Full Council meets at the Lowford Centre

First meeting of the Full Council under the new arrangement of using venues outside of the Council Offices

The first meeting of the Full Council under the new policy of using ordinary venues outside of the new Council Offices.  Photo: Steve Collins

The first Council meeting since Eastleigh Borough Council moved to new Offices in the Town Centre took place yesterday, 10th April, at the new Lowford Centre in Bursledon.

When Eastleigh Borough Council was based at the old Civic Offices, Council meetings were traditionally held in the Council Chamber.  Although it has meeting rooms, the new Eastleigh House does not have a traditional Council Chamber.  Eastleigh Borough Council thus plans to hold future public meetings at different venues throughout the Borough. These Council meetings, often witnessed by an empty public gallery when held at the Civic Offices, will be soon be coming to a more convenient venue near you…

The old Council Chamber, although only used for such meetings, was beautifully finished inside. Visitors would see lots of wood panelling, Eastleigh’s coat of arms, the UK and EU flags, a raised bench for the key players in the meeting and an impressive looking throne for the Mayor to sit on.

The Mace is laid in place for the final time at the Civic Offices...

The old Council Chamber

Because of the raised bench in the old Council Chamber, the key players in the meeting [i.e. The Leader of the Council, The Chief Executive, The Mayor and The Deputy Mayor] literally looked down on the other Borough Councillors who were arranged in a semi-circular manner in front of them. That split-level arrangement allowed Council meetings to be run very formally, with no possible doubt about who was in charge of the meeting. Another benefit was that those seated at the back, or in the public gallery [or press gallery], could see what was happening on the bench as clearly as those seated at the front of the chamber.

As can be seen from the main picture, those dynamics are lost when Council meetings are held in an ordinary hall.  Even the Mayor is expected to stand to make his announcements.

In a Press Release issued by Eastleigh Borough Council today, The Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council,  Keith House said;

“Taking our Council meetings to local communities across the Borough is a great way to involve local people in the democratic process in an open and transparent way.”

“It was great to have our first meeting at the Lowford Centre, which is a facility funded by the Council, and is a great example of partnership working by many groups to deliver such a fantastic new community venue.”

The next Council meeting will be held at The Berry Theatre, Hedge End, when the Council will stage its annual Mayor Making event at the end of the current Mayoral year.

Ray Turner

Formerly a Civil-Servant and IT Specialist at ONS, Ray is now semi-retired and spare-time self-employed. He contributes to Eastleigh News on a voluntary basis and is also an administrator for the site. 

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  6 comments for “Full Council meets at the Lowford Centre

  1. Keith House
    April 11, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    What was really noticeable to participants was how much more consensual the meeting was in this format. The Council isn’t about people being raised up above others, it’s about encouraging more participation.
    From a pragmatic point, the old Chamber was used perhaps five times a year. That’s a significant cost of space to maintain. We would rather save services from cuts than a large meeting space used rarely.

    • April 11, 2014 at 11:09 pm

      Thanks for the comment Keith.

      The old Council Chamber certainly was an expensive empty space for most of the year.

  2. mm
    Eastleigh Xpress
    April 11, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    I’ll be interested to see if there is any increase in the amount of people who turn up for full council meetings – public attendance on several meetings I have attended has been zero.

    Zero out of a population of 126,000 not bad eh?

    (Be funny if they all turned up one night though).

    The first time I visited the new civic offices last week I overheard an irate guy ( a fellow 50 something) harangue the enquiry desk about the lack of a council chamber.

    He was saying;

    “How am I supposed to get to Lowford? I haven’t got a bl**dy car!”

    “Call this democracy?”

    and

    “This is the perfect bl**dy place for a council chamber it’s right next to a bus station”

    Not the clerk’s fault of course, she did her best to try and pacify him but she told me after several people had already complained to her.

    I’m sorry the chamber has gone.

    It was only used a few times a year but some of these events are quite important like the Mayor Making ceremony and honouring our citizens with civic recognition – I’m a bit of traditionalist here – I think holding these events in church halls or theatres detracts from them.

  3. pianoman
    April 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Only reason Council room wasn’t used much recently was because most decisions are now made by KH and a few Cabinet members in a little room and a lot of meetings get cancelled. If councillors aren’t involved in representing residents, you don’t need the big room. Is there any way back to democracy in Eastleigh?

  4. Rosie
    April 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    And unsurprisingly, Lowford “Community” Centre (note the omission of the word “community” in the new title “Lowford Centre”) is already known locally as the “Town Hall”. Once the EBC councillors have parked in the car park, there are only a few spaces left anyway so another great way for the Lib Dems to keep the public away!

    • April 12, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      I thought the Lowford Centre was much more than a ‘community centre’ when I visited recently, but to hear of it being thought of as the new Town Hall is amusing….

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