Agenda item

Questions under Rule 11.2


1.  Councillor Meyer submitted a question asking ‘Should they choose to exercise their Powers and Duties, will the Council Leader support Andover Town Council’s building and operation of new Andover Public Toilets on land currently owned by this Council, subject to the necessary planning permissions?


The Leader responded in that the Borough Council already facilitated a number of

toilets in various locations in Andover Town Centre which were open to the public including the relatively new fully accessible Changing Places toilet which would help people with complex disabilities.  The Leader reminded Members that the Council had recently adopted a brand new Master Plan for the town which involved much of the Council’s current land holdings however, if the Andover Town Council had a detailed proposal they would like to discuss with the Council then the Leader would be happy to hear it.


2.  Councillor Meyer submitted a question asking ‘Does the Cabinet have any plans to introduce this financial year or next, a Test Valley Business Investment Fund, to help the creation of and to support the sustainable growth of local independent businesses within Test Valley? If not, can the Council Leader advise as to whether the Cabinet has a considered position on the introduction of such an Investment Fund?


The Economic Development and Tourism Portfolio Holder reminded Members  that the Council had both the Business Investment Grant and the Independent Retail Grant with a total over the last three years of £103,500.  That wasn’t  a Business Investment Fund as such but the Council was investing in businesses which was hopefully sustainable for the future.  In addition the Council had a skills fund from the Andover Airfield application in 2011 that was close to £0.5m. On page 214 in the minutes book there was a reference to the Overview and Scrutiny on 9 December when there was an Economic Portfolio review.  The presentation dealt with how the Council would back sustainable business across Test Valley.  More recently on 13 January 2021 The Economic Development and Tourism Portfolio Holder took the Interim Economic Development Strategy plan to Cabinet which looked at how the Council would continue to encourage investment in businesses across Test Valley for a sustainable future.


Lastly it was important to be aware that the Council had put £375,000 into the Hampshire Community Bank which would be directly invested in businesses along the lines of Councillor Meyer’s question.  The Council were due to add a further £150,000 to that cause which was in the capital programme. Investors in that Bank included other Hampshire authorities, Solent University and Portsmouth University.  More information was available on the Council’s website.  The Council do not have a Business Investment Fund plan at the moment and it would not be recommended as its not the Council’s place to pick winners however the Council very comprehensively support the local business economy.


3.  Councillor Coole submitted a question asking ‘The Test Valley Borough Council/Andover Town Council negotiations on the transfer of Andover Special Expenses Levy Services’ assets, services and responsibilities, continue to be subjected unacceptable and questionable delays by Test Valley Borough Council.


For 10 months, I have been requesting the most basic information regarding Andover Special Expenses Levy Services and have been denied it by various excuses including COVID-19, both as the TVBC Minority Opposition Group Leader and as a Member of Andover Town Council. Over the same period, 493 Freedom of Information requests were dealt with by the Council.  If the excuses given to me are to be believed after 10 months, then it either suggests the Council is incapable of delivering the most basic of Andover Levy information to Members and other Local Authorities, or it is being deliberately obstructive.

The Borough Council continues to drag its heels over the provision of capital valuations of the assets maintained by the Levy Services. This is contrary to the Local Government Association/National Association of Local Councils’ One Community Guide to Effective Partnership Working between Principal and Local Councils. It is also contrary to various Acts of Parliament, to deny Members access to information they require to carry out their tasks.


On 7th March 2020, the Section 151 Officer was requested to provide, amongst other Levy-related information, capital valuations of the assets maintained by the Levy Services. The information was not provided. On 20th May, following an update request, the Section 151 Officer confirmed the information would be forwarded as soon as possible. At the 10th June Council Meeting in response to my Levy Question under Rule 11, the Deputy Leader confirmed the outstanding Levy information would be provided. The information was not provided. A further Question under Rule 11 was submitted for the 11th November TVBC Council Meeting but later withdrawn after the Chief Executive provided the majority of outstanding information on 21st October and promised the remaining financial information would be provided over the forthcoming weeks. The remaining information was not provided.
Can you please confirm exactly when this Council will end this Andover Levy nonsense and exactly when the outstanding capital valuation information will be provided to both myself and Andover Town Council?


The Deputy Leader responded that all the information in respect of the levy was provided by the Chief Executive on 21 October.  It should be noted that as no Borough Council assets were included within the levy charge Councillor Coole had all of the levy information requested. As a result the provision of information about the value of TVBC assets in Andover was purely an academic exercise. The staff who would need to undertake this work were currently involved in the priority areas of paying the Covid grants and preparing next year’s Council budget.  Therefore the information that Councillor Coole had requested would be provided in due course once this work was completed.


