There was a fresh new look at Hedge End Town Council this evening, as Councillors old & new met for the first time in public, at the AGM and first Full Council meeting since the recent local elections.
Unusually, the AGM was opened by the Town Clerk, as the Town Council did not have an outgoing Chairman or Vice Chairman. Cllrs Baynes & Allingham had both been rejected at the ballot box on 7th May, an election which also saw four Conservatives returned to the Town Council and several new faces amongst the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems majority on Hedge End Town Council is now 17-4, slightly reduced from 20-1
The purpose of the AGM was to appoint a new Chairman & Vice Chairman and confirm the membership of the various committees on Hedge End Town Council, however this was mainly a formality as the new appointments had been agreed behind the scenes beforehand with the support of the Conservatives. There was a paper in circulation which already listed all the new names by the respective posts and which only needed the formal approval of the Councillors in a public meeting. Unfortunately, this list was not read out to members of the public during the meeting, the appointments being proposed en-bloc by Cllr House, seconded and unanimously approved. Although that was time-efficient, an unforseen consequence was that members of public who were in attendance were left in the dark. However the paper was available to anybody who asked for it at the end of the meeting and the appointments will soon be listed on the Hedge End Town Council website.
The Town Clerk chaired the opening part of the AGM, up to the point where Cllr Emma Norman was appointed to the chair. Cllr Norman then took over the chair of meeting, and went through the process of appointing the Vice Chair, Cllr Paul Carnell, before continuing with the rest of the meeting.
Cllr’s Norman and Carnell won by-elections in Hedge End during the previous administration and both now have a couple of years experience, so the Town Council have appointed some relatively new blood to the jobs which have a higher public profile.
The only addition to the appointments, which was suggested by Cllr Jerry Hall (Conservative), and readily agreed by the Lib Dems, was that a Conservative Councillor should be included on the Gazette Editorial Board. Cllr Stephanie Arnold (Conservative) was duly given that responsibility, joining Cllrs House, Welsh, Mitchell & Jupe for the Lib Dems.
One of the new faces, Cllr Connor Burgess (Lib Dem) was appointed as chair of the Community & Culture Committee, with another new name Cllr Mike Lyons taking the Vice Chair of Finance and Administration.
Of the multi-hatting Councillors, those who serve at Borough level as well as the Town Council, Cllr Welsh retains the chair of Recreation and Amenities. Cllr Pretty retains the Chair of Finance & Administration and the Vice Chair of Recreation and Amenities. Cllr House retains the chair of both the Personnel and the Strategy committees.
The Conservatives have two members on each of the main committees, which meet in public on a regular monthly basis. Cllr Jerry Hall is also on the Personnel committee.
There was very little business of any substance carried out this evening, though in her opening remarks Cllr Norman said she was looking forward to Hedge End becoming a Dementia Friendly Community during her time in the Chair. Cllr House reported that the new roundabout at Wickes had not yet been adopted by the County Council, so issues with the poor maintenance of the roundabout were out of the Borough & County Councils hands. He also reported on the successful completion of the Hotel project at the Ageas Bowl, saying the Ageas Bowl was now one of the best cricketing facilities in the world, comparable with Lords, and a first class conference venue too. There were no questions from the public gallery on this occasion, giving a slightly nervous Cllr Norman an easy first meeting. Though there were plenty of experienced Cllrs who were ready to help if needed.
Cllr Welsh thanked all of the outgoing members of the Town Council. Cllr Tennent mentioned the importance of the briefings at Hampshire County Council, which provide useful information that allow the County Councillors to answer some occasionally very tricky questions from members of the public, not to mention his colleagues on the Town Council…
Overall, the meeting was very well-tempered with both sides of the political divide working together nicely this evening.
Turnout was good with 18 of the 21 Councillors present. Apologies were received from Cllr Yates (Conservative) and Cllrs Houghton & Paddick (Lib Dem).