Fareham Lib Dem councillors

Our team on Fareham Council

The  Liberal Democrat Council team are the effective Opposition group on Fareham Council

Group Leader Chrissie Bainbridge takes on a role on behalf of the whole Council, bringing her professional experience to the job of  FBC representative on public transport bodies, as well as scrutinising Streetscene and the all-important Climate Change agenda.

Deputy Leader Katrina Trott scrutinises the main “people-oriented” areas – Leisure & Community, Housing, and Health & Public Protection.

Paul Nother monitors Planning & Development, where there are big decisions to come on the Local Plan and on major economic growth areas such as Welborne and Daedalus.

David Hamilton is our spokesman on Policy and Resources and on Audit and Governance, looking at the Council’s spending plans.

Budget favoured those best-off

Fareham Council's budget for 2023-24 places an unfair burden on council tenants, say the Liberal Democrat group.

Speedier introduction of powers to increase council tax on second homes, and relinquishing proposed increases in councillors' allowances, they argued.

Below is the Budget speech by Councillor Katrina Trott, leader of the the Lib Dem group.

The Liberal Democrat Group is not proposing an alternative budget, although we will be making a number of points that we wish to bring to Council’s attention and would ask members to consider.

In the council’s ‘Have Your Say’  Consultation on Finances, which ended yesterday, reference was made to the last 13 years being one of the most challenging periods in history.  Remember, a Conservative Government has been in power for the last 12 years, during  which time we have seen our country make a journey of decline leading many people into increasing poverty. Our residents face some of the most uncertain times in generations and while the so-called leadership of this country points in the direction of the Covid pandemic, the miserable, on-going war in Ukraine and other global pressures, different  economies have weathered those storms and come out in better shape.

It is difficult to generate growth and create stable, safe and secure communities if the approach is to continually cut funding and squeeze spending on core services such as our NHS, police and others.

Prudent Councils may make more efficient ways of working, but there comes a point when even those measures cannot bridge the black hole of successive years of government spending cuts. 

To add into the mix, a competitive bidding process for grant funding  ties up valuable resource and constrains local authorities to spending only on projects that a Whitehall department thinks fitting. 

We cannot thank and praise our officers enough for working very hard on these matters. This is particularly evident in our Housing Team , with whom I work most closely.

The Conservative government is extremely good at wasting time and tax-payers’ money on changing leaders and cabinet members with monotonous regularity. Plus defending members who have

broken the rules they created in the first place. It  does seem to ensure that the wealthy stay that way whilst the poorest in our communities find themselves ever poorer.

In December last year, an early day motion was lodged which supported the decision to allow local authorities to increase council tax on second homes by up to 100 per cent.  It urged government to bring forward the date of implementation by one year to April 2023.  This group wrote to our local MP, Suella Braverman, asking her to support the motion.  Her response was to suggest that second home owners needed time to ‘adjust’ to the changes.  Our view is there is a very simple decision to make, ‘Sell up’ or ‘Pay up,

On February 13th, a BBC report gave the number of second homes in Fareham Borough as in the region of 310, with the potential for those properties to generate an additional £50k in revenue if based on Band D property council taxes. This is money which could be used to increase support services for those who face eviction, chronic rent arrears or homelessness.

Last year Fareham’s Citizens Advice helped 1,727 residents with over 4,900 issues. An average of 60 residents per week are seen by a Fareham Citizens’Advice advisor with 12% of requests concerning debt advice and 10.5% for Housing advice.

We agree with the budget proposal that Council rents will not be increased in line with inflation BUT we believe that the 7% proposed; the maximum allowed by the government cap, will place increasing pressure on those already struggling to make ends meet and will see the bad debt provision for the Council increasing with the likelihood of rent arrears.  Therefore we do not agree

to the 7% rent rise for Fareham’s tenants. Although those receiving Housing Benefit would receive an uplift to compensate,  those who are just outside the Housing Benefit bracket, will suffer. As the Housing department does need more funding to maintain properties, we propose a 3 .5% increase rather than the 7%. (After discussion, this proposal was withdrawn, as funding it would hit the less well-off among council tax payers.)

Last year, Council members were awarded a 4.04% increase on their  allowances which the  Liberal Democrat Group decided not to accept.  We urge fellow Councillors to agree to our current allowances remaining unchanged in the next financial year, as it would show that we genuinely understand the position of our residents and constituents who are facing so many financial pressures.  This would save close to £17k in the year ahead.  Future annual pay awards may be a lower amount. Nevertheless over five years there  could be a possible saving of around £80k on  Councillors’ allowances to be utilised elsewhere. Perhaps to enable  Citizens Advice to  open for longer than four days.

In May, the Mayor Making ceremony will take place again. Last year the total cost was £6,137.60, 56% of which was catering costs. The Liberal Democrat group feel that paring back on the ceremony will send the right message to our residents. That we are a compassionate Council who do not spend money on "nice to have’s". This is particularly pertinent when an increasing number of residents are having to turn to using food pantries and the food bank to manage.  The Fareham and Gosport Basics Bank in Westbury Road fed over 7,000 people last year which was 50% more than 2019.

Whilst we are not proposing its cancellation, careful consideration must be given to its scale in view of the rising cost of hosting this type of civic event.  Savings could be made by simplifying the ceremony, reducing the guest list and changing the refreshment offering. 

We have concerns that the proposal to spend almost £1-2m in the next financial year and a further £3m over the mid-term on the Civic Offices could be throwing good money after bad on a building that is now almost 50 years old.  The changing needs of the Council through reductions in staffing levels and increased home working means there is no longer a requirement for the amount of fixed office space, thereby leading to reconfiguring the building and renting out sections of it.

A great deal of on-going work is needed to get the building to both a net zero carbon building and to fully modernise it.  The ever increasing costs of maintenance suggests that more work needs to be done even possibly finding ­­alternative, cheaper accommodation.

On a more positive note, it was heartening to hear from a Director of the Tree Council that Fareham Borough is held up as an exemplar for tree planting,  tree care and management, and protection.  We feel it is important that our commitment to the huge  value of urban tree landscapes is not diminished due to budgetary pressures. 

Trees are good for people, the planet and the places in which we live and work.  They support our climate change and bio-diversity aims and objectives, bring communities together to sponsor, plant and care for our trees and provide homes to many species of wildlife.  We are pleased that Fareham Borough Council is recognised for this initiative.

In conclusion we would offer our heartfelt thanks to the officers of the council who continue to provide an excellent service to the residents of the Borough  and to  elected Council  members. They are always willing to go the extra mile to provide information, answer questions and provide solutions.

Fareham Council responsibilities

Fareham Borough Council is accountable for Waste Collection, Housing, Planning, Licensing and providing local services and facilities, such as sports centres, parks and gardens, playing fields and car parks.

Portchester team

Our team on Hampshire County Council

Liberal Democrats are also the main opposition on Hampshire County Council, with 17 councillors.

Lib Dem Roger Price represents Portchester, one of Fareham's six divisions on the County Council.

Roger, pictured right with Portchester borough councillors Chrissie Bainbridge and Paul Nother, is also a long-serving member of the county's Fire and Rscue authority, and represented Portchester residents on Fareham Council for 51 years. He was recently made an Honorary Alderman for his services to Fareham.

Hampshire responsibilities

Hampshire County Council is accountable for Education and Learning, Health and Social Care, Transport and Highways, which includes pavements and their trees, Rights of Way and disposal of waste from their tips.

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