The impact of cuts in funding from County Council made itself felt on Monday night’s short, though slightly confused, meeting of the Eastleigh Local Area Committee, as the allocation of developer contributions came under the spotlight.
Developer contributions are a local tariff charged by councils on new building developments to offset the increased spending on infrastructure needed to accommodate new housing.
Money from these contributions should be spent in the local community to improve schools, roads, public transport and recreation space.
The fear is, as income to the borough drops due to cuts and the recession, these funds may be siphoned away to support other projects – or simply to keep the lights burning.
Chairman Cllr Chris Thomas kicked off proceedings by reviewing the latest news on the Energy Youth Club and the Stoneham Shrine.
The Independent Party of Eastleigh Councillors who sit on ELAC had recently circulated a flyer claiming that the shrine which had fallen into disrepair through lack of use, had cost “tens of thousands of pounds of your Council Tax” to renovate.
Cllr Thomas was at pains to point out the shrine had been renovated with money from the National Lottery, the Willis Fleming Historical Trust and developer contributions saying:
“No public money has gone into it at all”
Except of course, although no council tax was used, developer contributions is still public money and so it seems the Independent councillor’s objections for its use on the shrine are likely to continue.
The next item was the proposed coppicing of woodland at Boyatt Wood which would require a total of £9,480.
This money will come entirely from developer contributions, the providers being Bellway homes and the Barratt Alexander Square development
Local environmental campaigner Matthew Myatt asked from the public gallery for an assurance that no mature trees would be damaged or felled as part of the coppicing and also enquired as to what would become of the harvested crop – which would of course have a commercial value.
While he was assured that only trees deemed to be sick would be felled or treated the area coordinator was unable to provide details of what would happen to the felled timber.
Councillor Brian Norgate then asked the area coordinator:
“How much is there left in the unallocated amount of money and are they approved for any liabilities?”
This seemed a straight forward enough question but it caused the area coordinator and the chairman all sorts of problems.
‘I think the public should know how much there is’ insisted Cllr Norgate.
Perhaps it was the councillors use of the word ‘liabilities’ which had caused confusion, but both councillor and the public will have to wait for the info as the coordinator was unable to put a figure on what was left in the kitty and how much of it had been earmarked.
After 13 minutes the chairman attempted to announce the meeting as closed – only to be met with objections from Matthew Myatt in the public gallery who claimed he had been denied a chance to speak on developer contributions to Crestwood school – the chairman said he thought Mr Myatt had covered all his issues when he had spoken on the matter of coppicing.
Once again there was a moment or two of confusion but the chair recognised Matthew Myatt and the Eastleigh News contributor was invited to speak again.
When asked to come forward to speak he did so while bemoaning the general lack of a public podium:
“We seem to be cutting back on podiums as well as services’
Mr Myatt referred to an item concerning Crestwood School which had been on the agenda but had not been discussed.
There was a £10,000 shortfall in funding that the council had committed to the school and this was to be made up with contributions from Bellway and Barratt.
Mr Myatt, a Barratt estate resident had already been told that money from the development had been set aside for a feasibility study into a zebra crossing on Twyford Road and he was concerned that this might not go ahead now the money appeared to have been pledged elsewhere
“I’m getting a bit concerned that this pot is getting dipped into whenever there is a shortfall in finances”
He wondered if spending the money on Crestwood was a legitimate use of the funds – after the committee agreed that it was – he then asked for an assurance that the feasibility study would go ahead.
No such assurance appeared to be forthcoming from the committee which only seemed to confirm his worst fears.
“Well, is it yes or no?” asked a clearly exasperated and increasingly agitated Mr Myatt – perhaps it was just as well there wasn’t a podium to hand.
‘Yes’ said councillor Peter Wall finally taking the initiative to bring the matter to a close and with that the meeting ended – to go into private session – after 15minutes and 55 seconds.
The next ELAC meeting will be on May 11 –after the local election.
As Councillor Thomas observed:
“We’ll see who is back next time round”