Councillor Coole asked a supplementary question ‘is it not true that the only reason Capital valuation does not feature in the Andover Levy services as stated in the 2020 budget precept report the only reason it is not included is because  you do not include those calculations in the levy as listed in the report by former Head of Finance, Mr Will Fullbrook.’


The Deputy Leader explained that the levy doesn’t pay for any of the assets and there were no assets included in the levy.


Councillor Coole referred the Deputy Leader to the 2020 budget precept budget book report where he felt that it quite clearly stated the reason why asset valuations were not included in the levy services and therefore did not agree with the Deputy Leader’s response.


The Deputy Leader suggested that Councillor Coole did not understand how the levy and local government finance worked and he would be happy, when the officers have time, to arrange for him to be informed at to how the levy is different to the asset valuation.


4.  Councillor Coole submitted a question asking ‘Can you please advise what this Council’s total annual Andover BID Levy bill was for 2020/21, what the total forecasted bill is for 2021/22, how much additional financial support has this Council provided Andover BID since its formation, and as a total how much further additional financial support does this Council currently plan to give Andover BID for both the remaining period of 2020/21 and for 2021/22?’


The Leader responded that the Test Valley Borough Council Bid levy for 2020/21 was £19,276 and the estimate for 2021/22 is £20,000.  In terms of direct contributions to the Bid, Test Valley had contributed £15,000 towards the pilot town centre ranger scheme and although not direct contributions to the Bid the Council had also worked alongside the Bid to deliver single wifi provision in the town including the Chantry Centre and Town Mills at a cost of just short of £15,000.  The Council were also working with the Bid to help fund an exciting programme of town centre events to the tune of £15,000 that is known to increase footfall when the high streets reopen again.  Again not a direct contribution to the Bid but a joint project to promote Andover Town Centre.


Councillor Coole asked a supplementary question ‘is Romsey town receiving the same contributions as the Andover Bid?’


The Leader responded that there was no Bid in Romsey but Romsey received a large amount of money from the Council and a lot of that were projects that had filtered through from Romsey Future.  He would be happy to provide Councillor Coole with a list of all the contributions that the Council had made to projects in Romsey.


5.  Councillor Dowden submitted a question asking ‘Would the Leader instigate ASAP a review of the Planning Enforcement process at Test Valley Borough Council?’


The Deputy Leader would be supportive of that and suggested that any review of planning enforcement should be conducted and led by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and a scope prepared for that Committee to take this forward.


6.  Councillor A Dowden submitted a question asking ‘Anti-Social Behaviour during the last six months in Valley Park has increased significantly. The Valley Park Parish Council and the Community Association along with Hampshire Constabulary, Places People have been holding Team's meetings, hosted by Test Valley Officers.


The group have concluded that the only way to reduce such behaviour is to raise funding to employ  Youth Outreach worker's for at least two evenings a week with the specific aims of reducing such behaviour. Will the Council Leader commit to help with the funding of such a project.?’


The Leader responded that the pandemic and lockdown in particular has had a marked effect on young people and the provision of services for them.  Test Valley Borough Council officers had been working hard with other partners to identify ways to engage young people with constructive positive activities in Valley Park.   As part of the discussions with partners the Borough Council had already allocated sports development funding for the area as pump priming to help set up and establish a sustainable sports and physical activity programme as part of the partnership approach to engaging with and supporting young people in the area.  Whilst Test Valley Borough Council was not directly responsible for the provision of youth services they do work hard across the Borough to support the work of community groups and organisations that do so much for young people whether that be running a youth network meeting for practitioners, maintaining the directory of services available for children and young people in Test Valley or in cases such as this helping facilitate local conversations to develop area specific plans and projects.  The Could have and were already committed to supporting such projects.


Councillor Dowden asked a supplementary question ‘the Parish Council has agreed to put in £4,000 towards employing youth outreach workers if the Borough Council does not support, because this is an expensive project up to £15,000, the police have insufficient numbers to police the area, the borough is suffering substantial costs due to the damage being caused and therefore without support from the Borough Council this project will not go ahead.  Places Leisure have agreed to offer facilities to assist but what we need first and the advice from Youth Options is that we need detached youth workers to get to know these individuals and probably to be able to direct to the police the actual trouble makers.  So I repeat would the Leader support this project otherwise it will not go ahead.


The Leader responded that the Council had been working in partnership with various organisations on the ground to try to deal with the problem in a different and more positive way and had already put in quite a lot of money to the tune of £7,000.  Councillor Dowden had recently applied for  grant funding which both the Leader and Councillor Jeffrey would look on favourably.  Primarily the responsibility for youth work was a function of Hampshire County Council and suggested that Councillor Dowden had conversations within Hampshire County Council as he was a County Council member.  The Leader would however be more than happy to hear more details of the proposal in Valley Park.