Council leader calls on Govt to scrap business rates

Keith Mans re-elected as County Leader at socially distanced AGM. New Cabinet Members announced.

HCC met in person for the first time in 15 months

The newly elected Leader of Hampshire County Council Keith Mans called on the Government to scrap business rates for High Street retailers during the council’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) yesterday. This was the first meeting of the full council since the Conservatives topped the County Council elections on May 6 and the first occasion it has met in person in 15 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All of the AGM attendees had self-tested negative for Covid prior to the meeting and Cllr Mans promised the socially-distanced chamber:

“I will work steadfastly to ensure the highest outcomes for all residents across this wonderful county.”

There were a few changes to the Leader’s new cabinet – notably Cllr Judith Grajewski’s previous cabinet responsibilities for Public Health are now taken by Councillor Liz Fairhurst as Grajewski had narrowly lost the Chandler’s Ford division she has represented since 2017 to Liberal Democrat candidate Tim Groves by 43 votes.

Cllr Mans said he felt that Councillor Grajewski’s poll defeat was:

“A particular personal loss because she was a highly effective cabinet member during a period when her profile was very high because of the pandemic.”

Despite her adverse county result, Cllr Grajewski continues to represent residents in Hiltingbury as one of the Borough Councillors for the ward. The members of the new County Council Cabinet are:

  • Councillor Keith Mans – Leader of Hampshire County Council and Executive Member for Policy and Resources
  • Councillor Rob Humby – Deputy Leader of Hampshire County Council and Executive Lead Member for Economy, Transport and the Environment
  • Councillor Stephen Reid – Executive Member for Performance, Human Resources and Partnerships
  • Councillor Russell Oppenheimer – Executive Member for Highways Operations
  • Councillor Jan Warwick – Executive Member for Climate Change and Sustainability
  • Councillor Roz Chadd – Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services

Eastleigh’s County Council results.

Although the Liberal Democrats successfully unseated Cllr Grajewski in Chandler’s Ford, they lost Bishopstoke and Fair Oak to the Independents and West End and Horton Heath to the Conservatives.

Cllr Lou Parker-Jones; who also represents Bishopstoke at Eastleigh Borough council, unseated Lib Dem Mike Thornton – formerly an Eastleigh Borough Councillor and the MP for the town from 2013 – 2015.

Parker – Jones, who was warmly welcomed the chamber by the leader, now sits as the only Independent on Hampshire County Council.

Fair Oak and Horton Heath Borough Councillor Steve unseated former Mayor Bruce Tennent in the West End and Horton Heath division while in Eastleigh North, Tanya Park replaced Lib Dem colleague.

The Councillor’s for Eastleigh’s County Council Divisions following the May 6 elections are now as follows:

  •  Bishopstoke and Fair Oak: Cllr Lou Parker-Jones, Ind
  •  Botley and Hedge End: Cllr Rupert Kyrle, LD
  •  Chandler’s Ford: Cllr Tim Groves, LD
  •  Eastleigh North: Cllr Tanya Park, LD
  •  Eastleigh South: Cllr Wayne Irish, LD
  •  Hamble: Cllr Keith House, LD
  •  Hedge End and West End South: Cllr Tonia Craig, LD
  •  West End and Horton Heath, Cllr Steve Broomfield, Con

The political make-up of Hampshire County Council 78 divisions is now:

  • Conservative, 56
  • Liberal Democrat, 17
  • Labour, 3
  • Independent, 1
  • Whitehill & Bordon Community Party, 1

As an illustration of how rapidly political fortunes can change, it’s worth remembering that eight years ago Ukip won 10 seats on HCC scooping three of Eastleigh’s divisions in the process – but on May 6 they won less than 1% of the votes cast in the county.

Cllr Keith Mans called on the government to scrap business rates for High St retailers

“Scrap business rates for retailers”

In a wide-ranging speech the Leader also paid tribute to Council staff and key workers who continued to work throughout the pandemic to deliver essential community services and re-affirmed HCC’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

The newly re-elected Leader also commented on the government’s forthcoming white paper on local government reforms saying he still thought a two-tier system was the best but if Hampshire was to become a unitary authority then he believed it could only work if it included the whole of the Hampshire area – including Southampton and Portsmouth.

Councillor Mans also called on the government to scrap “out-dated” business rates for high-street retailers who are struggling under the effects of both Covid and online competition.

Finally Hampshire’s Chief Executive John Coughlan, who will be retiring shortly, came in for special thanks

“ He has done a tremendous job, and with his team, I think we have achieved something in Hampshire that hasn’t been possible in many other parts of the country. I would like to thank him personally for the support he has given me, and on behalf of our Authority as a whole we wish him the very best for the future.”

In a statement released after the meeting Cllr Mans said:

“As the nation navigates the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, I hope that we can all begin to tentatively look ahead to brighter days on the horizon, and our focus now turns to the road towards recovery. However, it’s no secret that the pandemic has also had a major impact on our already constrained finances – a consequence of the growing demand for vital social care for vulnerable children and adults, and against a backdrop of rising inflation and reduced funding from Government. In the face of these very difficult economic circumstances that all councils face, this Administration’s overriding objective remains to keep Hampshire safe, continue to deliver the highest outcomes for residents, and maintain Hampshire as a successful and prosperous county – supporting our post-COVID economic recovery, balancing economic success with care for the environment, and tackling climate change.

We will continue to prioritise support for the most vulnerable in our communities, with a commitment to delivering high performing services, and a desire to maintain council tax amongst the lowest of any county in England.”

Chairman re-elected for second year

Councillor Mel Kendal was also re-elected as the County Council Chairman for second year.

As the civic head of the county, he will represent the Authority on any royal visits and ceremonial occasions in Hampshire as well as carry out other civic activities and duties. The Chairman presides over County Council meetings and ensures they are conducted in line with Standing Orders and that they are a forum for debating issues.
Councillor Kendal is in his 25th year as a Hampshire County Councillor – serving New Milton. He is a former Deputy Leader of the Council (2011-13) and has served in various Executive Member functions in Hampshire’s Cabinet.

Councillor Marge Harvey, County Councillor for Catherington, was also re-elected as Vice Chairman.