered front line services nor statutory services. Indeed, when asked, the arts are neither political priorities for many elected members or indeed for many members of the general public. However, in the real world, that does not mean that politicians don't have obligations to the arts (despite the views of the Institute of Economic Affairs' John Blundell).

Southampton City Council's Conservative Administration has appointed Wilkinson Eyre to begin designing the city’s newest heritage attraction, the 'Sea City' Museum. These ambitious plans, to turn the old magistrates courts and police head quarters, at Southampton’s City Councils’ Civic Centre, west wing would cost an estimated £15 million.
The new heritage centre will provide access to and interpretation of Southampton City Councils internationally important maritime heritage collections and will also restore the west wing of the Grade II* listed Civic Centre building. The project will include an exhibition which will help tell the story of the crew members of the Titanic, a story that has largely gone untold outside of Southampton, and around 4,000 items related to and recovered from the Titanic ship will be displayed there. The council expects that this phase of the project will be completed by 2012.
Wilkinson Eyre will lead the design team for the project, which includes locally based consulting engineer Gifford, Davis Langdon, who will act as quantity surveyors and architectural and design company while Urban Salon who will develop educational, original and fun ways to communicate the historical stories within the museum.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a first round pass and there is a potential to secure a further £4.5 million for the first phase of the work, which the council can apply for once it has completed detailed plans. However, even if successful, the council will still need to find a further £10 million to fund the first phase of the project. Southampton City Council is currently exploring all possible opportunities for raising the money and this is where the problems start.
How to pay for the new attraction? Higher Council taxes are out, not least on the grounds of affordability. There is no sign that central government support for the the local authority will be any more generous, despite the inequitable position the council finds itself in. The council's capital programme is over programmed and while deliverable, is over borrowed. The existing art gallery is running at a huge loss, borne by the authority and in any way, does not charge for admission. The alternative then is to sell some of the non-core parts of the collection and re-invest in art.
This would have some useful benefits. In no particular order,
  • It would enable the art collection to be better displayed (at the moment the gallery displays 250 out of some 3000 works),
  • It would increase the number of visitors overall as well as providing a more populist slant to the current arts offering.
  • It would safeguard the West Wing of the civic centre, a grade 2* building that includes the important magistrates court which itself needs huge capital monies to restore (as water is pouring into the structure)
  • It would lever in huge third party funding from the Lottery and other interested bodies.
  • the scheme should be considered in the round for plans to develop Guildhall square and the new 'cultural quarter', a project which the council is committed to investing circa £15m.

Yet, as reported in The Independent today some people are vehemently against. It seems you should never sell a painting, no matter how much at the periphery of your core collection may be and however worthy the use that such funds might be put to are.

I would contend that outside of the arts world, this is an absurd proposition.

Defending London Road!

the finished article...

The letter below is perhaps a little acerbic but some Residents (a tiny majority) are so incredibly negative, sometimes even the Politicians bite!

Southampton City Council
c/o The Cabinet Member Office
Civic Centre
SO14 7LY

Dear Letters Editor,

Mr Evan’s of Bassett may attack me (Echo Letters 20 August) for congratulating local traders who are struggling with one of the deepest recessions since the war and the team who designed and built the new carriageway, signage, lighting and pavements in London Road but I stand by my comments- even minor elected politicians like me need to back businesses first, second and last in these hard economic times. It is worth noting that the London Road scheme recently came second in the national Institute for Highways & Transportation annual awards.

Its interesting that I am being accused of spin as the normal criticism is that I am too outspoken. To misquote an old phrase, ‘you can please some people some of the time but you can’t please Mr Evans any of the time!’

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Dean
Portfolio holder for Environment & Transport