Eastleigh’s Labour councillor Brian Norgate has urged the council to make savings by cutting the subsidy to the Point and the annual Music festival and by reducing the bi-monthly Borough News to two editions a year.
Speaking at last Thursday’s budget meeting the councillor presented a fully costed alternative budget – the only opposing party on the council to do so.
In presenting his budget to the council Brain Norgate referred to what he claimed were broken pledges by the liberal Democrat leader. In particular, the pre-election pledge to not introduce a first charge for residents parking permits.
This issue had been highlighted earlier in the evening by both Conservative leader Godfrey Olson and by Glyn Davies-Dear, leader of the newly formed Independent group who, clearly relishing his new role as a minority party leader, was particularly scathing calling the charge:
“A measure ill thought out and clearly unfair to our residents’
Councillor Norgate’s budget proposals called upon the council to:
- Remove the charge for residents first parking permits
- Remove the charge for first visit by a pest control officer
- Reinstate the council contribution towards a TV licence for housebound residents
- launch a feasibility study into the establishment of a Mayor’s shop and lottery
- Reinstate funding to the Twining Association
- Reverse the councils recent 7.1% increase to the cost of ‘meals on wheels’ for the elderly
- Reinstate the grant to the Southampton Advice & Representation Centre
- Arrange for the curtains in the mayor’s parlour to be cleaned
- To undertake a review of empty housing association properties
These measures could be funded, he claimed by:
- A £60,000 reduction in The Point’s operating subsidy
- Restricting the council newspaper ‘Borough News’ to only two issues a year
- A 25% cut in the subsidy to the Eastleigh Music Festival
Councillor Norgate’s proposals were unanimously voted down by the Liberal Democrat majority who then passed their own budget although in the process of doing so they were treated to the sight of their former colleagues – Lib Dem rebels Broughton, Moore and Davies-Dear resolutely voting against it.
However rejection did not deter Cllr Norgate from asking Cllr House a series of quick fire questions which soon had the Leader jumping in and out of his chair with even briefer answers,
When quizzed about the procedure on exempt business Keith House firmly rejected any suggestion that the procedure might be being abused to conceal matters from public scrutiny saying :
“I don’t like exempt papers”
“Unlike some other council’s we don’t hide things in exempt business that shouldn’t be there”.
Councillors Norgate also called into question the profitability of The Point and Music Festival.
Mr House defended the Point as ‘valuable Community asset’ and accused Cllr Norgate of engaging in a ‘War on the Arts’.
Councillor House also revealed that a cut to this year’s Music Festival subsidy had already been planned and hinted that the festival could be held within The Point itself.
Councillor Norgate later told Eastleigh News:
“I and the Labour party have never been against The Point or the Arts but why should the people of Eastleigh pay for elitist art, not seen by local people so EBC can win awards?”
Councillor Norgate also had questions for Deputy Leader Ann Winstanley regarding the housing list.
Ms Winstanley revealed that this has grown to 5659 families and blamed the previous Labour government for failing to act.
Councillor Norgate later responded:
“It’s clear that throughout the 12 years of the labour government the rules did not change and have been kept by the coalition”
While Ann Winstanley was replying to Councillor Norgate one of her colleagues interjected to query her statement suggesting that perhaps the Deputy Leader had got her figures wrong (easily done).
This prompted Keith House to exclaim:
“You see, the opposition is so poor we have to provide or own!
The fact is that although the Liberal Democrats still enjoy a crushing majority, opposition is now coming from three corners of the chamber and is united on issues like the inequity of residents parking charges and the size of the council’s Arts budget.
If this dissent is based on voter feedback then perhaps Eastleigh’s Liberal Democrats would do well to take heed.